Thursday, December 31, 2009

MJ thrills again

On Wednesday there was another proper sendoff for Michael Joseph Jackson; it was a gesture that told us what we already knew, that his was a singular and irreplaceable talent. But still. It was a welcome validation of his ubiquity in and impact on the culture. And it’s based on something you’ve seen a hundred times.

“Thriller,” the 14-minute video directed in 1983 by John Landis and choreographed, inspired and animated by Michael hisself, was named to be the first music video to join the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. The video, which merged scripted dialogue common to longer features with the short-form dictates of the music video, joins 24 other films selected this year, bringing the total to 525 films selected since the registry was established in 1989.

Despite its brevity, “Thriller” was recognized by the Library of Congress for its cultural, aesthetic or historical significance. Its elevation makes it equal in historical heft to such full-length motion picture classics as “Ben-Hur,” “Casablanca,” “Annie Hall” and such woefully overlooked treasures as Julie Dash’s “Daughters of the Dust.”

“I'm thrilled,” Landis told The Washington Post from his home in Los Angeles. “And it's nice for Michael, because he was always striving to be bigger and better. ...”

“It was nobody's brilliant idea,” he says. “Nobody thought, Gee, why don't we do this? It's a genius business plan. Mike just wanted to turn into monster.”

It’s flashes of the imagination like that — a tapping of the wellspring of fears and nightmares, wishes and dreams — that summons genius from time to time. When we're lucky. Some have said that the addition of “Thriller” to the film registry makes it officially timeless. Watch it and recognize, all over again: Anyone saying that with a straight face is officially 25 years too late.

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