Month: April 2017

The Magic Lantern: Episode 046 – Michael Jackson’s This Is It

I usually seek out documentaries to find a fresh perspective or insight on the film’s subject. When the documentary is about a person, I want to try to understand, to know the person.

Part performance, part rehearsal, part behind-the-scenes documentary, Michael Jackson’s This Is It (Ortega, 2009) chronicles the preparations for what would have been Michael Jackson’s series of concerts at London’s O2 Arena. I love exploring the process of things, and I’m a Michael Jackson fan, so it seems I would be an ideal audience for this film. As a fan, I can evaluate what state this 50 year-old legend was in as he embarked on the biggest project of his career. I can hear music I grew up with, music that shaped my life, played with virtuosity yet familiarity. I can examine his ruined face, albeit from a great distance. I can hear his voice. I can try to glean whatever message I think he was trying to communicate. But I can never know him. This Is It defies my desire, a fan’s desire, to try to understand what made Michael Jackson tick. I can never fully understand how the child became the man, and how the man ended.

After multiple viewings of this film, I cry in the same spots at the same sentiments. I remember a colleague coming in to work after having seen it, and also crying when she recounted how she felt about Michael Jackson and how he touched her deeply. To the tens if not hundreds of millions of fans worldwide, MJ was a legend, a god even. To non-fans, what was he? A minor talent? A joke? A grotesque? A predator?

If this film was indeed intended “for the fans,” is there anything in it for the non-fan? Perhaps you see it as an opportunity to discuss the larger question of the art and the artist, whether they can and should be separated, especially when either is provocative, distasteful, or even criminal. What beloved piece of art do you have a hard time reconciling with the artist who created it? At some point, did you decide to no longer consume anything associated with the artist? Or take it all in and draw a clear line between the two?

What you’ll find in this episode: David Yow versus Michael Jackson—a debate, why Tito is awesome, Ericca’s favorite MJ song, our take on the art versus artist question, and whether accessibility makes a truly fan-worthy artist.

– Ericca

Links and Recommendations:
Check out Michael Jackson’s This Is It on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Purple Rain.
Cole’s further viewing pick of Salad Days.
Tons of stories, trivia, interviews, and ephemera on MJ.
Quintessential banter from David Yow of The Jesus Lizard.

GTGM Episode 50: Adventures In Babysitting (1987)

After a brief gang fight on a subway car, Lords of Hell members Doug and Jamie take their wounded leader to the hospital where he is treated for a ‘seemingly’ severe knife wound. After surgery, Dr. Sleepy informs them that all is well and he only required a single stitch. While that seems odd to them, the two are relieved and head back to the hideout to let the rest of the crew know that everything is going to be fine.

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The Magic Lantern: Episode 045 – The Third Man

The Third Man (1949) is rightly hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. I thought so the very first time I saw it and I think so even more now. Carol Reed’s virtuosity and Graham Greene’s nimble and acerbic assessment of the post-war human condition (and possibly himself) make for a potent cinematic combination. In fact, the entire production is a testament to what cinema is capable of when it’s hitting on all cylinders, with element after element elevating the finished product. It’s impossible to consider it without Robert Krasker’s cinematography bringing out the magnificence of a Vienna that has been brought low by war, Anton Karas’ iconic score suffusing the affair with vitality, Joseph Cotten’s distinctly American obliviousness, Alida Valli’s smoldering ambiguity, and Orson Welles’ infinite charm and penchant for self-mythologizing. What begins as a simple mystery deepens as we bounce around Vienna’s darkest corners until, by the end, we realize Reed and Greene are pulling at a much more revealing thread – it’s not a whodunit, it’s a how could we. How far will we go in the name of love? In the pursuit of a dollar? Is anything off limits in the morally grey haze of post-war survival? Where do I get my hands on a zither?

What you’ll find in this episode: Valli versus Bergman, one of the greatest back-of-the-envelope moments ever, cinematic alchemy, two sides of the Graham Greene coin, diluted penicillin, and more Dutch angles than you’ll know what to do with.

– Cole

Links and Recommendations:
Check out The Third Man on IMDB.
Ericca’s further viewing pick of Green for Danger.
Cole’s further viewing pick of The Fallen Idol.
Martin Scorsese reminisces about The Third Man.
A magazine article from October, 1945 detailing life in Vienna immediately after World War II.

GTGM Episode 49: BMX Bandits (1983)

Australian gave diggers, Jamie and Doug finish digging their latest pit in anticipation of an impending storm when they decide to just ‘take the rest of the night off’. They don’t even cover the hole with a tarp or anything like that because as Jamie says, ‘It’s not like some frizzy-haired BMXer’s gonna fall into it…’

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