J.D. Lafrance
Michael Jackson Number Ones DVD Review

Michael Jackson Number Ones

May 1, 2003

Director: Nick Saxton, Bruce Gowers, Steve Barron, Bob Giraldi, John Landis, Martin Scorsese, Joe Pytka, Don Wilson, Colin Chilvers, Wayne Isham, Nicholas Brandt, Vincent Pearson, Michael Jackson, Paul Hunter, ,
Starring: Michael Jackson, Wesley Snipes, Macaulay Culkin, Chris Tucker, Lisa Marie Presley, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

He’s the King of Pop, the greatest entertainer of a generation, has the biggest selling album of all time, he was the first black artist to be shown on MTV and he single handedly revolutionised the music video. He is, quite simply, Michael Jackson.

The media say his career is over, he’s not the performer he used to be. His last album only stayed at number one for two weeks and the singles weren’t as successful as his previous works. He’s lost his edge and can no longer cut it. Considering the state of popular music today and the reality TV produced ‘stars’ that are lauded by the media, do you think MJ cares what the press say? Michael’s career has spanned over thirty years and in that time he’s received more negative publicity than most serial killers, but the publicity is still there. Who will care what Gareth Gates is up to ten years from now, or even one year from now? Michael has seen so many supposed great bands and performers talked up by showbiz writers as if they were music gods, simply come and go. Yet Michael is still here, still producing number one albums, still making great videos, and still being written about.

If this is what it’s like when you’re career is over, then thousands of pop acts from the last decade would kill for this kind of wake.

Michael Jackson isn’t finished, he’s moved on. He no longer aims his music at teenage fans; he’s in his forties for goodness sake. He’s not flavour of the month with Smash Hits or SMTV and he’s not going to win any magazine polls as artist of the year. He cares not a jot. His fans now are the people who aren’t fickle, who don’t flit from New Kids on the Block, to Take That, to Boyzone to West Life. His fans are music lovers: people with genuine taste and an appreciation for something pure. He’s Michael Jackson, and there will never be another like him for as long as we all shall live.

So the media can throw their one-sided propaganda ‘documentaries’ at the public, and still fool those who are born to be fooled. It’s their power, and they choose to use it corruptly. The press can write how Michael’s career is flagging and how he’s desperate to get back some popularity because he wasn’t voted best artist over Will Young – it gives them something to write about. We all know who will still be around in five years time, and who won’t be.

Popularity is fleeting. The press are fickle. Talent is eternal.

Let’s face it; every word written about Michael Jackson is untrue. Even when they’re printing ‘facts’ rather than accusations or rumours they make them up. I’ve read a Michael Jackson story annual from Grandreams where Thriller is credited as being directed by Steven Spielberg! Why? Because they couldn’t be bothered checking the facts. I’ve been in a music quiz where I was told that answering ‘The Girl is Mine’ to the question ‘What was the first single released from the Thriller album?’ was wrong. No, they gave ‘Billie Jean’ as the answer, and it was from a pub music quiz book. Why was it written incorrectly? Because they couldn’t be bothered checking the facts. It’s the same every time, if they can’t get simple facts right, how can they be believed when they print allegations and accusations?

To accompany the last album in his deal with Sony, Michael has released a DVD featuring some of his greatest ever music videos. With some artists ‘greatest’ albums you can pick out a few tracks or videos and say that they are just fillers. With Michael’s ‘greatest’ releases you’re able to question the absence of many. Scream for example is one of his best ever videos, was ripped off by TLC, and they even won an award for it!!! Yet Scream isn’t on this DVD.

No this DVD isn’t just greatest videos. It’s Number One videos. So the absence of short films like Remember the Time and They Don’t Care About Us has to be understood.

Let’s not dwell on the videos that are absent though, let’s look at we’ve got. The music videos on this DVD not only shaped the genre, they invented it. Michael Jackson became the first black artist to be shown on MTV when he made the video for Billie Jean in 1983. The video was unlike anything that had been made before, if showed a storyline that echoed the lyrics of the song, with Michael Jackson playing the hounded mega star facing allegations of getting a fan pregnant. The notion of everything Michael touched turning to gold was a genius one, as it isolated him from the real world in the video. He had it all, yet was so alone.

Michael followed this up with the video for Beat It, and actually added realism by cast real gang members for the roles. The reported tension on the set was broken by the presence of MJ, whom all of the gang members were awe struck by. The message being delivered was one of peace, and that you don’t have to fight to prove how strong you are. This was the first music video to feature a stage performance styled choreographed dance routine, with Michael leading a chorus of dancers. This style has been copied many times since.

Then came the video that made history. For the title track on the Thriller album Michael turned to Hollywood director John Landis. Landis admitted to Michael that he had no interest in making a music video, as they didn’t appeal to him. But if Michael wanted to make something bigger, something bolder then he would be interested. Naturally this was exactly what MJ wanted to hear.

The Thriller video came in at a massive 14 minutes, and featured Michael turning into a werewolf and a zombie. The werewolf transformation was copied almost shot for shot from Landis earlier movie, An American Werewolf in London, as Michael was a big fan of the film. The video was spectacular. To say that nothing like it had ever been done before was a huge understatement. It made the music video genre, and it made the Thriller album.

Unfortunately the Thriller video on this DVD suffers from a few scratches. Indeed all of the videos from Don’t Stop till You Get Enough to Thriller look a little faded and weary. I’d have liked to have seen a cleaned up print.

Michael spent the rest of his career trying to emulate both the success of the Thriller album, and the Thriller video. For Bad he enlisted the film legend Martin Scorsese to direct. Starring an unknown Wesley Snipes Michael made a tense underground styled film along the same lines of Beat It. The message was the same. To be tough and cool you don’t need to fight. The video was huge, and became an icon for Michael’s album.

For some reason though the version of Bad on here is the shortest of the released versions, with no Black and White intro or epilogue. In fact, Wesley Snipes has been completely cut out. I don’t know why they’ve done this, as it couldn’t have cost any more to have included the full video.

The Smooth Criminal video, part of Michael’s feature length Moonwalker movie, remains in my opinion is greatest work. Michael argued for the inclusion of Smooth Criminal on the Bad album, when Quincy Jones thought it was a weak track, because he knew what he wanted to do with the video. Oddly enough Michael’s initial idea was to create a western stand off video, but he quickly changed that in favour of a 1930’s Chicago gangster movie. Absolutely brimming with style, and featuring some of Michael’s funkiest dance moves, MJ looks his coolest as negotiates his way through the gangster filled club.

Again though there is a problem with this video on the DVD. For some inexcusable reason they’ve included the montage version that features clips from Moonwalker. The

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 87%



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