My current Top 5

My current Top 5

5/11/2011

Number 28: Chicago (Best Picture Ranking)

If I would make a ranking of my favourite Best Picture winners, this one would certainly be in the Top 10. It might be the winner I have seen more often than any other and it still feels as fresh, funny and energetic as it did when I saw it in a cinema. Chicago tells the story of two murderesses that battle each other for freedom and fame in Chicago during the 1920s.

From the first opening moments to the last, Chicago provides terrific entertainment on all levels. A glittering, extravagant musical experience with some surprisingly dark undertones and are very biting story about the nature of fame and manipulation. In the centre is Roxie Hart, a naïve wanna-be singer who shots her lover after it turns out that he isn’t going to get her a job. Roxie’s desperation in jail soon turns into joy when she realizes that she is now much more famous than she ever dreamed to be. Soon she begins to rival Velma Kelly, a famous singer and murderer, who also wants to use her time in jail to make the headlines. The third main character in the tale is Billy Flynn, a sleazy but very successful lawyer who also enjoys the attention he gets when he is defending a celebrity. Richard Gere finds exactly the right tone for his role and makes his character both charming and off-putting. He may not have the greatest singing voice but all his songs are done very well. Catherine Zeta-Jones is the obvious professional in Chicago and her singing and dancing is absolutely first-class while she also creates a wonderfully bitchy and fame-hungry diva. Renée Zellweger is a joy to watch as Roxie Hart – she lets her be both naïve and manipulative and she perfectly portrays this character with big ambitions but little talent. Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly give subert support but also the actors in smaller roles, like Christine Baranski and Lucy Liu, shine.

A lot of the credit for Chicago must go to Rob Marshall who creates some of the most spectacular musical numbers ever seen. The idea of letting the scenes take place in Roxie’s fantasy was a brilliant idea that allows to create some incredibly dance numbers while the movie also finds some dark and disturbing moments in the ‘realistic’ parts of the story. From the cinematography to the editing and the choreography, Chicago is a pure fest for the eyes (and ears).

Chicago also has the benefit of being a musical where the story does not only seem of secondary importance – instead it makes some truly brilliant, amusing and shocking observations about the media and public opinion. When Roxie shouts to the audience at the end that she and Velma could not have done it without them it’s probably one of the most unmasking moments in the story – it shows how they manipulated the media and how the media manipulated the people and how the people manipulated the juridical system, how easy fame can be achieved and how easy it can be taken away again. The story may be set in the 20s but it works just as well today when people achieve fame for no obvious reasons until they disappear again. And when the only innocent inmate gets executed because nobody understands her (literally) and she isn’t able to play the game with the others, it becomes very clear how dark Chicago actually is underneath all the glitter and light.

Chicago manages to be entertaining, provoking, funny, bright, dark, clever, silly and sharp. Mixed with wonderful songs, the result is one of the most stirring movie musicals ever.

8 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Love when people are a fan of this one.

Anonymous said...

This film is brilliant.Everything is so perfect.I only have problem with the play itself:What's the message of this musical?If You Can't Be Famous, Be Infamous.It basically says if you can't be star then commit crime and you'll be free(despite being murderer)and you will be star.Really?!

dinasztie said...

I HATE this movie. It's a worthless piece, a cheap copy of Bob Fosse. Zellweger is awful, Gere is even more awful, Zeta-Jones is as weak as it can be, I liked Latifah and Reilly, though. Oh, I hate this movie so much with the knowledge that it beat The Pianist. It causes me physical pain.

BUT it's your ranking and those are just my thoughts, I'm glad you liked it. :)

Louis Morgan said...

I'd have this lower as I did not love it, but no too much lower as I did think it was fine enough.

joe burns said...

Love this movie! Glad it made it so high! My favorite ever actually..

Anonymous said...

Great film, I've also seen it countless times, an amazing masterpiece in a very strong year in film history.

Brandon said...

It's not without it's flaws, but it's still great. Oh and I just saw an American in Paris...how the holy FUCK did THAT beat out Streetcar!?

Anthony said...

"Chicago" is a favorite of mine just like it is with you (though my personal favorites from that year with "Catch Me If You Can" and "Far From Heaven"), and I find it to be a very glamorous and sleak effort on behalf of Rob Marshall, who was robbed of an Oscar, and Catherine Zeta-Jones proved musicals can churn out Oscar-worthy performances after a nearly 30 year drought.