Sunday, February 07, 2016
Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall
Directed by Spike Lee, Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall is a documentary film about the period in the life of Michael Jackson from his success as a child when he was singing with his brothers in the Jackson 5 to the first major solo release of his career with 1979’s Off the Wall where he would begin to break out on his own. Featuring rare archival footage and interviews from historians, musicians, artists, and those who knew Michael reveal the boy who was driven to become one of the greatest figures in the history of pop music. The result is an entertaining and exhilarating film from Spike Lee.
The film chronicles the period in the life and career of Michael Jackson from being this idol for children when he was singing in the Jackson 5 and then leaving Motown for Epic to find creative freedom with his brothers that would lead to wanting to make a solo album of his own. It is really the look of a someone who desires to make something of his own while studying everything around him from those he was inspired by to the legends of the past. It’s a film that showcases a prodigy growing up and finding his own identity as a man and an artist and how this album that would set the course in him becoming a legend would be this impact for many people including musicians, artists, actors, athletes, and everyone else.
With interviews with Michael’s brothers Jackie and Marlon as well as Motown founder Berry Gordy, producers Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, filmmakers Joel Schumacher and Rob Cohen, songwriters Valerie Simpson and Sediah Garrett, Stevie Wonder, and others that knew him. The people Spike Lee would talk to doesn’t just reveal Michael’s drive and persistence but also that desire to wanting to be more than just some bubblegum singer. Even as it comes to the music as he really did all that he could to make it great as he was known for being a perfectionist. The stories about him at Studio 54 reveal that he was there for the music and would spend much of his time either on the dance floor or in the DJ booth. The film also interviews musicians such as Questlove, Pharrell Williams, the Weekend, and David Byrne as well as producers Mark Ronson and Rodney Jerkins where they would dissect each of the songs on the album and reveal why it still holds up.
With the aid of cinematographer Kerwin DeVonish in filming many of the new interviews where actors like John Leguizamo and Rosie Perez talk about the impact of his music and what it meant to them in their adolescents and growing up into adulthood. Lee also brings his own personal experiences about Michael’s music and the impact it had on him and every African-American child growing up when the Jackson 5 were around. With the aid of editors Barry Alexander Brown and Ryan Denmark in compiling many of the footage of concerts including the ones the Jacksons did in the late 70s and early 80s as well as archival audio from many of Michael’s interviews by sound editor Philip Stockton. Even as some of the demos of the songs Michael made for Off the Wall and the stuff he did with his brothers reveal the work that went into those songs which plays into the importance of musicianship and taking the time to make these songs matter in this age of laptops and machines that doesn’t have the human capacity of what can be done.
Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall is an extraordinary film from Spike Lee. Not only is it a fascinating documentary about one of the finest albums in the history of popular music but also an intriguing look into the man that made it and what it took to make a statement from being this child prodigy to a genius that is nearly unparalleled with anyone else in the world of music. In the end, Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall is a phenomenal film from Spike Lee.
Spike Lee Films: (She’s Gotta Have It) - (School Daze) - Do the Right Thing - Mo' Better Blues - Jungle Fever - (Malcolm X) - Crooklyn - (Clockers) - (Girl 6) - (Get on the Bus) - 4 Little Girls - (He Got Game) - Freak - Summer of Sam - (The Kings of Comedy) - (Bamboozled) - (A Huey P. Newton Story) - 25th Hour - (Jim Brown: All-American) - (She Hate Me) - (Inside Man) - (When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts) - (Miracle at St. Anna) - (Kobe Doin’ Work) - (Passing Strange) - (If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise) - (Red Hook Summer) - Bad 25 - (Oldboy 2013 film)) - Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth - (Da Blood of Jesus) - (Chi-Raq)
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