Okay, I’m back. I’m finally better enough that my writing once again makes sense. And I’m glad, because I’ve missed this. Now on to 1972!
I liked musicals when I was young. I’m not sure why. Maybe I liked believing in a place where people burst spontaneously into song and dancing with your enemy could solve problems. Maybe I didn’t notice that story and character development tend to suffer when the director has to make room for musical numbers. Maybe I liked the happy endings. But whatever it was that I liked as a child is gone now. Musicals make me very impatient. I still retain a nostalgic liking for the musicals I liked growing up, but I have a hard time with musicals that I am seeing for the first time. Since Cabaret has adult themes, it is not a musical I grew up with. Although I can see some of what people like about it, I didn’t particularly care for it.
So what’s the story? Young English author Brian Roberts moves to Germany in the 1930s. At his boardinghouse, he meets Sally Bowles, an effervescent American nightclub singer/aspiring actress. Together they experience the heady turmoil of pre-World War II Berlin.
The Good: I will give Cabaret props because even though it has musical numbers, all of the musical numbers take place in the nightclub. No one randomly breaks into song on the street or anywhere else. I did like that aspect of Cabaret as a musical. It made it realistic enough that I didn’t want to throw something at the TV.
The acting was good. Liza Minelli made a wonderful Sally, a woman who finds every experience in life worth trying, a woman who just loves life for life’s sake. I quite liked Michael York as Brian, the quiet Englishman who’s not quite sure of his sexuality or what he wants out of life. But the people who I really loved (and whose story I found more interesting than that of Sally and Brian’s) were Fritz Wepper and Marisa Berenson as a gold-digging man and a rich young woman, respectively. Both characters were extremely compelling, and being unsure if they will get a happy ending after all makes them semi-tragic.
The Bad: Even though the characters didn’t randomly burst into song, I didn’t feel like the songs added anything to the movie. The songs could have all been cut, and the only thing it would have done to the movie is make it shorter. There wasn’t even any fabulous dancing to make the musical numbers worth it. And I think some of the cabaret dancers were men in drag, but I couldn’t ever be sure, so I was distracted during the musical numbers trying to figure it out.
The Ugly: There wasn’t anything ugly about Cabaret per se, but I had a really hard time connecting to the movie at all. I can’t even blame being sick, because I was really into other movies I watched while I was sick. Anyway, I’m just going to have to risk the wrath of the internet and say I think Cabaret is overrated.
Oscars Won: Best actress in a leading role (Liza Minnelli); best actor in a supporting role (Joel Grey); best director; best cinematography; best art direction-set direction; best sound; best film editing; best music, scoring original song score and/or adaptation.
Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best writing, screenplay based on material from another medium.