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Michael Jackson

Why can't we let Michael Jackson rest in peace? Thoughts on the Jacko-gram

A few thoughts on life after death

How long before we let Michael Jackson rest in peace? Not until the last bit of money has been made from his corpse, apparently.

Commerce dictates that as long as there is any demand for Jackson, in any form, that the estate continues to keep him in the public eye.

That’s what I thought as I watched a hologram of Jackson “perform” “Slave To The Rhythm,” a previously unreleased song “contemporized” for his new album “Xscape,” on the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night.

Yes, there was at first an undeniable thrill to seeing Jackson, even if it was a hologram, dance across the floor again in those moves that we all grew up with, that we know by heart (performed by a "Dangerous"-era Jackson before his looks totally got scary). It's just human nature to yearn for what we miss. There was also awe at the technology that made the very lifelike hologram possible (it seems like tremendous advances have been made even since the Tupac hologram appeared at Coachella two years ago).

But then a certain creepiness set in. With every close up, it was clear that, of course, it was not really Michael Jackson. It was a Michael Jackson created in a laboratory and, like a clone, as close as it seemed to the real thing, it was, in actuality, very far from it. No soul, no heart.

As the Jacko-gram danced with real flesh and blood dancers, the disparity became even greater, but it almost feels like it’s too late to put the hologram back in the bottle.

How long before the Jackson estate and Sony announce that  the Jacko-gram is going on tour? Or that the Jacko-gram is being added into Cirque du Soleil’s Jackson salute, “Immortal?”  Or, heaven forbid, appearing in a commecial outing some product?  We can almost write the script—it will be done under the guise of introducing Jackson to a younger audience and to those who weren't ever able to see him live. (Guess what? You still won't be seeing him life!)  As the technology advances to make holograms more lifelike, the demand for them will grow, just as our nostalgia does with each year following Jackson’s 2009 passing.

Friday night, a friend asked if I thought it was exploitative for Epic to release “Xscape.” He brought up this piece by Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes, who expressed his dismay over the album and that, although he loved Jackson, he wouldn’t be buying “Xscape.” In fact, his love for Jackson was exactly why he couldn’t support the new effort because there was no way of knowing if Jackson would have approved of his unfinished work being released, not only in this manner, but released at all.

He has a point. The eight songs on “Xscape” were written as far back as 30 years ago, and for whatever reason, Jackson decided not to put them on the album, leaving all of them unfinished. That means at some point, Jackson chose to focus on other material that he felt was better and more appropriate for his current project at the time. The versions that we hear on “Xscape” aren’t his vision for the songs, they are someone else’s guess at how Jackson would have completed the song.

To be sure, there have been other cases where previously unreleased material by a deceased artist has come out— again, Tupac comes to mind here. But for someone who was as much of a perfectionist as Jackson, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that maybe these songs were put aside for a reason and maybe they should have been left that way, despite whatever enjoyment we may get from hearing them unearthed. Plus, Jackson left enough great material behind for his legacy to be ensured.

Hayes went so far as to alter his will so that after he dies, his half-finished material will not be released (he writes this with total humility and in no way is ever comparing himself to Jackson).
Are we at the point where every artist with any commercial value needs to decide how his/her image/music can be used after death…and somehow figure out a way to include technologies that we can’t even dream of yet?

The answer is yes, especially when there’s money to be made. The Jackson Family’s failed suit against AEG, even though there may have been some validity, felt more like a money grab than a case of true wrongful death.

So five years after his death, as Jackson’s “Xscape” most likely bows at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and the Billboard Jacko-gram ignites endless possibilities, I can’t help but think that Jackson is spinning in his grave, wishing that for all the work he had his lawyers do for him, he'd asked them to address this issue.

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<p>Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm and Vincent Kartheiser in &quot;Mad Men.&quot;</p>

Elisabeth Moss, Jon Hamm and Vincent Kartheiser in "Mad Men."

Credit: AMC

Review: 'Mad Men' - 'The Strategy'

Pete and Megan fly in from LA, Bob Benson returns, and Don and Peggy pull an all-nighter

A review of tonight's "Mad Men" coming up just as soon as I park my white horse outside...

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Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert

Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert perform 'Something Bad': Watch

Is the new duet any good?

The idea of Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, two of country’s most dynamic artists, performing a duet at the Billboard Music Awards had such promise.

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<p>Sophie Turner in &quot;Game of Thrones.&quot;</p>

Sophie Turner in "Game of Thrones."

Credit: HBO

Review: 'Game of Thrones' - 'Mockingbird'

Tyrion looks for a champion, Sansa builds a snowcastle and Brienne gets a clue

A review of tonight's "Game of Thrones" coming up just as soon as I'm not interesting enough to be offensive...

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<p>Jessica Chastain at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival</p>

Jessica Chastain at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival

Credit: HitFix

Jessica Chastain talks 'Eleanor Rigby' and the unexpected emotion of 'Interstellar'

Also: Why she sees the multiple cuts of 'Rigby' as a good thing

CANNES - Ned Benson's "The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby" seems to have been well-received in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival after debuting in two parts in Toronto last year. With that reception has come a lot of favorable ink for actress Jessica Chastain. Perhaps it's for those reasons and more (like, um, relaxing in the south of France) that the actress was as cheerful as ever when Greg Ellwood sat down with her to discuss her performance in the film earlier this week.

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"Silicon Valley"

"Silicon Valley"

Credit: HBO

'Silicon Valley' recap: Pied Piper has a disruption at TechCrunch Disrupt

The company's big unveiling is thrown way off course

This week on "Silicon Valley" Richard and his motley Pied Piper clan edged closer to the inevitable face-off with Gavin Belson and his rip-off product Nucleus. While some of the humor was pointed, much was the usual sitcom stuff -- jealous husbands, a running out of toiler paper mishap, misinterpreted information, taking shots at the resident punching bag -- though the end result was a mostly palatable mishmash, depending on how you feel about one straight guy teasing another about being "gay" for his code. 

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Michael Jackson's hologram

Michael Jackson (or his hologram) moonwalks on stage at Billboard Music Awards: Watch

Is it better than the real thing?

A hologram of Michael Jackson moondanced across the stage during a performance of "Slave To the Rhythm," a song featured on Jackson's new "Xscape" album, during the Billboard Music Awards Sunday night in what is sure to be the show's water cooler moment.

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<p>Brendon &amp; Rachel of &quot;The Amazing Race: All-Stars&quot;</p>

Brendon & Rachel of "The Amazing Race: All-Stars"

Recap: 'The Amazing Race: All-Stars' - 'Do You Believe in Magic?"

David Copperfield helps Brendon & Rachel, Dave & Connor and Jen & Caroline

So... That was actually a Non-Elimination "Amazing Race" finale, right? 

They pretended they crowned a winner, but the reality is that they're going to do one more Leg next week and that Leg will be the one that actually determines which team wins the million dollars, right? 


Because if that was actually the finale for an alleged "All-Stars" season of "The Amazing Race," I'm about as irked as I've ever been by this show and y'all know that "The Amazing Race" frequently ticks me off.

That was just horrible. 

If there isn't another Leg next week, "The Amazing Race" just gave a million bucks to a team based on a Final Leg in which there were two Roadblocks that required absolutely no skill and an additional task that only required screwing in lightbulbs. There was no Detour, no cumulative memory-based challenge, nothing that made anybody exert themselves in any way.

I'm not going to waste much time recapping that finale, because the "Amazing Race" producers didn't put much effort into making that finale. 

More after the break...

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Review: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska struggle to stay afloat in turgid 'Maps To The Stars'
Credit: eOne Films International

Review: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska struggle to stay afloat in turgid 'Maps To The Stars'

Cronenberg's latest just doesn't ring true

CANNES -- Last time I was here on the Croisette, David Cronenberg was here with "Cosmopolis," and his son Brandon Cronenberg was here with "Antiviral." It was interesting seeing Brandon make a film that felt like it came from the young and squishy heart of his father, while David made a movie that felt like a genuine explosion of anger without a clear target to land on.

It is easy to say that filmmakers lose steam as they work, that age and success mellow even the most genuinely furious artists, but I don't think that's the case with Cronenberg. After all, since the year 2000, he's made three films that I think are all very strong in their own way and very different than anything he'd done before. "Spider" is an upsetting glimpse into a damaged mind, one that traps us inside looking out rather than trying to explain or excuse. "A History Of Violence" did an exceptional job of digging into the secret faces that even the most intimate of married couples can hide from each other. "Eastern Promises" is just a lean, mean, solid crime thriller with a truly sordid side. And while I don't care for "A Dangerous Method" at all, at least I can understand why Cronenberg would want to tackle a story about the birth of the language we use to dissect modern sexual pathology.

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Review: 'It Follows' offers up some fresh horror ideas from a rising indie filmmaking star
Credit: Northern Lights, Two Flints

Review: 'It Follows' offers up some fresh horror ideas from a rising indie filmmaking star

It may not all work, but it's got some teeth to it

CANNES -- David Robert Mitchell's "The Myth Of The American Sleepover" was a low-key, low-fi charmer that came out of nowhere a few years ago. The title struck me as perhaps a wee bit on the ambitious side, but the film wasn't out to make grand generational statements. It was just a well-observed film about the sort of night that is important to teenagers precisely because of how loose and free and dangerous it feels, and it marked Mitchell as a guy who had something to say, and a very particular way of saying it.

"It Follows" is his second feature, and it feels very much like it is a companion piece to "Myth." It takes place in the same sorts of neighborhoods, on the same sorts of streets, and many of the scenes play out in that same sort of dreamy loose manner, the way many real conversations play out for teenagers. The difference is that Mitchell's got a very different goal in mind this time, as "It Follows" is an unabashed horror film. There's something really compelling about watching what feels like his first film suddenly erupt into a supernatural nightmare, and it feels like Mitchell's just as much of a soft spot for Carpenter's Haddonfield as he does for Linklater's Austin.

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Jay Z and Beyonce make a run for it

Beyonce and Jay Z's mini-movie, 'Run,' starring Sean Penn, Don Cheadle: Watch

Has a tour ever received such an elaborate send off?

Beyonce and Jay Z’s famous friends, Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Blake Lively, Emily Rossum, Jake Gyllenhaal, Guillermo Diaz, and others, star is what has to be the most elaborate promotional tour video ever created.

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"The Homesman"
"The Homesman"
Credit: Cannes Film Festival

Review: Hilary Swank brings steel to Tommy Lee Jones' uneven 'The Homesman'

The tone keeps swerving in a western with a refreshing focus on femininity

CANNES - Charged with devising a character name that immediately conveys staunch feminine pluck and perseverance, I'm not sure any writer could do much better than Mary Bee Cuddy -- the disarming heroine of Tommy Lee Jones' handsome, elegiac neo-western "The Homesman," until she rather unsettlingly isn't. Just listen to the way those pithy syllables roll (or march, rather) off the tongue: a Mary Bee Cuddy can only be as square and grounded and business-meaning as a pair of sensible shoes. As played by the eternally purposeful Hilary Swank, moreover, she's an anchor of sincerity in a film in a film that needs one, shifting as it often does from loutish comedy to sticky sentimentality in the turn of a wagon-wheel.

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