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Bad 25

Year: 2012
Production Co: 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Justin Bieber, Mariah Carey, Chris Brown, Sheryl Crow, Kanye West, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker

Like Steven Soderbergh or Lars von Trier I'll watch anything Spike Lee makes, and that was the reason to watch this movie. Not that I wasn't interested in a story about Michael Jackson and his legacy as seen through his last major original album, but I was more interested in Lee's take on it because his cinematic voice is always so vibrant. Because of his unique viewpoint of African American culture, anything he says about Michael Jackson is sure to be original.

If you're a Lee or a Jackson fan you won't be disappointed. The loose structure of the movie is a series of shorts looking at the creation, execution and impact of each of the songs of the titular 1987 album, with most of the attention paid in the early stages to the title track, the extended music video directed by Martin Scorsese on a Brooklyn subway station.

But Lee's journey through each song is loose and free wheeling rather than fixed. At some point in the second half we break from the rest of the talking heads (everyone from stars like Mariah Carey and Kanye West to his backing musicians and Jackson himself), archive footage and music video clips to cut to his brother Jermaine's press conference announcing Jackson's death.

Sometimes the film plays an entire song instead of merely touching on it or interspersing snippets of it with the people who made it – after a bit of the story of how Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard wrote Man in The Mirror we see the whole song performed during one of Jackson's UK concerts.

But there's one curious thing Lee seems to purposely avoid, and that's the reception to the song Bad itself when it came out. Despite its success it was kind of the first nail in the end of Jackson's world-stopping career, a lot of people considering it slightly ridiculous that this gentle, sensitive soul with the voice of a 12 year old girl could be a hard-as-nails gangbanger.

It also staunchly avoids the scandals and abuse allegations that swirled around Jackson during the last years of his life and to some that might make it feel hagiographic (the New York Post review called it an 'infomercial' commissioned by Sony and the 'money grubbing Jackson estate').

But Lee seems to be saying that even if there's a place to talk about the problems that bought Jackson down and might have contributed to his death, this isn't it – Bad 25 is about a black artist who captured the world's imagination, and that's very much what Lee's about.

A lot of the information on offer is pretty conventional and there's nothing hard hitting about it, but it will remind you of some of the artefacts about Jackson's life (like his purchse of the rights to the Beatles' catalogue) that helped cement his legend and made him worth talking about, and the insider stories about how the music and video clips came together is worth your time if you ever enjoyed what he did.

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