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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Michael Jackson's This Is It

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

It's best to approach the posthumous documentary "Michael Jackson's This Is It" (Columbia) with limited expectations.

Director Kenny Ortega's energetic, largely unobjectionable tribute to the controversial "king of pop" is narrowly focused and entirely worshipful, casting little light on the eccentric, if not inscrutable, personality of one of the late 20th century's most iconic entertainers. But the filmmaker does succeed in providing insight into the talent, vision and discipline that lay behind Jackson's global—and long-lasting—professional success.

Using footage originally intended for other purposes, Ortega captures the planning and rehearsals for the titular series of comeback concerts, scheduled to begin in London in July, but forestalled by Jackson's untimely death at age 50 the previous month.

Jackson is explicit about holding back on both his singing and dancing, saving his energy for the audiences who—as it turned out—were never to see him perform. Yet the appeal of his wide-ranging material, which easily embraced rhythm and blues, rock, disco and even the occasional heavy-metal guitar riff, remains unmistakable.

Fragments of a video cleverly incorporating Jackson into a series of scenes from old movies is particularly entertaining, while a montage of his career played out as he sings one of his childhood hits, "I'll Be There"—first recorded in his Motown days as the diminutive frontman for the Jackson 5—proves poignant. And it's intriguing to witness both Jackson's intuitive skill in guiding his backup musicians and the understated, quirky wit he sometimes reveals.

With his breathless voice and shy manner, Jackson displays an apparently sincere, though nonspecific, faith as he frequently invokes God's blessing on his collaborators and on the work he shares with them. He also seems somewhat taken aback when—in the closest anyone on-screen comes to verbal vulgarity—one of his fellow performers uses the term "booty" in a way that doesn't refer to footwear.

The only other factor likely to be of concern to parents of young fans is the mildly risque nature of some of the dancing, especially a characteristic move that mimics the self-adjustment sometimes indulged in by baseball players.

The film contains some skimpy costuming and suggestive dancing and at least one vaguely crass term. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II— adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG— parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

****

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.




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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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