And I’m back! After a hell of a year finishing up Masters I actually have time to write for the blog again. I’m happy to be sharing my return to form with a return to old school Hollywood form; “Chicago” was the first musical to win a Best Picture Oscar since “Oliver” in 1968 and personally, I think, deservedly so.
This movie has an interesting history, it started as a play written in 1926 by Maurine Dallas Watkins, a reporter who covered the real-life ‘Jazz Killings’ in 1920s Chicago (she’s represented by Mary Sunshine in the movie version) before it became a silent movie (1927), inspired another movie in 1942 and finally the 1975 original Broadway show and 1996 revivals that the 2002 movie is based on.
From the opening belting bars of “All that Jazz” to the grand finale replete with machine guns and vanity lights, this movie was a show-stopper. Great sets, costumes, songs, orchestrations and a ‘killer’ story. Renee Zellwegger and Catherine Zeta-Jones look and sound incredible, although I have to say that Renee was way too skinny to be a 1920s ‘hot piece of ass’ as Fred Casely puts it just before she ‘caps him’.
Richard Gere is a little clumsy, you can kind of see the work that went into his portrayal and I can’t understand why they didn’t go with someone like Hugh Jackman who was considered for the part. However, there were some absolute standouts; Queen Latifah was the living, breathing, heaving bosom embodiment of Mama Morton, the musical numbers featured amazing performers and staging and the dialogue is sharp and snappy and so of the time.
The cheeky, irreverent and cynical tone works so well given the subject matter and translates well from the time period it was set to now and contrasts beautifully with the upbeat, cabaret-style musical numbers, although probably explains why 1970s audiences didn’t take to the musical at first. I scored this 85 and Mat gave it 90, as it was thoroughly enjoyable and proof that musicals can still make it!