Joel Siegel Looks at Best Picture Nominees

The nominees for the Academy Award for best picture: Chicago, The Hours The Pianist, Gangs of New York and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Good Morning America's entertainment editor Joel Siegel weighs in on the Oscar nominees for best picture. Here are his reviews as they originally appeared on ABCNEWS.com. earlier this year.

Chicago

— I love movie musicals. The problem is, today's films have become so realistic we in the audience just don't believe someone in the real world bursting into song in the middle of the street with a 100-piece orchestra behind them.

First time director Rob Marshall comes up with two solutions in Chicago — a movie so exciting, next they ought to let him manage the Cubs.

First off, Marshall sets the musical numbers in places where people really perform, like the speakeasy where Renée Zellweger comes to watch Catherine Zeta-Jones. Second, he takes us inside the characters' fantasies, the Singing Detective solution. And both work. Like gangbusters.

Both women end up in prison. They both end up with the same lawyer, a perfectly slimy Richard Gere, the physical embodiment of that old saying, "It's 99 percent of the lawyers who give the other 1 percent a bad name."

The story is better told in the movie than it is in the play. It's also the best movie choreography I've seen since Bob Fosse. I'm ready to say Chicago is the only movie of a Broadway musical I've seen that's better than the show it's based on. It's going to razzle-dazzle you. It's going to razzle-dazzle Oscar voters, too. Grade: A- (Reviewed Dec. 27)

The Hours —

Chicago's biggest competition for Oscar nominations is going to come from The Hours — three stories told simultaneously about three women living out Matrix-like versions of the same life:

Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf in the 1920s writing her great novel, Mrs. Dalloway.

In the 1950s, Julianne Moore is a California housewife who is reading Mrs. Dalloway. In the present, Meryl Streep is becoming Mrs. Dalloway. The segues between the stories border on art. The score, from Philip Glass, crosses the line into art, and carries us inside the lives of these women.

Moore is battling depression. Streep is comforting her dearest friend and first love (Ed Harris), who is dying of AIDS. And Kidman manages to transform herself into an awkward, shy, doomed genius, Virginia Woolf.

The script, the score, the sets, the costumes, and the direction are all Oscar quality, and incredible performances from Kidman, Moore, Streep and Harris make The Hours seem like minutes. Grade: A- (Reviewed Dec. 27) The Pianist —

Another true story: Adrien Brody plays Wladyslaw Szpilman, Poland's foremost young pianist. The film opens with him playing Chopin, live on Polish radio. Then we hear the explosion of Nazi bombs. The invasion has begun.

Directed for the ages by Roman Polanski — a Holocaust survivor — The Pianist follows Szpilman as he escapes a concentration camp, survives the Warsaw ghetto, and is rescued is saved a day before the war ends by a German officer.

Brody, in a remarkable performance (for which he earned a Golden Globe nomination and may well be nominated for an Oscar) actually learned to play piano and lost 30 pounds from his already slight frame. He told me he did it, in part, for realism, but even more out of respect for the real pianist, who did survive.Grade: A (Reviewed Dec. 24)

Gangs of New York —

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