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Cabaret

Cabaret  

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  1. 1. Does Cabaret belong on the AFI list?

    • Caber-yay
      5
    • Caber-nay
      4

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  • Poll closed on 04/24/20 at 07:00 AM

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Amy & Paul strut through 1972's Weimar Berlin-set musical Cabaret! They learn about the many forms this story took before becoming a film, discuss a scene that foreshadows today's "fake news" era, and ask if Liza Minnelli is too good of a singer to play Sally Bowles. Plus: Adam Pascal, who played the Emcee in the revival of Cabaret, talks about why he finds the character so unnerving.

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It's a soft no for me. Intellectually I understand why it's a thematically and aesthetically interesting piece, but when I watch the film I just don't get into it. Or rather, I'm into the musical numbers at the cabaret, but most of the stuff with Michael York that is done in more naturalistic style I find just . . . fine. Not bad, but fine. A lot of movies deal with this subject matter, and in these scenes the subject matter seems to be doing a lot of the emotional work. It's also interesting to hear that Bob Fosse wanted to focus more on this stuff and get away from his creative history in musicals, because even given that the musical stuff in Cabaret is more engaging IMO.

I think All That Jazz was ultimately the more artistically successful cinematic vision from Fosse, integrating the real-world and musical-fantasy elements more congruently (as opposed to the the kind of bifurcated fashion in which Cabaret presents them). But on the other hand, I can see the argument that Cabaret is the more influential work and has more meaning to people who grew up queer.

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I just didn't see the appeal of this. I've been considering watching some of Fosse's other films before "Fosse/Verdon", and I hope they're better. Mr. "I Am a Camera" just isn't an interesting character, and Sally Bowles isn't enough to elevate it. Why watch a movie about people who mostly weren't paying attention to the rise of the Nazis when you could instead watch something more focused on such events? Easy Rider at least was a seminal film in the development of the industry and the broader culture. This is just another adaptation of a musical that I'm sure was "hip" for its time, just as West Side Story was before it.

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Over in HDTGM Musical Mondays group, we discussed this movie at great lengths. I’m not sure I have the time or energy to get into it again, but here it is if anyone is interested.

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I'm so surprised to read the comments above.  When Amy and Paul expressed their ambivalence about whether Cabaret should be on the AFI list, I was equally surprised.  I think it belongs in the top 50.  There had never been a movie musical like this one before -- and without it, something like Rob Marshall's Chicago is unthinkable.  And there's never been a movie musical since that was this adult, this multi-layered, this respectful of the audience's intelligence, this politically savvy.  It's a movie for grownups, and it makes most of the movies of the last 30 years feel like the expensive children's movies they are.  Even now, I think it's underrated, because it happened to come out the same year as The Godfather, another one of the all-time greats -- without which, it certainly would have won Best Picture as well.

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I enjoy rewatching films for this podcast just as much as discovering or getting a chance to see ones that are new for me. I realized I barely remembered it from the first time I saw it, which was as a young adult and years before having chances to see/work with the stage version multiple times. For personal and professional reasons, I got to see this film in SUCH a new way this time and for that I'm grateful to the podcast.

As for it's place on the list, I think at a first glance it's easy to overlook, and that there's enough there once you start digging. On one had, to be representative of a filmed musical, I'd say it's not "spectacle" enough like West Side Story, but I doubt any filmed musical could ever match Sound of Music's iconic status (regardless of that film's quality.) So I would say bump off Singin' in the Rain, although I appreciate Singin's place in Hollywood history, it's just a bit too simplisitc and less innovative in its time as Cabaret.    

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