Michael Jackson and Spike Lee's Bad 25 Movie: "Get to It, This Is a Bliss-Out"
The performance footage alone is thrilling, and Lee has augmented it with archival treasures: dance rehearsals where Jackson and choreographers Jeffrey Daniel and Caszper Canidate seem lost in the joy of invention; recordings of vocal exercises revealing Jackson's rarely plumbed lower registers; video shot by Jackson himself of Siedah Garrett singing her then-new song (co-written with Glen Ballard) "Man in the Mirror" to Jackson and Quincy Jones.
Even without such finds, Lee's talking heads would be worth a ticket.
Lee rounds up the engineers and keyboard players, the choreographers and horn arrangers, the people who actually have insight into the actual art. There are celebrities, too, Kanye and Mariah Carey in humble-fan mode, and Justin Bieber gets a laugh just by popping up to point out that his video for "Baby" rips off Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel." (Weirder still, L.A. Reid brags that in that "Baby" video, he forbade Bieber from kissing a black woman.)
Film geeks will relish scenes of Martin Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker re-watching Scorsese's video for "Bad," especially as Lee, off camera, hollers questions: "That's a crane down and a dolly back?" and "Did you know he would be grabbing his crotch so much?"
Among the many pressing concerns the movie clears up: Jackson's shouts of "Sham on!" it turns out, come from Mavis Staples. Annie (the woman who has worried the smooth criminal with her potential not-OK-ness) is a CPR dummy, and Diana isn't anyone whom you should know. The reason the title track wasn't a duet with Prince, as Jackson had hoped, is that at their meeting, Jackson became convinced that Prince was subjecting him to some sort of spellcraft. (Prince's excuse, not in the movie, has been simpler: He wasn't going to sing "Your butt is mine" to Michael Jackson.)
Nobody is willing to talk about how Jackson and Co. achieved the famous leaning dance moves from the "Smooth Criminal" video, but in on-set footage, you can see the wires. And everyone from Jones to Stevie Wonder agrees: "Just Good Friends" kind of sucks.
Lee doesn't dwell much on the controversies in which Jackson was pickling. Instead, he works through the album song by song, covering the writing, recording, video making, or whatever else seems relevant. Highlights abound: a quick primer on the evolution of Jackson's dancing; Garrett and Ballard re-creating the moment they came up with "Man in the Mirror"; occasional pages of notes Jackson wrote exhorting himself to work harder, to be better.