51. Chicago

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Movie: Chicago

Release Date: December 27, 2002

Director: Rob Marshall

Starring: Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C, Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore, Christine Beranski.

Tag Lines: “With the right song and dance, you can get away with murder.”

“In a city where everyone loves a legend, there’s only room for one.”

“It’s Just A Noisy Hall Where There’s A Nightly Brawl…and All That Jazz.”

“The one movie that has it all.”

“It began with a hit…”

“If You Can’t Be Famous, Be Infamous.”

Relevance: In 2001, I went to New York City for a weekend to catch a few Broadway shows. One of those shows happened to be “Chicago.” I was very familiar with the revival of this Bob Fosse classic as I had owned the recording of it since it was released in 1996. In fact, I was more than familiar with it, I was obsessed. Thankfully the show had a long run, currently the second longest running Broadway show of all time behind “The Phantom of the Opera.” I did not get to see the original cast of the revival, missing out on seeing Bebe Neuwirth, Ann Reinking, Joel Grey and James Naughton, but I did get to see Jennifer Holliday in the role of Mama Morton. The show lived up to all of the hype and has remained one of my favorite musicals of all time.

When I heard they were making a film version, I was both excited and perplexed. As much as the show was a fantastical musical experience, the plot was quite flimsy and I wasn’t sure it would translate to the big screen successfully. I couldn’t have been more wrong. ‘Chicago,’ stunningly directed and choreographed by Rob Marshall, was released in December of 2002. It won huge critical acclaim and became a worldwide box office success. It was not only nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, winning six including Best Picture, but it was also credited with the re-emergence of the musical film genre of the 21st century. Being a huge fan of musicals, especially this one, I went opening weekend.

‘Chicago’ floored me. What Rob Marshall accomplished with the material’s transcendence from stage to the big screen was nothing short of miraculous. The sets, costumes, lighting and the phenomenal cast all attributed to one of the best theatrical experiences of my entire life. After the “Cell Block Tango” scene, I actually stood up and applauded. It was that good. In fact, it was more than good, it was flawless. Mr. Marshall and team were able to take a simple, almost non-existent plot and create a story of murder, greed, corruption, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery to a whole new level. It was simply astounding. As the credits rolled, I gave the movie a standing ovation. I wasn’t alone.

The movie was talked about by me for weeks, even months, after I had seen it. I just couldn’t get enough of it and listened to both the movie soundtrack and the revival Broadway soundtrack over and over again during my commute to and from work. I was obsessed all over again. I made sure to tell everyone about the film, especially my mom. I inherit my love for Broadway musicals from her and I knew that she would adore the movie as much as I did. Her and my dad had already seen a tour of the Broadway show and loved it, so there was no twisting her arm when convincing her to see the film. She did and absolutely loved it. She bought the movie on DVD as soon as it became available, as did I, making the movie a part of our collections for life.

‘Chicago’ remains one of my favorite Academy Award Best Picture winners of all time. It often gets listed as one of the worst Best Picture winners, and I just don’t understand that thinking. (Those people must not have see ‘Crash’ or ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ clearly the worst two winners within recent years.) But as I often say, art is both objective and subjective. One man’s treasure is another man’s trash. ‘Chicago’ was definitely a treasure for me and one that I have watched over and over throughout the years. It never gets old and always makes me smile and even to this day, applaud after certain scenes. It’s just that good.

Today’s Thoughts: “This trial… the whole world… it’s all… show business.”

I will be honest, I did not applaud today when watching ‘Chicago’ alone in my living room. My son was sleeping upstairs and I was feeling generous. However, I did get chills during three numbers and definitely wanted to stand up and cheer. The movie is still as entertaining as it was the first time I saw it almost eighteen years ago.

Rob Marshall is a genius. His direction and choreography in this film are simply incredible. The cast he got to work with are no slouches either. Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C, Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, Colm Feore and Christine Beranski are all brilliant. He didn’t get as much attention as the leading ladies in the film, but Mr. Gere is outstanding as Billy Flynn. He is charming, sexy and smarmy all rolled into one tap dancing fiend. It really is a role that he devoured and one that I enjoy watching all of the time.

‘Chicago’ is a brilliant comedy musical that must be seen to be appreciated. It is a spectacle, but its themes are still very relevant. It is difficult to watch “Razzle Dazzle” and not think of our current political situation. “Give them the old three ring circus” indeed. I love being entertained and schooled at the same time. The ideas of fame, celebrity and corruption are not new, but they have never been as entertaining as they are here. I highly recommend visiting (or re-visiting) this movie as well as checking out a tour of the staged show when we finally escape these COVID times. Both are well worth your time and money.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Picture (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Catherine Zeta-Jones (winner), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, John Myhre, Gordon Sim (winner), Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Colleen Atwood (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Martin Walsh (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella, David Lee (winner), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Renee Zellweger (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, John C. Reilly (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Queen Latifah (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, Rob Marshall (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay, Bill Condon (nomination), Academy Award for Best Cinematography, Dion Beebe (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song, “I Move On,” John Kander, Fred Ebb (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Renee Zellweger (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Richard Gere (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, Catherine Zeta-Jones (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, Queen Latifah (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, John C. Reilly (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, Rob Marshall (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture, Bill Condon (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Catherine Zeta-Jones (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella, David Lee, Maurice Schell (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for rob Marshall (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Renee Zellweger (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, Queen Latifah (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, Danny Elfman, John Kander, Fred Ebb (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Cinematography, Dion Beebe (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design, John Myhre (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, Colleen Atwood (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Editing, Martin Walsh (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Make Up/Hair, Jordan Samuel, Judi-Cooper Sealy (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by the Cast of a Theatrical Motion Picture (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role, Renee Zellweger (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Catherine Zeta-Jones (winner), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, Richard Gere (nomination), Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role, Queen Latifah (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, Rob Marshall (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Board of Review Award for Outstanding Directorial Debut, Rob Marshall (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best First Film, Rob Marshall (nomination), PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Martin Richards (winner), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Bill Condon (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Hulu, HBO Max, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, Showtime, Vudu, YouTube, iTunes, DVD Availability.

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