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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spike Lee BAD25 Documentary UK Premiere - Sam "Jesta" Geden Review [SPOILER ALERT!]

Thank you Jesta for according us this incredible review of Spike Lee's BAD25 Documentary.

More from his amazing work can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/DokeruProductions



"First of all, the day itself was incredible. I met up with two (and later three) fans and we spent about 45 minutes getting acquainted with each other and talking about our fandom. When we got in line, we were amazed by how many people were accumulating; it nearly reached around the corner! The inside of the West End Odeon was adorned with the Bad 25 logo, as well as a giant poster of the Bad 25 album cover. We were treated to complimentary popcorn and water, and we sat in the front row.



Picture courtesy of Amie Louise Landsborough


Before the film started, Spike Lee and John Branca took to the stage to talk a little bit about the film. Branca compared the film to This Is It in the sense that it documented Michael's creative process for an album as This Is It documented Michael's creative process for a live project.



Picture courtesy of ~Lindsey~


(Forgive me if my memory's a little fuzzy when it comes to detail of the film)

The film opened with footage of Michael's interview with Ebony magazine discussing the project. This footage is seen throughout the film and is the primary interview footage of Michael. We are treated to the backstory of the album and how Thriller was seen as a massive success due to its record-breaking sales and achivements in the industry. We see figures such as Joe Vogel discussing this, as well as pointing out several quotes by James Baldwin.

They discuss the original concept of the album - it was originally titled "Smooth Criminal" and had the veil cover, but Quincy Jones disliked it. The whole ideology behind the album was to break down any misconceptions that the public had about him and black singers in general.

The film talks about each song in the order that they appear in the album... Mostly. Prince was vehemently against the idea of a collaboration with Michael, and a meeting between Michael and Prince ended badly when Michael believed that Prince was trying to curse him with a voodoo doll. The film was worked on to be bigger than Thriller in terms of being a dramatic piece, inspired by the shooting of a young black boy in Harlem. Michael was only satisfied with a take if he "could feel it in [his] soul" (as explained by a note). Michael was shocked by the living conditions of the location in which the exterior shots were filmed, and was excited by the authenticity of the subway (remarking that the authentic urine stains were a particularly nice touch). Michael was upset that he hurt the old man's arm in the subway and pleaded with Scorsese to not do another take. Scorsese's picture is seen on the WANTED poster, which causes his daughter to question him on whether he had been in prison before! We are then shown Michael climbing into the ceiling so he can drop down from it. Michael used a combination of street dance and theatrics for the choreography, and liked the idea of being followed by the camera for it as opposed to the shots remaining static. The "shamone" was taken by a soul singer who I believe was called Mavis, but I can't remember her second name.

Michael developed The Way You Make Me Feel at his home studio. We see a studio sheet with the name "Hot Fever" on it as we listen to the harmonies of the song. Michael worked tirelessly on the harmonies and ten variations of his voice are on that track's ones. The graininess of the film was a design choice due to the style of one of the director's previous documentaries showing gang life. The extras were real gang members and police were there at all times to prevent a riot. Michael was upset about the smoking, and Joy Pytka yelled at them to stop it, prompting Michael to retreat behind him. A dance scene was worked in last second, with the fire hydrant being the best place aesthetically to do it. Tatiana was instructed to not kiss him due to it being cheesy, but she recalled that the hug at the end had Michael with minty breath, so she wondered if he could've handled a kiss. Tatiana's kiss with Michael n the Bad Tour was EXTREMELY brief, and the quality of the footage was OK.

Siedah Garrett was initially surprised and thrilled that she was given the chance to sing with Michael. Studio footage of Michael and her singing is shown next, with the backing track on. The way it was shot was incredible, and it looked like it could've been a music video. The Bad Tour band made bets as to whether Michael was turned on by Sheryl Crow during the song when they played it live.

Not much was discussed with Speed Demon as a song, except that the song was a metaphor for how the public perceived him and it symbolised the mission statement of the album itself. Michael loved the idea of claymation being worked into the piece. To get the dance scene technically right, a guy in all-black outfit danced alongside Michael, with Spike edited in later.

Liberian Girl was very challenging for its time because NO songs talked about black women as if they were beautiful. Michael only did one take at the end of the video, as he was called in last minute to make an appearance.

Just Good Friends was looked at unfavourably by a lot of people as the only filler song on the album. Studio footage of Michael and Stevie was shown, with them singing the song without any music playing in the background.

Archive footage of Quincy discusses the issues between picking Streetwalker and Another Part of Me to make the album, but the tracklisting was decided when he caught Michael dancing to the latter. Pristine footage of the Bad Tour in Paris is shown next, and it looked jaw-droppingly incredible.

Steve Stevens was reluctant to work on Dirty Diana because he wasn't a session musician, and would only work if Michael was in the room with him. Dirty Diana was designed to break the misconception that black people couldn't be rockstars. The film was initially going to have Michael on-stage and in the rain at the end, but he hurt his knees too badly shooting the other scenes that he couldn't do it.

Leave Me Alone was a way to make fun and embrace the media stories that arose of Michael in the 80s, in order to ruin the fun of it for everyone else. The giant Michael was inspired by Gulliver's Travels, and the effect throughout the entire film was tireless for the animators. An animator spent two weeks just cutting out Michael's hair for the entire piece.

Smooth Criminal was inspired by Fred Astaire's "The Band Wagon" aesthetically. The enigmatic Annie was inspired by a CPR dummy named Anne and the first thing one must do before administering CPR is to ask that they're OK. Rehearsal footage of Michael with Vincent Patterson in a studio is seen, as well as a full-dress rehearsal on-set (featuring Michael with a red shirt instead of a blue shirt). The hopping seen in the film was inspired by a Bugs Bunny move, and the Lean was Michael's way of topping himself with his other moves. Footage of dancers falling down during the Lean is seen. No-one knew of the break in the song except for Michael initially, and he wanted it so that the dancers can "feel the space". Michael drew a picture of the Smooth Criminal suit, and the arm-band was originally black. Bruce Swedien explains that the mic used by Michael for all of his songs (bar Earth Song) was made for narration, but it fit Michael's voice.

Man in the Mirror was inspired by a saying that one of Siedah Garrett's friends said to her in 1985. As Glen Ballard was coming up with the music, Siedah had a rush of inspiration and couldn't write the lyrics down fast enough. The song was included as Michael wanted an anthem song, that he felt was lacking on Thriller. Siedah sent a demo to Quincy and he loved it, but one part was just a bit too high for Michael, so she sang a demo live for Michael (who was holding the camera and clicking to keep her in time).

Every interviewee is asked "Where were you when Michael Jackson died?" and what followed was a montage of reactions. Most, if not all ended in tears and they all spoke extremely highly of Michael when they reminisced about him at this point. The most heartbreaking was Vincent Patterson's who broke down and said about how much he cared for him. He started tearing up earlier when recalling that one of Michael's biggest wishes was to just be able to go to a party and sit alone in a corner. Then Seth Riggs recounted over how he yelled at the person who told him the bad news on June 25th because he couldn't believe it. The pain in his eyes was the most raw and sincere that I had seen in a person discussing Michael.

The film ends with a performance of Man in the Mirror from July 16th at Wembley. The performance itself was incredible and Michael's vocals were flying over the added crowd noise (which was very effective as it gave a feeling that you were there at the concert). The quality is not good by HD standards by any means, but as a VHS it looks damn incredible. The documentary ends in a similar way that This Is It did, except that Michael takes a bow after the Christ pose.




Picture courtesy of Amie Louise Landsborough


I've almost definitely missed things out, but that's what watching the film when it comes out is for "

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