The Day After the Mother of All Rejections: “This Is It” (Possibly the Best Concert Dance/Movie EVER Made!)

Today, self received calls from her regular masseuse (one of self’s indulgences is a really good massage, every two or three months) and from the nice Filipina who gives her manicures (another indulgence)  Wow!  Could they somehow have sensed self’s despondency?  Her aura must be very strong right now.

Self also went to the Redwood City Main Library and checked out Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (No copies in the regular fiction section; she had to go upstairs, to the Young Adult section).  She hasn’t read a Dickens novel in aaaages, perhaps not since she brought Bleak House to Stanford Hospital, when she went into labor with son.  The book was so ponderous that the nurses would get very impatient every time they had to move it out of the way to deliver self her food tray.  And they warned her explicitly not to even try lifting it, as her stitches (Self had a C-section) might pop out.  Self distinctly remembers Mrs. King visiting her in the hospital and inquiring what she was reading.  When self told her, Mrs. King exclaimed, “Why are you reading that depressing book when you have just given birth to your first child?” Alas, self could not come up with a satisfactory answer.

Anyhoo, self was in the mood for some Dickens again.  Hence, Great Expectations.

She finished the Nemirovsky at 4 in the morning, then slept for four hours.  My God, that book had her so moved, she cried.  Especially when she got to the notes Nemirovsky had written about how she planned to continue the book.  Time ran out for the author, however:  she was picked up by the Gestapo in July 1942, and a month later she was dead, gassed in Auschwitz.  In the meanwile, her devoted husband kept writing ever more desperate letters, trying to find her, until he himself was picked up and disappeared into the camps.  Thank God, their two daughters were saved by a loyal friend, who raised them.

Today, self felt she needed to treat herself to something nice, so she went and saw the early show of “This Is It,” Kenny Ortega’s Michael Jackson movie.  Self happened to be in New York, in the East Village, on the day MJ died, last June.  She was on her way to a reading by Fiona Maazel and Wells Tower.  She was with Drew, who had tickets to Michael Jackson’s London concert.  Suddenly, Drew’s cell rang, he picked it up, and then exclaimed, “Michael Jackson died!”  And self did not believe it.  Not until they passed a group of young tweens who had begun to chant, “Michael Jackson’s dead!  Michael Jackson’s dead!  He flat-lined!  They couldn’t revive him!”  Ghoulish, they were smiling, so exhilarated at being the first to shout out the news.  And then everyone else on the sidewalk at that moment began to cry and talk at once:  “Michael Jackson’s dead?  No, that can’t be!”  And Drew said the tickets to his London concert were a thousand dollars a-piece.

So there was self, in New York, and Michael Jackson had died.  And she never felt that bad about it, until the day she went to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy, and just as she had parked her car (She had by then returned to California), “Man in the Mirror” came on the radio.  And, self has posted about her reaction:  she rested her head on the steering wheel and suddenly began to cry.

So, anyway, here is self in the Century 20, surrounded by about 30 other people (all white —  interesting!).  The movie begins with interviews with the dancers.  And they are all so overwhelmed by the experience of having been chosen to be on a show with Michael, that most of them are crying (and these interviews were presumably filmed even before MJ died).  One dancer said, “I’m Australian, and I heard about the auditions two days ago, and I took the first plane here.”

Then, a shot of the chorus line, and the producers culling their choices.  There is a blonde woman in the line-up, who the producers seem to be paying particular attention to.  “That’s the one,” they say, though it’s not really clear who they are referring to.  Only later do you see this blonde young woman, and she is a demon on the electric guitar.  Her name is Orianthi Panagaris.  And she will be a star.  In fact, Michael tells her this in so many words, during the film.  “This is your moment, this is your moment,” he keeps telling her.  Their scenes together are very moving.

And then, the dancers.  My God, they just danced their heart out.  There were about 11 male dancers.  In the movie, they are mostly in sweaty dance clothes, but the scenes are intercut with scenes from the dress rehearsal, and when the special effects come together it is fantastic!   People next to self were tapping their feet to songs like “Thriller,” “Billi Jean,” “This Is It.”

By the time they got to the very last song, “Man in the Mirror,” self and everyone else in her row were sniffling, blowing their noses, what-have-you.

So now, self has another movie to add to her “Ten Best” list.  It now looks like this:

  1. Der Baader Meinhof Complex
  2. District 9
  3. Inglourious Basterds
  4. Moon
  5. Star Trek
  6. The Hurt Locker
  7. The Time Traveler’s Wife
  8. This Is It
  9. Zombieland

Self realizes that’s only 9 movies, not 10.  She fully anticipates rounding off the list, however, in the next month or so (Though she can tell dear blog readers right now:  She doesn’t think it will be “Avatar.”)

Stay tuned.

On Michael J and “Man in the Mirror”

Self coming belatedly to Michael J, again (and by the way have you heard about John Hughes? Iconic film-maker of the 80’s? Who gave us the Brat Pack? Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Andrew McCarthy, Mary Stuart Masterson, and Molly Ringwald? Apologies, dear blog readers, but Summer of 2009 is turning out to be full of such unexpected and mournful notes).

Friday, after she’d nudged her clunker a mile to the CVS Pharmacy to pick up a prescription, just as she was pulling (safely, thank God) into the parking spot, “Man in the Mirror” came on the radio. And damn if self didn’t just lower her head to the steering wheel and feel like bawling like a baby.

Of course she’s heard all the tawdry news: how one of the paramedics called to the house described finding an elderly man, severely underweight, “with no nose.” How the godfather of the Jackson kids is claiming he is the real father of the kids.

You know, none of that really matters. All that matters is: You hear a Michael Jackson song, and you realize how beautiful it is.

Quote of the Day: Guy Trebay on the Significance of the Sequined Glove

It was impossible to look away from him  —  not when he was a dimpled child singer crowned with a pillowy Afro, not when he became a pop demigod uniformed in rhinestones and epaulets to command what were always referred to as his armies of fans, and not when his surgical transformations mirrored back to the culture the blurring of boundaries demarcarting adulthood, sex, and even race.

There was no way to know what was on Michael Jackson’s mind as he journeyed from boy to man and partway back, from a brown-skinned man to one so pale he required an umbrella when he went out in the sun, and from a pop star with a quirky but defined masculinity to one who seemed most comfortable in a more nebulous zones.  What seemed clear is that all of it was considered.  All of it was intentional.

More than almost any entertainer in memory, Michael Jackson was entirely of show business.

— Guy Trebay, The New York Times, Sunday 28 June 2009

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