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Thoughts On 'Bad 25' (Spike Lee's Michael Jackson Doc, Which Made Its Broadcast Debut Last Night)?

Reviews
by Tambay A. Obenson
November 23, 2012 9:59 AM
11 Comments
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Bad25

So it finally aired on ABC last night - Spike Lee's Michael Jackson documentary, made in collaboration with the estate of Michael Jackson and Sony Music, titled Bad 25.

The feature documentary was released theatrically for 1 week, in October, but, unfortunately, only in New York, and Los Angeles.

So I'd say that the vast majority of you got to see it for the very first time last night, when it was broacast from 9:30pm to 11pm. - that is if you weren't one of the crazies who were standing in line, outside various department stores around the country, waiting to take advantage of Black Friday sales that started at about 9pm last night.

If you did see it, what did you think?

My quick thoughts... 

The key things I was looking for/hoping to get from watching the film: First and maybe most important for me, I wanted to learn something I didn't already know about the man (about his life, creative process, the making of the Bad album, etc); to be enlightened; I wanted to celebrate Michael Jackson, his music, his legacy; and of course I hoped to be entertained as well.

I could break down each of those further, but you get the picture. 

And while I'd say that, for the most part, mission was accomplished, I was left wanting for much more. The film felt thin, and then I later realized that the version we watched last night, isn't the version that screened at festivals, or in theaters. What we saw was a gutted-for-tv version of the film, which has an original running time of 123 minutes (or just over 2 hours); but what we saw last night was a 64-minute cut - and that was without all those freaking commercials, which stretched it to 90 minutes. 

So, really, what we saw was about half the length of what was screened at festivals, and released in theaters. No wonder it felt thin, and in some cases, abrupt in terms of its edits from one sequence/scene to the next.

The film is as much of a celebration of the making of the Bad album, as it is a celebration of Michael Jackson and his unique talents and abilities.

It made me nostalgic for a bygone era - hearing the music again, and watching old clips from music videos, and of course of MJ himself, all reminding me of people, places, moments in time, that I have/had some kind of connection to via the album.

I  loved all the historical references and influences with regards to both his music, and his moves, from West Side Story, to The Staples Singers, to Fred Astaire, to Soul Train, and more.

First-hand insights into MJ's creative vision and process, from a variety of talents who worked with him directly, were appreciated, as was the rare and never-before-seen footage chronicling the making of the album and the tour.

For example, I had no idea that Sheryl Crow was one of his back-up singers on that 1988 tour.

The numerous interviews with those who were closest to him, including MJ's confidants, choreographers, musicians and collaborators, were all great!

Overall, a respectable documentary (given that we only really saw half of it); but, as I suggested before, I'd like to see the original 123-minute cut, because this one felt a little thin, and even rushed at times. 

For example, I got a little confused by what felt like an abrupt cut/insert during the latter half of the broadcast, when the film shifted from a sequence featuring discussion about the making of the Leave Me Alone video, to suddenly a scene with Jermaine Jackson's announcement of MJ's death, followed by successive silent shots of the poignant faces of contributors to the doc, and then suddenly cutting to discussion about the making of Man In The Mirror.

Those 3 shifts just didn't work for me. What felt like a sudden insertion of the announcement of his death (coupled with the silent sad faces) between sequences on the makings of 2 tracks from the album, felt incongruous to me. I think the insertion probably should've been at the end of the film, or at the very beginning. It just felt out of place in that moment, between those two sequences. There was no gradual movement towards those grieving scenes. Like I said, it felt abrupt, out of place, and I wondered if, in the moment, I just missed something.

Maybe you guys can help me out with that.

And the repeated commercial interruptions really hurt the experience - my experience anyway.

I loathed them. I know money has to be made, but my goodness! There was a commercial break just about every 10 minutes, and the cuts to commercials were often really abrupt and jarring that they took me out of the experience. Think about it - we were treated to a version that was half the original running time, at about 64 minutes, stretched to 90 minutes, thanks to all those commercials. So, doing the math, about a third of the entire 90-minute period was occupied by commercials.

Maybe that's par for the course on network TV, but this felt a little excessive to me.  

This was the first time much of the country was seeing the film; could this not have been sponsored by someone, or some company, or organization, limiting the commercial interruptions. It's happened before - where broadcasts have been sponsored.

It just really disrupted the flow for me. I'd find myself getting into the content or a moment in the film, and then, suddenly, there'd be this abrupt interruption in the form of JC Penny commercial, highlighting its Black Friday deals. Black Friday sales over here; Black Friday sales over there.

Come on son! Continuity... continuity. It's bad enough that it was a version half the length of the original 2+ hour theatrical cut; so bombarding us with commercials every 10 minutes, wasn't at all appreciated - at least not by me.

I plan to watch the full-length version (thankfully, sans Black Friday commercials every 10 minutes) when it's eventually released on DVD in February. It's then that I think I'd be fully equipped to give a much more thorough review.

But, as I said, a respectable doc - based on what we were given, anyway; I just wish that we'd been given the full version, and without all those damn commercials. I realize that ABC having the broadcast rights meant that more people would see it, since cable TV isn't as ubiquitous; but I'd have loved to see this run on HBO instead.

If you watched it, what did you think?

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11 Comments

  • michaboa | December 2, 2012 9:13 PMReply

    U.K viewers got to see the full 2hr 11 min of the documentary, (It's still available on BBC iplayer). I found it really insightful, and I loved all the past musical/film influences that Michael incorporated into his 'short films'.The pain in all their faces when Spike asked them about Michael death was heartbreaking. These were the people that knew MJ the person. 'Twas an enjoyable documentary and I finally know who Annie is lol.

  • Anonymous | November 28, 2012 3:07 AMReply

    I saw the whole 2 hr + doc at my internship. It was FANTASTIC. I also saw the edited version on Thanksgiving with the rest of America. I was so happy to show my mom and boyfriend the documentary, but was very disappointed that they cut out a majority of what i had seen in the unedited version. DO NOT let this tv version deter you from purchasing the full length doc in February. It provides insight to Michael the man, director, producer, singer, dancer, writer, artist, all that he was and the legacy that he has left behind.

  • ALM | November 28, 2012 5:42 AM

    I believe you. What is on the dvd of the 3 cd version of "Bad 25" that was released a couple of months ago?

  • Lisa | November 24, 2012 11:14 PMReply

    Has exactly the same thought, I wish HBO had done this for all the same reasons.

  • Ra Cinematic | November 24, 2012 6:17 AMReply

    "when the film shifted from a sequence featuring discussion about the making of the Leave Me Alone video, to suddenly a scene with Jermaine Jackson's announcement of MJ's death, followed by successive silent shots of the poignant faces of contributors to the doc, and then suddenly cutting to discussion about the making of Man In The Mirror."

    Completely agree.. I thought the exact same thing as I watched. It wasn't even sequentially accurate and the announcement should of came at the end. The Sheryl Crow tidbit was also enlightening but also noticing the fact that in concert she stood in for Seidah Garret or the "I just can't stop loving you" performance. Wesley's insight into his audition was especially interesting as well...also you may want to check these sites out for commercial free viewing.
    http://movie25.com/movies/documentary/
    http://www.movie2k.to/

  • Firebrand | November 24, 2012 3:16 AMReply

    I wasn't as bothered by the abrupt cuts as you were, but I definitely got the sense that something was missing. Still a terrific documentary, though.

  • deedee | November 23, 2012 9:59 PMReply

    my first reaction was to get angry at you for the comments about the abrupt cut/insert... then I saw you ask for help on getting it, so maybe I shouldn't be mad at you. It worked for me... I don't know if I can explain why or how, but it did. Maybe not right at first, when they showed Jermaine, but maybe the abruptness was a way of representing the way we were all just going about our lives, our day (I was picking up my car from having it detailed, the one time I've ever paid that much money to have a car cleaned), when suddenly 'the music' ended, the reality came through, Michael is dead. Michael is dead? Michael can't be dead. Michael IS dead. Followed by their faces, the silence, a reflection of what so many of us felt when we first heard the news. It brought it all back for me. And then the gal (sorry, don't remember her name) who broke the silence with that thought we all had... it was just unthinkable (not the word she used, but)... that Michael is dead... and we all played a part, if not through our own lack of belief in him during the bad times, through our unwillingness to get involved/stand up for Michael/stand up TO Michael... all of the things people in his life coulda, shoulda, woulda, to prevent his early demise. WHO do we blame? Let's start with the Man in the Mirror... and so they jumped back into the creative process for that song, and ended on that note, because, of everything Michael ever SAID to all of us, that was THE message.

  • ALM | November 23, 2012 11:25 AMReply

    "For example, I got a little confused by what felt like an abrupt cut/insert during the latter half of the broadcast, when the film shifted from a sequence featuring discussion about the making of the Leave Me Alone video, to suddenly a scene with Jermaine Jackson's announcement of MJ's death, followed by successive silent shots of the poignant faces of contributors to the doc, and then suddenly cutting to discussion about the making of Man In The Mirror." << I agree with you on this. Other than this, the doc was amazing, and I was left wanting more.

  • Ms. Stone | November 23, 2012 11:09 AMReply

    I saw the documentary in the theater, and I absolutely loved it. Though, I will confess, I still wanted more of the story of the making of Bad (but that is just because I love the hell out of MICHEAL!)

  • Akimbo | November 23, 2012 10:27 AMReply

    Yeah, I was thrown by the jump from "Leave Me Alone" to his death announcement, then I checked the clock and understood. There was a weird edit in the "Smooth Criminal" part where they started to play the video, then jumped to commercial. What I saw of this was great and just made me want to see the complete version. They could have thrown in an ad for the full doc at the end and made some dough selling it.

  • Cammie | November 23, 2012 10:09 AMReply

    I was lucky enough to see it in when it was shown last month in theaters here in NYC. The version we saw last night cut SO MUCH out of the original, whole conversations with Sheryl Crow, Michael's long time vocal coach, Steve Stevens - the Dirty Diana guitar soloist - and on and on. I would say for anyone who felt like they wanted more to pick up the DVD when it's released in February, you'll get what was missed last night.

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