Monday, February 11, 2013

Cabaret

The 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon is an event coinciding with Turner Classic Movies' "31 Days of Oscar" month-long celebration, in observance of the Academy Awards. In both events, the theme is the same: recognition of Oscar-nominated films throughout history. The blogathon is hosted by Once Upon a ScreenOutspoken & Freckled, and Paula's Cinema Club. See the links above for a list of participating blogs.


Cabaret
seen on TV @ TCM
2.5.13

I've never been much for nightclubs. I can probably count the number I've been to on one hand. I'm not what you might call a social drinker, for one thing, and the kind of girls I'd be interested in (or more to the point: the kind of girls who might be interested in me) would not be found there. As for dancing, well, I remember going to a nightclub when I spent a summer in Barcelona. I tried to get into the spirit of things, but it didn't work. I just felt awkward and out of place and I ended up leaving early. (And before you say that it's a bad example, let me add that many people in Barcelona speak English and this club played mostly British and American pop music.)

But why make a spectacle of yourself when you can watch other people do so? I have a friend who once worked as a pole dancer. I never had the pleasure of seeing her at work, but I did go to her club once to pick her up, and I got a pretty good look at some of the other girls there. Sure, it's great eye candy at first, but after awhile, it's like, well, what do you really get out of it? Or am I over-analyzing as usual? (Though I suppose it also depends on context. The same kind of dancing at, say, Lincoln Center, would be called "art," would it not?)



I can get behind a striptease. That feels more involving. Like sex, it's a long build-up to a big payoff at the end, and it engages your imagination. (The brain, after all, is the biggest sex organ.) I've seen burlesque shows with stripteases and I've always gotten a big kick out of them. I even wrote a script for a comic about a striptease dancer, which I still hope to get off the ground one day.

Ultimately, though, nothing beats a good song and dance, which brings me to Cabaret. In terms of Oscar history, it's a bit of an odd duck - it took home eight Oscars, including Director, Actress, Supporting Actor and Editing, but lost Best Picture to The Godfather. There aren't many times when Picture and Director split, but when it does happen, it's always notable. This Oscar season, many pundits believe it will happen again, since current frontrunner Argo is shut out in the Director category.



Cabaret seemed like a sure thing to go all the way. In addition to its wins on Oscar night, it had won the Eddie for editing, the BAFTA (British Oscars) for Film and Director, the Golden Globe for Best Musical/Comedy, the National Board of Review awards for Film and Director and the Writers Guild award. Director Bob Fosse was also nominated for the Directors Guild award. 

The Godfather is perhaps the more revered movie of the two now, but it only won two other awards: Actor and Adapted Screenplay, losing head-to-head against Cabaret in two critical categories, Director and Editing. In total nominations, Godfather edged Cabaret 11-10, but three of those eleven nominations were all in one category, Supporting Actor.



The Director loss is especially surprising, since Francis Ford Coppola won the Director's Guild award, as well as the Golden Globe. Ben Affleck won the DGA for Argo, yet the Academy didn't even nominate him for a Director Oscar, which has made prognosticating this year's awards much more difficult than usual.

Still, Cabaret remains a remarkable work that pushed the boundaries in terms of what could be depicted on screen, with devastatingly subversive and memorable songs (that Nazi anthem always gives me chills). When TCM host Robert Osborne presented it, he mentioned that the film version deviates significantly from the original stage production, and yet the result is still compelling. That couldn't have been easy for Fosse and screenwriter Jay Allen - I mean, how do you decide what to cut and what to leave, especially when it's based on a Tony Award-winning musical?


It's impossible to look at Liza Minnelli in this film and not think of her mom. Technically, the character of Sally is not supposed to be this talented or glamorous, but you know what, I can live with that. For what it's worth, I wouldn't call Liza a perfect beauty. If she looked more like, say, Raquel Welch or Brigitte Bardot, it might be more of a distraction in this particular movie. Liza (in my opinion) has slightly odd-shaped lips, a not-quite-perfect nose, and eyes that make her look like an anime character, but in this movie, I find myself grateful for those imperfections. They help sell Sally.

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Previously:
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang

4 comments:

  1. I have seen Sally Bowles in the hands of lesser singers (which is, as you pointed out, the way it was envisioned) and it's a very different vehicle. No way do I believe Liza's Sally doesn't somehow escape the Nazis. And no way do I believe Broadway's Sally does.

    But different isn't bad. Or wrong. And judged on its own merits, the movie Cabaret is hypnotic.(I love when agree with Robert Osborne!)

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  2. That's a good point. I hadn't thought about that aspect of Sally's character, whether or not she could escape the Nazis.

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  3. Thanks for looking at a Best Director/Best Picture split, as you say it's very likely this year. I've only seen the movie version of CABARET, but I learned a lot from your post. Thanks Rich!

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  4. You're welcome. It's definitely one of my all-time favorite musicals.

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