Michael Jackson’s everlasting imprint is the legacy of his music and the life left behind, experienced through the eyes of his children and those that will always be looking in. The documentary BAD25 celebrates the King of Pop’s hooking hits and influence on society – then and now – directed and produced by film trailblazer and MJ admirer, Spike Lee. Lee also worked with the Jackson 5 wonder kid on his 1996 “They Don’t Care About Us” music video.
Making its North American debut at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival with both public screenings sold-out – BAD25 is not the documentary that critiques the misfortunes so commonly roped to the icon, but rather Michael’s meticulous work ethic and magnetic presence. The film essentially documents the science and scene behind the music done while recording Bad, the follow-up to Thriller (aka the best selling album of all time).
Over 40 interviews are weaved in between archival footage of Michael rehearsing, in-studio demo recordings and outtakes, and raw clips featuring the likes of Martin Scorcese – the same man that directed Michael’s 18-minute long video for the single “Bad”. Emotive-charged repertoire surrounding Michael Jackson is candidly voiced by a handful of conductors, collaborators and believers of music’s Peter Pan including L.A. Reid, Mariah Carey, Joe Pytka, Chris Brown and former CBS Head Walter Yetnikoff.
Prepare to see a mugshot, old school Wesley Snipes and Sheryl Crow (who was his backup singer from 1987-89), as well as 80’s get-ups, 90’s street vibes and the signature ‘body-pop and lean’ MJ moves. Michael’s personal engineer Matt Forger, keyboardist Greg Phillinganes plus choreographers Jeffrey Daniel and Vincent Patterson are also prevalently portrayed in the documentary.
Grab moments include: California Raisin-inspired eye bulges, Kanye West self-gloat-and-jokes, octave-soaring performances, animated personalities such as Siedah Garret and visual snapshots including one alongside Whitney Houston.
“For me one of the most amazing moments of this film is when we had that archival footage where Whitney is giving the award [Philips Hall of Fame For Special Achievement in Video] to Michael and both of them look so young and beautiful, and both of them are dead. Dead – gone,” states Lee.
Sly-slapped font inserts, subtle camera slides and poignant close-ups are delivered in a audiovisual lookbook, compiled and stylistically crafted by Spike Lee. In addition to the documentary comes the worldwide release (out today) of the BAD25 deluxe package– via Epic Records / Legacy Recordings and the Estate of Michael Jackson. The 3 CD/1 DVD box set includes live versions of Jackson’s 1988 Wembley Stadium show, remastered originals like “Smooth Criminal”, “Dirty Diana”, and “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You”, multi-language collaborations, two collectible booklets, original BAD cover art and charging new remixes from DJs such as Afrojack and Nero. Nero’s “Speed Demon” remix is pretty darn incredible.
In response to being asked what talent is most desired of the late legend, Spike comments:
Everybody has a gift I believe and if you’re lucky you’ll get to cultivate that gift, but he [God] gave Michael a lot of stuff and we have to realize that just because you have a gift doesn’t mean it’s going to be utilized to its fullest. Michael had been singing and dancing since he was five, six years old – for his food – we forget this – and even I forget this – he spent four decades you know, honing his craft – watching at the Apollo Theater, he’s on the wings watching James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cook, then later being in Motown – the height of Motown with Barry Gordy – with the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, later Diana Ross – I mean… he saw it all.
Lee talks about how Jackson became a prisoner of his fame, barely able to function in society without riots occurring. He highlights songs like “Price of Fame”, songs which became Jackson’s sincere serenades and capsules of reflection. In the film there are also quotes that detail Jackson’s tremendous star power – “When John Lennon left us people turned to ‘Imagine’ and when Michael left us people turned to ‘Man in the Mirror’.” Sheryl Crow also expressed how “the molecules would change in the room” when Michael Jackson performed.
Luckily now there is a special collectible that can keep him in your room for as long as you please – finger-snaps and all.