One of the highlights of Monday at TIFF was seeing the Spike Lee joint, Bad25, a documentary about Michael Jackson’s third album, the follow-up to his record-breaking Thriller album, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Bad went on to set its own records, becoming the first album to have 5 consecutive number 1 singles on the Billboard chart (a record only recently broken by Katy Perry), and spawning a 16-month tour attended by 4.4 million fans in 123 countries, but the documentary gives insight into the pressure MJ was feeling about making the follow-up to compete with Thriller’s massive success. It takes the viewer into the Westlake studio where the record was made, and speaks to musicians, producers and engineers involved in the making the music, and also the music videos, or “short films”, as Michael liked to call them.
There’s a great quote that Quincy Jones says about Michael having the “perfect balance of soul and science” when it came to songwriting. Much of that is explored throughout the documentary, and we see and hear footage that hasn’t been released before. Some of the great moments of the film come from the questions around the infamous lean move in the Smooth Criminal video and just who Annie was (Kanye West’s take on this is hilarious). It’s also fun to see Martin Scorsese, who directed the Bad video, back in the day before his grey hair, and Sheryl Crow with her massive 80s-pouf blonde mane. Hair-styles aside, they provide great behind-the-scenes anecdotes of working with MJ. The doccie is set for release, along with a deluxe edition CD and concert DVD.
Before seeing Bad25, I caught another film with a number in its title – Seven Psychopaths, starring Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken. It’s a film about a film basically; specifically writing a screenplay for one. It was weird and strange and funny, with lots of violence, but Walken is such a treat to watch that I didn’t quite mind.
Earlier in the day I had seen The Iceman, which dealt with another psychopath – a real one, based on the story of Richard Kuklinski, who became a notorious contract killer while leading a double life as a devoted family man. Michael Shannon is, once again, chillingly excellent in the role, and the film also stars Winona Ryder as his wife, Ray Liotta and Chris Evans. I interviewed the cast afterwards and it was interesting to hear their different takes on the issues the film raises about morality and providing for one’s family. More on that to come when the film releases in the next couple of months.