Until I saw this film on the TIFF schedule, I didn’t even know it existed. But damn am I glad it does. Bad 25 is a fantastic documentary – a Spike Lee Joint – that takes you on an intimate tour behind the scenes during the making of Michael Jackson’s Bad record and world tour.
It really is a comprehensive musical education. Not only are you shown never-before-seen footage of Jackson as he records hits like “Smooth Criminal”, “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man In The Mirror”, Lee also interviews all the key players who contributed to the record’s unprecedented success.
The film contextualizes the importance of the record, one that I own and love but had no idea was as important as it was to Jackson’s career - coming off the mega success of Thriller, the fact that Bad produced a record breaking five number one singles was simply unimaginable.
You’re also taken behind the scenes of his world tour and all the music videos made for the record. Sheryl Crow relives what it was like performing “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” on stage with Michael, Martin Scorsese talks candidly about directing the video for Bad, Michael’s choreographers walk you through the inception of his now iconic dance moves. If you’re a Michael Jackson fan you will eat this up.
The doc is very much a love letter to Michael’s talent and incomparable work ethic. Very little is spoken about his personal controversies. In fact, I’d say the film does a pretty good job of arguing that they were inconsequential to his legacy. Whether you buy into that idea or not, it’s hard to watch this film and deny his genius, especially during this period of his career. It’s that precious time where you could still see Michael for the man that he was and not the surgically altered caricature he became.
What affected me most was the impact he had on everyone he worked with. While discussing his death, literally every interviewee broke down into tears. I’m talking old, weathered men stopping the conversation to cry it out. It was the first time I was able to really comprehend how deeply the industry was affected by his passing and not just some crazed European fan. And it’s clear that despite what we may think of “Wacko Jacko” there had to have been something the public never saw, a human side that related to and affected the ones he trusted in a real and profound way.
After given this rare privilege of witnessing Bad come to fruition and subsequently understanding how tirelessly Michael strived to achieve the unachievable, it’s no wonder he continues to sit atop a standard rarely surpassed in the music game today. And to that point, how disheartening it is knowing that so many contemporary artists have so little involvement in their own careers, due in large part to the fact that we’ve lowered our expectations to allow for it.
Do yourself a favour. Raise those expectations. Go see this movie.
Attached - Spike Lee at TIFF on Friday.