Tuesday, February 12, 2013

25. Chicago

2002; dir. Rob Marshall; starring Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere
My views: 11

When my mom first took me to see this film in early 2003, I was very excited, partly because I was only 12 and my parents usually took the 13 in PG-13 very seriously, and partly because one of my best friends had the soundtrack and I pretty much had "Cell Block Tango" and "We Both Reached for the Gun" memorized.  It did not disappoint.  This movie fascinated me for two main reasons, which are the two reasons I watched it over and over again, and the two reasons I still find this film worth watching 10 years later.

First, as I'm sure you've gathered from reading this blog, I absolutely adore musicals.  Practically all the music I listen to and a significant proportion of the movies I watch are musical-related.  So I was particularly intrigued by Chicago because, not only is it a musical, it's actually a somewhat plausible musical.  Let's face it; in real life people don't randomly break out into perfectly choreographed dance routines while singing clever songs that they all make up off the top of their heads to music that comes out of nowhere.  I mean, I wish they did, and I'm convinced the world would be a much better place if that happened, but unfortunately it doesn't.  In Chicago, all of the musical numbers are either part of a performance or in Roxie's head.  Roxie wants to be a Vaudeville performer so badly, she turns her world into a musical.  I love the juxtaposition of what's going on in Roxie's outside world and what's going on in her imagination.  I think it's very well done, and it's what sets this apart from the other musicals I love.  Also, I really like that even though these actors aren't known for their singing, they all have really good voices (Mamma Mia, take note).

Secondly, I found it fascinating, albeit unsettling, that I could love and hate these characters simultaneously.  I was used to good guys and bad guys.  Fred Casely was a jerk, but did he deserve to die?  Roxie and Velma were murderers, but to what extent were their actions justified?  And does it even matter?  When I first saw this film, I was just starting to realize that the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters (and Order of the Phoenix hadn't even been published yet, so you can't blame me for not knowing it before), and I think this was an important stepping stone in my growing awareness of moral ambiguities.  I was comfortable with the clear boundaries between good and bad in my mind: you follow the rules and you're good, you don't and you're bad.  This film blurred those lines, confusing me, so I had to keep returning to it over and over again to figure out what was going on.  Once I got into my later teens, I started to become more comfortable with this fact of life, and consequently stopped watching this movie as much, but I still return to it every once in a while, and I listen to the soundtrack quite a bit.  Also, I feel it necessary to point out that despite all this, my favorite character is still Amos.  Moral ambiguities are interesting and all, but I still prefer nice people.

This movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, so if you want to see what I said about it two years ago when I was watching all the Best Picture Winners, click here.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

26. Bringing Up Baby

1938; dir. Howard Hawks; starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn
My views: 11

The first time my mom got this from the library, towards the beginning of my classic-movie-watching career, she said, "I don't really like this movie, but you might."  Then I watched it, and I thought it was one of the most hilarious films I'd ever seen.  Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are to this day my favorite actor and actress, and Bringing Up Baby was a major contributing factor.  I couldn't help but admire the way they managed to emanate class and style while chasing leopards, knocking over dinosaur skeletons, and finding themselves in other completely ridiculous situations.  I can't tell you exactly when my crush on Cary Grant began, but it could very well have been while I was watching this film.  I also really wanted to be Katharine Hepburn's character, and not just because she ends up with Cary Grant (sorry for the spoiler, but I think it's kind of implied).  She's so ridiculous and silly and obnoxious, and yet, she's so confident and lovely and, for lack of a better term, so Katharine Hepburn, that even a stuffy scientist can't help but love her for it.  Unlike most kids, when I was in middle school I wanted to stand out.  I loved that I was into movies most of my peers had never heard of.  And I think this is part of the reason why I was so drawn to this movie: I wanted to be weird and slightly annoying and have someone love me anyway.

As I'm sure I've mentioned, I do a lot of movie-watching with my mom, so the fact that she doesn't like this film makes it surprising that I've seen it enough to blog about it.  But fortunately for me, I could always count on my brother to watch this with me.  He and I both really appreciate screwball comedy, and this is an example of the genre at its finest.  For years (mostly 2003-2005) when we weren't watching this movie, we were reciting it.  My brother was pretty young at the time, but I remember him doing a hilarious Mrs. Carlton Random impression: "Constable, if you continue to annoy me about this girl who is no responsibility of mine, I'll have you arrested!"  The rest of our family thought this movie was stupid, but we appreciated its humor, and probably drove them all crazy talking and laughing about it constantly.

And then, our obsession with this movie ended.  Part of it was that my brother decided he didn't like old movies anymore and refused to watch anything in black and white for a long time, mostly to annoy me (it worked).  I think since then he's relented a bit, but it's still not the same as it was before.  Another part of it is after a while this film does get a little annoying, so I decided I needed a break from it.  But I see now that the last time I saw this movie was in October of 2008, so I think it's just about time to end that break and give this movie another chance.  After all, I can always use more Cary and Kate in my life.