My first musical Best Picture winner is Chicago, and spoiler alert: I really love this film. It was the first musical to win since Oliver! in 1968 and will likely be the last one for quite some time (maybe the last ever?!?). Okay, let’s take a look at why this took home top honors.
Directed by: Rob Marshall Screenplay adapted by: Bill Condon Starring: Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly
In 1920′s Chicago, aspiring star Roxie Hart (Zellweger) ends up in prison after she murders a man who let her down. She joins actual star Velma Kelly (Zeta-Jones), a fellow inmate in a cell block of female murderers. The film follows Roxie’s attempt at fame and in turn becomes a spectacular display of musical numbers with amazing showmanship and incredible, memorable lyrics. Along with two female leads, there’s the corrupt prison matron Mama (Queen Latifah), flashy lawyer of the celebrities Billy Flynn (Gere), and Roxie’s clueless and walked over husband Amos (Reilly).
My Thoughts:

Chicago obviously stands out amongst modern winners for being a musical, but it also has much more spectacle than most recent Best Pictures. I remember seeing this around the time it came out and just being completely wrapped into and astonished with what I was experiencing. I’ve seen it plenty of times since and listened to the soundtrack even more. I’m also a fan of musicals so this might not have the same effect for people who aren’t fans of the genre. Maybe I just wasn’t prepared for it because I wasn’t familiar with the Broadway production or any of the numbers. Every musical number blew me away, especially “Cell Block Tango” which featured probably the most well staged number in the film.

Besides the phenomenal production and choreography, you have remarkable performances from actors showing chops you didn’t necessarily know they had. You have Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renée Zellweger, Richard Gere, and John C. Reilly doing amazing vocal work and Queen Latifah showing her acting range. Seeing these actors really performing and displaying talent well above their normal acting demands, you can’t help but appreciate what they’re capable of putting to screen.

I’ve read plenty of arguments that this film might not have been deserving of winning Best Picture, but I see it very similarly to Titanic winning a few years prior. They both might not have what everyone is looking for in a winner but are such immense, well done productions that it’s not hard to see why the Academy was astounded by Chicago.

Other Academy Award nominations and wins:

Best Picture
Best Supporting Actress – Catherine Zeta-Jones
Best Art Direction
Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing
Best Sound Mixing
Best Director – Rob Marshall
Best Actress – Renée Zellweger
Best Supporting Actor – John C. Reilly
Best Supporting Actress – Queen Latifah
Best Adapted Screenplay – Bill Condon
Best Cinematography
Best Original Song

The Other Guys:
  • The Pianist – A gifted pianist evades Nazi Germany to survive the Holocaust – Won Best Director (Roman Polanski), Best Actor (Adrien Brody), Adapted Screenplay & nominated in 3 other categories
  • Gangs of New York – Immigrant gangs in 19th century New York City vie for control – Nominated in 9 other categories
  • The Hours – Three women in different time periods are all impacted by the work of Virginia Woolf – Won Best Actress (Nicole Kidman) & nominated in 9 other categories
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – The second film in the epic fantasy trilogy bridging the beginning of Frodo’s journey to its climactic finish – Won Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing & nominated in 3 other categories


4 thoughts on “Best Picture Series: Chicago (2002)

    • I still need to watch The Hours. I’ve heard that some really didn’t like it but I think it might be something I’d like. I hear more people saying The Pianist should have one which is a fantastic film but I think Adrien Brody winning sort of took care of its strongest point.

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