Friday, October 19, 2012

'Bad 25' Is About the Man and His Music, not the Madness

SPIKE Lee had a mandate from both the Michael Jackson Estate and Sony Music Entertainment: focus on the music and the art.

He followed through, and the result is “Bad 25,” the documentary that celebrates the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's iconic “Bad” album. It recounts the making of the album one track at a time.

The film makes its U.S. debut today in New York only for a weeklong run at the Loews AMC Theater (66 Third Ave). It will make its TV debut at 9:30 p.m. EST on 22 Nov. on ABC.

While “Bad 25” does not focus on the personal problems and peccadilloes of the King of Pop, his eccentricity comes through. For it is impossible to be that talented and not have a few oddball habits, and MJ – God love ’im – had his share. In his defense, however, he was at the time of the "Bad" recording trying to top (or come close) “Thriller,” which is still the biggest selling album of all time. Imagine the pressure!

“Bad 25” had its world premiere at the 69th Venice Film Festival on 31 Aug., exactly 25 years after the release of the “Bad” album and two days after the anniversary of MJ’s birthday. The film, which had its North American premiere at the 37th Toronto Film Festival, reveals a number of details that fans will savor. (See video above of SL at a press conference after the Venice screening of “Bad 25” and a video clip from the documentary below)

Without a doubt, SL is an MJ fan, and he doesn’t pretend otherwise. In fact, he admits it. Only one year older, he wanted to be MJ and the Jackson Five. His adulation, notwithstanding, doesn’t mean his film is revisionist propaganda. It is not, though at moments it feels a bit too adulatory. As SL says during the Venice press conference, “I think there were too many years, we – and I’m gonna include myself – we concentrated on stuff about Michael Jackson that had nothing to do with the music. This is a time to just concentrate on the music of Michael Jackson. It was a chance to dig into his creative process.”

The director also speaks with many who were influenced by MJ, as well as collaborators, including Quincy Jones and Martin Scorsese, who directed the “Bad” video.

Put the focus on the artistry – which even MJ’s most ardent detractors can’t deny – and the result can easily be “Bad 25.” To help tell the “Bad” story, SL uses never-before-seen footage – a huge benefit of having the cooperation of both the estate and the record company.

“We all are blessed with the final work but it is rare that you get to see how something is put together,” SL shared with his audience in Venice. “We don't see the blood, sweat and tears – all of the work that goes into how the masters work.”

Now, we do.

“Bad 25” will be showing from 26 Oct. through 2 Nov. at the Chinese 6 Theaters (6801 Hollywood Blvd.) in Hollywood.

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