Episode 4 – Michael Jackson and Monochromatic Cinematography

Abstract: In this episode Elizabeth and Karin talk about the function of black and white (monochrome/chiaroscuro) cinematography in the short films, Bad (dir. Martin Scorsese, 1987) and Stranger in Moscow (dir. Nicholas Brandt, 1996). Taking their academic essays on two of Jackson’s most monochromatic short films as source material, they consider how Jackson used cinema language to communicate with his audience in a way that was both subtle and resonant.


Merx, Karin, and Elizabeth Amisu. “Episode 4 – Michael Jackson and Monochromatic Cinematography.” Podcast, Michael Jackson’s Dream Lives On: An Academic Conversation 2, no. 2 (2016). Published electronically 1/03/16. http://michaeljacksonstudies.org/the-dream-lives-on-4-black-and-white-in-bad-and-stranger-in-moscow/.

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Episode 4 – Michael Jackson and Monochromatic Cinematography
By Karin Merx & Elizabeth Amisu

‘This is a big contrast to the celebrated Michael Jackson, and musician, and the one who was condemned because of false allegations at that time… vilified and humiliated… I think it’s a very underestimated song and short film.’
– Karin Merx

Stranger in Moscow: https://youtu.be/pEEMi2j6lYE
Bad (Long Version): http://dai.ly/xvdho

All Our References and Where to Easily Find Them
1. Karin Merx, “From Throne to Wilderness: Michael Jackson’s ‘Stranger in Moscow’ and the Foucauldian Outlaw.” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 4 (2015).
2. Elizabeth Amisu, Bad(1987).” The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies 1, no. 2 (2014).
3. Jeremy Gilbert, “The Real Abstraction of Michael Jackson.” In The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, edited by Mark Fisher, 137-49: Zero Books, 2009.
4. Joseph Vogel, Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson. Sterling, 2011.
5. Michael Jackson, Moonwalk. (London: Heinemann, 1988).
6. Richard Donner, “Superman.” Dovemead/Film Export A.G./International Film Productions, 1978.
7. Spike Lee, “Bad 25.” Optimum Productions, 2013.
8.  Elizabeth Amisu, Willa Stillwater, Lisha McDuff, and Karin Merx. “A Look at Neo-Noir in Michael Jackson’s Short Films.” (2016). Published electronically 28 January.
9. Mark Romanek, “Scream.” 1995.
10. Joe Pytka, “The Way You Make Me Feel.” 1987. (Full Version)
11. Black and white films today.
12. German Expressionism.

Karin Merx BMus, MA, is editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies, and author of  ‘A festive parade of highlights. La Grande Parade as evaluation of the museum policy of Edy De Wilde at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam’. Find out more about Karin here.

Elizabeth Amisu, PGCE, MA, is editor of The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies and author of The Dangerous Philosophies of Michael Jackson: His Music, His Persona, and His Artistic AfterlifeFind out more about Elizabeth here.


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