June 26, 2009

When Mikey Met Marty

This is far from being my favourite thing Scorsese's ever done, but it was only the second thing of his I ever saw (after his "Mirror, Mirror" episode of "Amazing Stories"), and it intrigued me enough to be a crucial gateway drug.

Our younger readers might not be aware of this, but there was a time when Michael Jackson videos debuted in primetime on one of the major television networks. It was always a peculiarly auteurist event, with the director--be it Landis, Scorsese, or Singleton--given prominent hype in supplemental promotions and behind-the-scenes material.

As for "Bad," Scorsese relished this opportunity to channel his inner Vincente Minnelli and appreciated as well that Jackson himself was footing the bill, which essentially meant there was no such thing as going overbudget or overschedule.

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10 comments:

Patrick said...

It's very hard to tell you how much I don't care about this. Really. Nor about Octomom separating from Octodad.

Walter_Chaw said...

I owned that Thriller album and played it to death. I was, what, 11 when it came out and me and my buddies were enthralled. Right in the wheelhouse of when you begin to develop your own tastes in music. If there's mourning for me, I think, it's mourning that Jackson - and mourning what was lost between this prodigal genius and that freakshow trainwreck. The best thing to happen to him was his death, really, now people like me are able to better compartmentalize the visceral feeling of his early, best work from the sad/repugnant self-mortification that marked his decades-long decline. I'm sad the little kid died - me, him - even the crimes that he'd been accused of speak to the melancholy of innocence lost or stolen.

Like him or loathe him (and count me in one camp first, then the last for longer), his implosion - how his gift couldn't save him - ought to speak to all of us.

Vikram said...

It's hard to believe now how bright his star once was and it was painfully sad to see the freakshow of his later life, but as Bill notes his video releases were real events once upon a time and that directors like Martin freakin Scorcese were only too happy to work with him.

James Allen said...

This is the way some icons go. This is not that different than how Elvis (whose daughter he married) went, drug-addled and in terrible physical shape, isolated from the world, with no one around him able (or willing) to steer him off his self-destructive course.

About the last thing he did that resonated with me was his appearance on The Simpsons in 1991 where he wrote "Happy Birthday Lisa" (he didn't sing it, unfortunately, for a strange reason, a soundalike, Kip Lennon did), one of the sweetest moments in the show's history. That epiosode in general was probably the last time he ever showed a genuine sense of humor about himself.

Anonymous said...

"It's very hard to tell you how much I don't care about this."

Well, la-dee-fucking-dah. Don't pat yourself too hard on the back there.

Been listening to Thriller a lot lately, and I'm struck by how obvious it was that M.J. was already going insane -- it's like the "ALL WORK AND NO PLAY" scene from The Shining, I knew he was crazy, I just didn't know how long he'd been crazy. "Billie Jean" is a documented mental breakdown in progress, "P.Y.T." seems to push Michael aside in favor of the voices in his head, "Beat It" is a musically violent plea for peace, "Thriller" has him openly terrorizing the listener, and in "Wanna Be Startin' Something", Michael gives over a whole verse to lyrics about how you're a vegetable and they eat you. It is a weird fucking album, especially given the contrast between how tightly controlled the music is and how clearly losing it the lyrics and vocals are (and I'm pretty sure he never did that spastic "ee hee shamon" shit before Thriller either).

--Kim

Seattle Jeff said...

I liken MJ to Darth Vader. He's got the Anakin years (Thriller and prior)and then the evil crap that came after.

It's nice to know that the latter time frame has ceased.

I was never a huge fan, but I remember being 11-years-old and digging "Billie Jean". I also remember catching his Motown Anniversary performance which is now legendary.

I also think it's cool that he blessed Weird Al's parodies.

Carl Walker said...

Kim, I just think your MJ diagnosis is a work of genius, and I definitely agree that he was already insane by Thriller (which of course has made me listen to it for the first time ever, as I was only 1 when it came out). You could even add that "Billie Jean" and "PYT" could e interpreted as saying something about his eventual "troubles" with kids, honestly. I know I didn't add much, but I just had to give props there. Carry on, everyone.

jer fairall said...

Seconds on Kim's great min-analysis of Thriller, an album I never felt much personal attachment to (Bad was the big one at my earliest record-buying age) but am now compelled to give another spin.

The best full-length Jackson eulogy that I've seen so far is here:

http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/7676-michael-jackson-rip/

Absolutely essential reading, that one.

James Allen said...

In other news Jeff Goldblum is dead. Well, not really. I love how that Australian Today Show had a clip package all ready to go. They even had a clip of Death Wish.

MovieMan0283 said...

I think this is Jackson's best video - Scorsese's lens choice, camera movement, and cutting (did Schoonmaker have a hand in this? She mus thave...) make it a much sharper experience than most of Jackson's videos (the Thriller vids are great set pieces but formally they're not as exciting as Bad). I was too young for Thriller, so I've got sentimental attachment to this period of Jackson's career, even though he was starting to go off the deep end.

I do very much remember the prime-time premiere of Black and White. At the time I had decided I didn't like Jackson anymore (he was not considered very cool in the second grade) but the video hooked me back in when I was eight (I'm sure that ridiculous Macauley Culkin cameo helped).