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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Guilty anticipation for a man's accidental finale

Don't tell my bosses, but I streamed the live press conference announcing Michael Jackson's "This Is It" concerts here at work.

What can I say? I was ecstatic to hear him after years of silence.

Though I remember frustration as the giddy singer repeated again and again:

This is it, the final curtain call.

My final show performances in London.

When I say 'this is it,' it really means this is it.

He left the stage saying little more than that, and I wondered whether he was back on drugs. Then, immediately, why he seemed so sure.

Turns out, it really is.

Today delivers the most anticipated bit of King of Pop nostalgia in recent history - the film cut from 80 hours of his final rehearsals, "This Is It."

Michael died three weeks short of the 50 sold-out concerts he was developing for London audiences. Sony scooped up the concert promoter's mostly high-definition rehearsal footage, filmed from March to June, for $60 million in August.

This fan bought her advance tickets the day they came out last month and snapped a picture of them with her iPhone moments later. In the four months prior she'd also taken pictures of her TV as it scrolled "Michael Jackson dead at 50" and received calls and texts of condolence from friends and family as they learned the news in real time.

That day, with that news, I felt a total numbness until my younger sister, Julia, who I call Jooge, rang and tearfully blurted, "You'll get never get to see him now!" She'd remembered my lifetime goal, set at age 10, to see Michael live in concert before I die. Only then did I finally shed tears over the loss of our childhood idol.

The Jackson Five were the first musical act Jooge and I discovered without our parents' influence, making them special. Like millions of others, we grew up on the stuff of Thriller, then graduated to Dangerous and HIStory with Michael's career. When all else fails, even today we recite lines from "The Jacksons: An American Dream" and laugh. We're sisters, yes, but our shared admiration of this art has united us beyond that, as friends with a common interest.

We immediately decided to see this movie together.

As I write this I wonder if she remembers seeing Michael's "Ghost" in the theatre in 1997. I do. I was 12, and our mom drove us quite a distance to find a theatre that was showing it. Mom even let us stay for the headliner, Stephen King's "Thinner," our first rated-R movie.

"Ghost" flopped like so many of Michael's later works, which I often say only fans can love. (I own a bootleg copy on DVD.) But "This Is It" has already heralded unprecedented worldwide sell-outs of premiere showings, stellar reviews, and excitement from even those who couldn't reach him later in life, his brothers.

Now the showing Jooge and I will attend is fewer than two hours away. Holding our tickets in my hand, feelings are busy and mixed. They oddly call the movie MICHAEL in place of its title...

The film we'll see, in bits and pieces, was the sculpture of a craftsman, showman and arguable visionary, whatever you think of the way he led his life. Even if he didn't have the final say in its content, his fingerprints are all over it. It's a tentative excitement, a guilty one, feeling charged for a movie about your favorite artist's final days.

And he'd so longed to reclaim success on the merits of his performance. And he'd so longed to delve into cinema as an extension of his art.

If my sister and I are caught crying in public tonight, it's only because Michael taught us to be unapologetic about our passions and true to ourselves. With a child's heart, it's his art we most honor tonight, followed by the impression he's left on our adulthood.

-- Sandra M. Klepach,

Find the showing nearest your home by calling (877) 488-4258 or visiting (Get a feel for the movie itself by visiting the above site, moving your mouse over Videos and viewing Cue That.)


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