81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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Chicago

November 2nd, 2009 · No Comments · 2002, Adaptation, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Chicago, Color, Miramax, Musical, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere

Chicago Did I say that I hate musicals? Silly me. I meant to say I hate most musicals.

Chicago is a musical, sure. But it’s so damn fun that I forget that people are singing their way through the story.

Plus, it’s about hoofers, dancers, people who shake their booties and tap their toes. Chicago harkens back to the musicals that I do enjoy – the Gene Kelly extravaganzas. Musicals in which people belt it out, dance their asses off, and do it all with a broad smile, a sly wink, or so much energy that I feel like joining them. (And, trust me, you don’t want that. I can’t sing – or dance – even if doing so would keep my keister from the flames of hell.)

According to the making-of feature on the DVD, Chicago is “about murder and greed and debauchery and everything we hold near and dear to our hearts.”

Amen. Bring it on.

I remember seeing a local production of the musical Nine a few years ago that blew me away. It was incredibly sexy and catchy and can’t-take-my-eyes-off-it fascinating, what with all the beautiful women and all.

Chicago reminds me of Nine. Not in content. Nine was a musical production of Fellini’s 8-1/2 about a director who’s creatively dry, plagued at every turn by beautiful women, and about to lose his wife unless he can get his act together. Chicago isn’t about a director facing a mid-life crisis. But it is about beautiful women. Lots of ‘em.

The plot goes something like this: a starry-eyed wannabe named Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger) dreams of being on stage with the greats, like Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But she shoots her lover dead (because he was lying to her about having connections in the entertainment business) and winds up on murderess row. Her only chance is for hotshot lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) to get her off.

Essentially, a stage production within a movie (or is it the other way around?), Chicago alternates between telling the story of Roxie Hart and cutting to lively stage productions that illustrate the telling. The dialogue is snappy, often funny. And the productions are dazzling. All the actors perform their own song and dance numbers. And they’re actually quite good. I gained a whole new respect for Catherine Zeta-Jones. And Richard Gere, too. (That reminds me. I saw Richard Gere in person not long ago. It was in Ann Arbor. The Dalai Lama was giving a series of talks. Richard Gere was there.)

I admit I didn’t have high hopes for Chicago. I didn’t see it when it came out because I thought, “Richard Gere dancing and singing? Renee Zellweger? C’mon!” But I was wrong. I actually enjoyed Chicago. A lot. It was one of the biggest surprises of this whole 81 Days With Oscar And Me journey. Gere’s tap-dance number/court-room scene, alone, is worth the price of admission.

I can’t wait to see this again!

The Cast
Taye Diggs (1971- )…………………………………..Bandleader
Renée Zellweger (1969- )……………………………Roxie Hart
Catherine Zeta-Jones (1969- )……………………..Velma Kelly
Richard Gere (1949- )………………………………..Billy Flynn
Queen Latifah (1970- )……………………………….Matron Mama Morton
John C. Reilly (1965- )………………………………..Amos Hart
Dominic West (1969- )……………………………….Fred Casely
Christine Baranski (1952- )…………………………Sunshine

Directed by
Rob Marshall (1960- )

Written By
Bill Condon, 1955- (screenplay)
Bob Fosse, 1927-1987 (book of musical play: Chicago) and
Fred Ebb, 1928-2004 (book of musical play: Chicago)
Maurine Dallas Watkins, 1896-1969 (play “Chicago”)

Chicago was nominated for 12 Academy Awards and won six: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Editing, Best Picture, Best Sound. Nominated but not winning were John C. Reilly (Best Actor in a Supporting Role), Renee Zellweger (Best Actress in a Leading Role), and Queen Latifah (Best Actress in a Supporting Role).

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