March 6, 2007

5, 6, 7, 8

So, I was watching Dancing with the Stars tonight and I really have no idea idea. I really don't. But after, like, five minutes nobody had started to even dance yet so I thought I'd pop on a DVD and while I have Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves sitting there, I didn't particularly feel like being a depressed wreck this early in the evening (and while eating dinner too!) and I was in the mood for something toe-tapping, so I put Chicago on. Boy. I really do love that movie.

It's strange, that out of the seven Academy Awards ceremonies so far this decade, the Chicago win is the one I am most happy about, yet for a lot of people it's one of - if not the - worst. Even if Brokeback Mountain had won last year, Chicago would be #1. Sure, Brokeback is the better movie, but as we all know, that movie had won everything under the sun so it's winning would have just been icing on the cake, plus a movie that excellent doesn't need the Academy, okay (it's still silly it lost, but that's not what this entry is about). Chicago on the other hand, while being the frontrunner that year, really just makes me so happy that it won because it's a frivilous musical with no sympathetic characters! In this day and age that doesn't exactly scream BEST PICTURE to me. It still amazes me that it won.

And to consider the films it was up against? Sure, The Two Towers was brilliant (and my favourite of the Lord of the Rings trilogy), but it would have been a strange Best Picture winner. Gosford Park is great fun, but it would've been like The Queen winning this year, ya know? The Pianist, while another great movie, is also another WWII movie and, I dunno, I'm just sick of WWII, or most wars for that matter. And... I don't remember the final nominee that year. Umm... er... lol, I don't remember. It was probably so bad I blocked it out.

Chicago was my favourite film of 2002. It probably helps that I was completely uneducated in the area of it's music so it was all so funky and new to me. I loved the cast. Yes, even Renee Zellweger, sorry. Sure, her voice has clearly been modulated in post production and when up against Catherine Zeta-Jones, her dancing is flat, but I actually think she sorta suits the part. It was next year where I just wanted to throw hard metal objects at her.

But, I think the most impressive feature of the film is Rob Marshall's direction. Bill Condon fumbled Dreamgirls (as enjoyable as it still was, it was his fault it wasn't great), Chris Columbus didn't know what he was doing with Rent (which got by because of the cast's enthusiasm and the wonderful soundtrack) and people didn't seem to notice what Susan Stroman was doing in The Producers. But Rob Marshall just seemed to have it. He understands musicals for cinema (which is probably why his followup Memoirs of a Geisha was so bad). I could watch the "Cell Block Tango", "When You're Good to Mama", "Roxie", "I Can't Do It Alone", "Nowadays" and "Funny Honey" sequences over and over and over (yes, watch, not just listen). But the other bits are great too. It all just fits together perfectly.

In a time when people say the Academy is out of step with the public, I find it strange that they would complain about Chicago's win for Best Picture. I mean, apart from The Two Towers, it was certainly the highest grossing nominee - making something like $170million, which is no short change, ya know! It's obvious the film was more popular with people than something like The Pianist or Gosford Park. People championed when The Departed won this year because it was the sort of movie they haven't rewarded since The French Connection in the '70s. Well, Chicago is the sort of movie they hadn't rewarded since the '60s (I'm thinking of the dire Oliver!) I mean, it's a freakin' musical! And because of that we've been blessed with a mini-revival. A few musicals are released annually now, some good some not. But I'd rather have the option than having none at all.

Chicago is a wild ride. I don't care if others don't like it and cry into their death pillows because it beat a Polanski movie about WWII (again, a great movie, but still...) and whine and moan and bemoan the state of movies if a movie like Chicago can win. The movie is fun, spectacular and over-the-moon joyful, which is enough for me. I don't need every movie to be a hardedged deep-and-meaninging excercise in depression thank you. A

(yes, this was indeed very random, I know. But I felt like writing something and this was all I could think of)


Dave said...

Gosford Park was 2001- and the other two nominees in 2002 were Gangs of New York (boo!) and The Hours (yay).

Now that my anal retentiveness is out of the way (sorry 'bout that), I'll be cheerful and say I agree with you on Chicago- I don't understand the hate it has recieved. I haven't seen it in ages but I always feel better when the soundtrack comes onto iTunes... I especially love Zeta-Jones' numbers. It's not my favourite of 2002 by a long shot but it's definitely one of that year's most entertaining films.

Especially agree on your comments on other recent directors of musicals. Bill Condon slaughtered Dreamgirls (which I just, really disliked, mainly because of him. Stop with the montages!).

Bruno Packer said...

Holy cow! I'm a Chicago fan too! Greaaaat!!!! A truly A motion picture!

A little gift for you to freak out:

Bruno Packer said...

And I was one of the few that love Renée there. Can't people understand the irony? Her character in Chicago is supposed to be a talentless hack who gets famous on tabloids.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Dave, lol, I suppose there is credence to that "nobody knows the nominees 24 hours later" theory. Tehee.

I stand by that "it was so bad" comment about Gangs. Blech.

Bruno, : )

Anonymous said...

"The Hours" was a lot better than "Chicago". And so was "The Pianist" /although it can't compete with "Schindler's List"/. I liked "Chicago", but speaking of main categories, I'd rather have given it best screenplay award.

Bruno Packer said...

Nonsense! The pianist was rewarded on subject matter alone. It had nothing on GREAT CINEMA.

In the other hand, Chicago. Oh my...

adam k. said...

I think Chicago = B+

I enjoyed it a lot, and Rob Marshall DOES indeed have a gift for cinema musicals, but it feels too much like Miramax product to be great to me. I can't watch it repeatedly, cause I don't care about any of the characters and just find the proceedings rather shallow.

But it is very well done for what it is, and it's definitely my second favorite Best Picture of the Decade (behind ROTK... I have to remind myself that Brokeback doesn't count).

Weird that Condon could write a musical script as good as this, and then phone in it so badly for Dreamgirls. What happened!?

Bruno Packer said...

Three words: Brad, Grey and Paramount.

Kamikaze Camel said...

With me I don't care if characters are shallow/unlikable if the movie itself is so entertaining. Yet, show me a movie such as (and, this is quite akin to cinematic blasphemy, I know) La Dolce Vita which is filled with shallow and unlikable people just standing around being shallow and unlikable is not entertaining. "Oh, they're drinking coffee now. How different." Yeah.

And, I don't care about the whole Miramax thing. The most "Miramax" best picture winner recently wasn't even by them, and I speak of A Beautiful Mind. If Miramax make a good movie, it's just as if Fox Searchlight, or Focus, or Universal made a good movie.

It is strange how Condon created such a great film here and then just bolloxed up the execution of Dreamgirls. They're not that dissimilar, really.

Ali said...

Chicago has really grown on me over the years, and I'd even venture that it's a great film instead of a merely good one. Some things still bother me like the frantic editing and Gere's performance (okay, the only things), but even Zellweger improves with time (her shaky singing/dancing makes total sense for the character.) And Condon's adaptation is absolutely genius, which probably gave me problematically high expectations for Dreamgirls.

It may sound strange, but I think Latifah is best in show here.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Yeah, Gere is pretty much a non issue in the whole thing. I think the editing in Chicago is excellent though. So in tune with the music and the action.

The Queen is right after Zeta-Jones for me in terms of best in show. She's really great in the role. The Oscar nod was perhaps questionable (although recently rewatching it shows she's in it more than I thought at the time) but she's a champ. It's a shame she hasn't really broken through with her subsequent work. Maybe Hairspray..? :/

Anonymous said...

I remember coming out of this movie wanting to go back into the theater a second time - how often have I ever said that in my life? I call that value for the money and that's what more movies are supposed to do - you know, actually, um...entertain. (I don't have the same deep - and inexplicable - "I love it, I hate it, but it's become a part of me" relationship to this film that I do to Moulin Rouge, but there's only one MR. Chicago was more on the order of good old-fashioned FUN that doesn't stick with me in any profound way but left me humming the tunes and has me tapping my toes when I chance to pop it into the VCR at a friends house.)So I've got your back on all that, KC.

The Queen had me sighing at the theater "Ah, now there is a VOICE" (sorry Nicole, but you'll understand, I'm sure.) And need I say that I was thrilled by Zeta-Jones' dancing, and I assure you that I have never been thrilled by her before or since, onscreen or off. That Oscar is the only one that will ever grace her mantel, unless someone else comes up with a hot all-singing-all-dancing role for her. (It's amusing that in the film-within-a-film in "America's Sweethearts", ZJ's character wears nearly the same Louise-Brooks wig that she does in Chicago. I wondered if seeing her in that gave the producers of Chicago any ideas when they were casting Velma - although it goes without saying that America's Sweethearts was dreck from start to finish, right?)

Oh, and in defense of Gere - put aside the dancing or lack of for a moment. I think the "smug" quality of his persona has never been put to better use than in Chicago - certainly not since American Gigolo. (I loved the marionette sequence in the courtroom - can't remember the title of the number, sorry - but the sight of Miss Z as a puppet on his lap while he provided the voice was HILARIOUS and brilliantly staged.)

I slightly disagree with is the "Chicago started a mini-revival" (of screen musicals) statment. Don't forget that without Moulin Rouge there probably would never have been Chicago. MR didn't gross the same box office in the US, but it definitely tested the waters and opened everyone else up to the idea that musicals could be viable once more. MTV, bollywood, pop charts, Victorian melodramas and La Traviata begat Moulin Rouge (a new-fangled musical with an old-fashioned heart); MR begat Chicago (an old-school musical with a very post-modern ironic sensibility); begat....everything else.

Come to think of it, every other musical since has pretty much been a letdown hasn't it? (I confess I haven't seen Dreamgirls yet and am in no hurry to. Nor have I seen Hedwig, which I do intend to, but like MR but I get the impression that like MR it's just it's own universe, cinematically.)