Revisiting MJ in 'The Wiz': Michael Jackson's Only Feature Film

In honor of what would have been his 52nd birthday on Sunday, August 29th, VIBE remembers Michael Jackson's unforgettable performance in The Wiz.

Michael Jackson’s only feature film role in the Sidney Lumet directed The Wiz (1978) is a rare, cinematic treat— it’s an intimate viewing experience that’s become an even more treasured moment to behold since Michael’s passing a year ago.

In The Wiz, you witness that brief young adult window in Michael’s life and career before he became the sexy R&B, suited up and bow-tied prince of 1979's Off The Wall or bore the pressures and expectations of the music world on his crown as The King of Pop (1982-2009). Jackson the actor, then age 20, was a natural; his gentle, understated portrayal of 'The Scarecrow' is a quiet revelation. In every scene Michael exudes a child-like wonderment, innocence and infectious joy that is contagious. Of course, as the premier song and dance man he doesn’t disappoint either. Jackson’s bluesy expressive interpretation of “You Can’t Win” is a joy to listen to, because you can actually hear his voice playfully dancing throughout every syllable of the lyrics while his carefree tenor bobs and weaves in and out of the melody (this was also before MJ’s angry signature grunts and spitting adlibs).

Michael Jackson's performance in The Wiz also allows you to take a sneak peak at those classic signature MJ freestyle dance moves and bottle top spins before they became apart of a Moonwalk. You get to see mentee, lead the mentor, as Michael lovingly helped The Boss, Miss Diana Ross find her footing and get on the good foot the first time the pair “Ease On Down The Road" (the duo also share a warm, easy-going onscreen chemistry which is palpable.) And it’s really a special treat to watch Jackson inconspicuously outdance the Louis Johnson Dance Company during the all-cast musical finale of “A Brand New Day.” If you haven’t notice anything I’ve described, then you should definitely rewatch The Wiz again to bear witness to it. Michael's only starring film performance is a unique opportunity to experience our man-child genius in the rough and on the verge.

Perhaps the only ironic thing about Jackson's performance in The Wiz is that even though it's probably his most honest and revealing moment captured on film, his then surgically unaltered face is hidden for the length of  movie’s entire 133-minute running time by Academy Award winning makeup artist Stan Winston’s handiwork.  So even though we feel like we’re really seeing Michael, we actually never do. And that he would spend the next 30 years after The Wiz, masking his face from a combination of involuntarily— vitilago, and voluntary sources— plastic surgery and skin bleaching creams is also another sad reality not lost on audiences who’ve followed him through the decades. But in the end it never really mattered. True Michael Jackson fans could always look past all the masks theatrical and surgical, real and imagined and see Michael, as he truly was—a consummate performer and groundbreaking spirit. His lifelong work on records, in countless concerts and TV appearances, in music videos and in his only feature film role, is undeniable proof of his timeless genius and artistry. Unlike a human’s life it will never die, but like a boundless force of creative energy it will continue to dazzle and yes, 'thrill' audiences for generations to come.—Ronke Idowu Reeves

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An Unofficial Documentary About Drake Is Currently On Streaming Services

An unauthorized documentary about the rise of musician Drake can be viewed on video distribution services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Drake: Rewriting the Rules initially dropped on Vimeo in Nov. 2018, and now, fans of the "God's Plan" musician will have a chance to watch it at their leisure on other platforms.

The documentary chronicles the music superstar from his days growing up in Toronto, to portraying Jimmy on the hit-teen drama Degrassi, to becoming a hip-hop star and working with musicians from Kanye West to his Young Money leader, Lil Wayne.

"Discover the untold story of how Drake rewrote the rules and rose from a child actor to become a cultural phenomenon and global musical icon," writes IMDb of the film's synopsis. "He is the king of pop and hip hop, combining many musical styles into one mainstream sound." The film runs 74 minutes long. Interviews from media figures and writers are included in the doc, which was directed and written by British filmmaker Ray King. However, no representatives from Drake's team are included.

Drake has not commented on the doc as of press time. He has been relatively quiet in the news, however, it's being reported that he is close to securing a residency of sorts at the Wynn's XS Nightclub in Las Vegas.


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Stream: Hulu's 'FYRE Fraud' Doc Examines The Festival That Scammed Thousands

In 2017, rumors of an exclusive festival taking place in the Bahamas took over social media. Organized by Billy McFarland and promoted by Ja Rule, the FYRE Festival was the new, cool kid on the festival block and quickly put other more seasoned festivals to shame.

But all that glitters isn't gold.

FYRE FRAUD, the new documentary streaming on Hulu, takes an intimate look at the scam that left thousands stranded on the island. Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, the dark-comedy interviews whistleblowers, victims, and the convicted con-man himself, McFarland.

In a press release, Fraust and Nason said the goal isn't to make light of those who were scammed.

"Our aim was to set the stage for a strange journey into the moral abyss of our digital age, going beyond the meme to show an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and willing to look the other way, for their own gain.

"We draw on countless cultural references, on true crime tension, and on humor - but we did not intend to create a toothless comedy about the Fyre Festival. We hope this film can pierce our collective apathy and disrupt our own millennial peers, if only for an instant - to look at these stories for what they truly are, and to halt this algorithm before it devours us whole."

FYRE FRAUD is now streaming on Hulu.



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Dave Chappelle Isn't Sure His R. Kelly 'Chappelle Show' Skits Were Insensitive

The Surviving R. Kelly series may be over, but the fallout from it has seemingly just begun.

Director dream hampton took to Twitter during the airing of the Lifetime documentary and spoke honestly about the several celebrity men she contacted in hopes they'd speak on camera about R. Kelly and the years of sexual allegations that have shadowed him. Among them was Dave Chappelle.

The beloved comic famously made a music video entitled "Piss On You" mocking the real-life video of R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. During the Chappelle Show heyday, he used R.Kelly's legal woes as material for years.

TMZ caught with Chappelle in West Hollywood and asked him if he regretted not being featured in hampton's series and instead he dodged the question.

"Jesus Christ, I just had dinner," Chappelle said in between taking a drag of his cigarette. "I just ate. Strop bringing that motherf**ker up."

When pressed about whether or not he thinks his old skits were insensitive, the 45-year-old said "I don't know. I'd have to watch it again."

D.L. Hughley joined Chappelle for dinner and commented on R.Kelly and the forthcoming Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, which outlines sexual assault allegations against the late singer.

"If you can be mad at R. Kelly, you should be mad at Michael Jackson," Hughley said.


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