Thursday, April 28, 2011

2002: Chicago

More than anything else, Roxie Hart wants to be famous.  When Fred Casely promises to get her an act in Vaudeville, she is perfectly willing to have an affair with him...until it turns out that he was lying about his connections.  So she shoots him.  Then she gets successful lawyer Billy Flynn to build up her defense by making her famous.

By far the best aspect of this movie is the way the musical numbers are woven into the story.  So often in musicals - in fact, almost always - people break out into song for no apparent reason whatsoever.  In this movie, most of the songs are in Roxie's imagination.  She is so obsessed with show business that in her mind she turns everything that happens into a big musical number.  Shots of what she imagines are interspersed with shots of what is actually going on, often ironically, such as when Billy Flynn is first introduced.  Roxie pictures him as a man who only cares about love, when clearly all he cares about is money.  The flawless transitions between Roxie's dream world and her reality are what make this movie intriguing and set it apart from other musicals.

Other than that, I really don't care for the message this movie portrays.  It paints a very sad picture of our society, implying that the justice system is all about who can give a better performance, and life is all about who can get ahead.  It's odd how most of the important characters are so unlikable, yet we cheer for them just the same.  Part of this is due to the performances, particularly the spectacular Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Velma Kelly, the once-famous murderess from whom Roxie steals the spotlight.  I also think it's interesting that many of the actors and actresses cast in this musical were not famous for their singing talents, yet I believe they all did their own singing.  Anyway, the only character I really find likeable is poor Amos Hart, Roxie's husband, who just wants to take care of her and love her, and whom she treats despicably.  But he ends up with nothing, while the two murderesses get to be famous and Billy Flynn gets a bunch of money.  It's really a sad story, but it's presented as an upbeat, colorful musical.  Also, the costumes are way too revealing for my taste.

But somehow, overall I like this movie.  I think it's mostly the music and the whole imagination/reality juxtaposition, but there's also some pretty good dialogue, and the story is interesting, albeit far from the crime-never-pays, good-guys-always-win movies of which Hollywood was once so fond.  Of course, those kind of movies don't win Best Picture too often.  I think, for the most part, Chicago deserves to be on this list.

Next is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and here I have a confession to make.  The reason I've done so little Best Picture watching this month is because I was frantically trying to finish reading The Lord of the Rings before I had to watch the movie.  So I'm planning to watch the first two movies first, and then watch the third one and blog about it.  Bear with me.

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