Well, this was a fun little flick to close out the month. I’ve been living in a cave since 2002 (and probably earlier since this was originally on Broadway), so I didn’t actually know anything about this movie except that it was a musical. Little did I realize it fell into one of my more favored genres, the dark comedy. As an added bonus, the film features bad girls, glorifying them in the same way we’ve been admiring the moxie of our gangsters since the jazz age. It’s like Orange is the New Black, or at least what I imagine it would be like, not having watched it myself. There’s singing in OITNB, right?
It’s interesting, and rather fitting, to contrast this movie with the first one I watched this month, The Broadway Melody. Both are female-focused musicals, with a sort of meta narrative about performance. But where the first felt more like an attempt to replicate the exact on-stage theatrical performance, Chicago plays with both the musical genre and film itself to tell a story. I especially loved the marionette scene, where dancers are choreographed as puppets, all of them controlled by the mastermind defense lawyer played by Richard Gere. Just layers upon layers going on there.
I’ve never seen a musical on stage, I don’t think – certainly not a real Broadway show. I guess technically, there was that one year Shakespeare on the Common did a mashup of Shakespeare with old Rat Pack songs. Does that count? I don’t even know. But my point is, I realize that there are certain customs and tropes in musicals that I simply don’t get because I’m not familiar with the genre. While that might bother me in some other cases, here it didn’t. It felt accessible and engaging, even though virtually every moment of the film was a song.
In this particular case, it’s a little harder to run a Bechdel Test. Does it count as a conversation if two women happen to be singing in the same song? If they’re discussing ways to be cleared of a crime, does it matter that it was for a man’s murder if they don’t actually mention the man in dialogue? Regardless, it’s an academic discussion, because there are enough moments between the many women in prison, discussing their respective crimes (of which all are perfectly innocent), to pass the test. Why aren’t there more movies like this? I might actually watch musicals in that case.
And so ends another theme month here at the ol’ Oscar blog. As we hit the halfway point of the year, I’m pleased to report that I’ve officially watched exactly half of the movies on the Best Picture list. Right on target. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep this up so long. Over the past couple of months, I’ve felt a bit more strain about the whole process, like I’m always on the verge of having to watch another movie, post another blog, swing by the library for another pair of requested movies. Warmer weather also makes me less eager to spend an afternoon in front of the TV.
There’s even a librarian who’s clearly a movie buff, taking note of all the classics I pick up, once or twice a week. I tried to explain my project once, as I’ve tried to do with other casual acquaintances, but it’s hard to say why I’m doing it. And if I’ve managed to keep up this habit, why not other more useful ones, like exercise or flossing? I’d like to think I’m learning something about myself in the process. But I guess I still have six months to figure out what it is.
Theme: Ladies on film
Bechdel Test: Passed!
First Time Watching?
Final Verdict: There ain’t no justice in the world