1 – Cabaret – The Guardian’s Top Ten Movie Musicals

Movie Musicals are as popular today as they were back in the twenties when sound was first introduced to cinema.
In December 2013 The Guardian Newspaper published their list of the Top Ten Movie Musicals.
Here is what the Guardian’s critics have to say, what we at Actor Hub think of each choice and some of your thoughts (via Amazon’s reviews).
If you agree or disagree please let us know via Twitter @actorhub.
Read the original article on the Guardian’s website.

#1 Cabaret – Top Ten Film Musicals

What The Guardian Said:

The devil has all the best tunes, they say, and this 1972 musical used them all: satanically catchy, terrifyingly seductive. It is directed and choreographed with electric style by Bob Fosse, with songs by Kander and Ebb that lodge in your mind like poisoned barbs. Cabaret is drenched in the sexiest kind of cynicism and decadent despair: it is Nero’s fiddle, scraping and squawking in the 20th century.
More than 40 years after the movie’s release – and 70 since Christopher Isherwood’s short story collections, Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye to Berlin, which inspired it – Cabaret still looks like a brilliantly plausible reimagining of the national mood music in 1930s Germany, gradually acquiescing to the Nazi taint and accepting its evil destiny with a song, a shrug, a grimace of suppressed pain. It is the polar opposite of The Sound of Music which had been such a global sensation seven years earlier: that was a determinedly wholesome, idealistic account of Austrian resistance to Hitlerism. This is anything but. They both have superb songs. To me, the sinister and horribly authentic-sounding pastiche Nazi anthem Tomorrow Belongs to Me, with its jerky waltz-time, sounds worryingly like the ersatz-real Austrian folksong Edelweiss.
Cabaret is a thrilling indictment of evil’s specious and banal glamour, and of foreigners’ feeble and prurient and uncomprehending attitude to the growing European threat. Most of all it is a deeply pessimistic indictment of satire itself, a type of comedy that emerges as fatally ambiguous and parasitic, unable to make any real difference to what it is supposedly attacking. Is the Weimar cabaret scene an assault on Nazism? Or Nazism’s minor symptom?
Liza Minnelli gives her career-defining performance as the nightclub singer Sally Bowles: entrancingly sexy, a free spirit, unlocatably and indefinably melancholy and damaged. Her unforgettable opening song, Mein Herr, about giving the elbow to a now tiresome lover, gives us a clear clue as to how the romantic storyline will play out. Michael York is Brian, the visiting British scholar who has a room in Sally’s boarding house and falls in love with her; Max (Helmut Griem) is the wealthy plutocrat who befriends both and inveigles them into a menage-a-trois. And Joel Grey is the mysterious Master of Ceremonies at Sally’s club who has no dramatic part to play and no backstory. His cabaret turns punctuate and comment on the story happening on the outside.
This grinning, elegant grotesque mocks the Nazis, sends them up, he appears to be the epitome of what the Berliners call Schnauz: nose, or snout: pure aggressive front. And yet his cynicism is rootless, jaded; he appears also to be satirising the idiots who have allowed the situation to develop, the idiots who are unsophisticated enough to be shocked or to care. The whole world is a panorama of contemptible idiocy to be dismissed with a sharp couplet, a snappy song, a sexy strut. What good is sitting alone in your room, he says, come hear the music play! The world is going to hell and we might as well enjoy ourselves.
The film belongs to Liza Minnelli, whose poignant vulnerability is a counterweight to all the grim cynicism. Her saucer-eyed prettiness is almost shocking amid the squalor, and her voice is fascinating. She is capable of belting out showtunes with maximum force, yet also often has – while speaking or singing – a strange kind of swallowed gulp or sob. Her fragility is the nearest thing the movie has to an emotional heart. Sally’s relationship with Brian is doomed. What on Earth happens to this American expatriate after the story is over and war is declared? What awful fate is in store for this strange innocent? This unanswered question hangs over the end of the film after the final chords have died away. Peter Bradshaw

What We Think:

Cabaret is not your typical musical, in fact you couldnt get further away from Rogers and Hammerstein and that is why I love it so and think it deserves its spot at the top of the top ten of film musicals.
Right from the start with the song Wilkommen we are thrust into the dark, seedy, grimy world of the Weimar Republic in Berlin. The Nazi party is growing and American cabaret star Sally Bowles is blissfully ignorant engaging in romances with English gent Brian and German millionaire Maximilian. The film never lets us forget the dire straits of life under Nazism with its zombie-like Kit Kats girls devoid of emotion dancing with the deliciously wicked Master of Ceremonies singing songs whcih echo and reflect the life going on outside the dingy Cabaret club.
The songs are wonderful and are all stage acts at the Kit Kat club so we never have those moments which can come off as cheesy in musical theatre movies when all of a sudden character’s burst into song. Here the songs feel natural and fit the piece to perfection.
This masterpiece of cinema is directed by the brilliant Bob Fosse. His vision throughout the film is second to none, his camera work gets right inside the musical numbers as though part of the routines themselves. The choreography is incredible and Fosse has become a genre of dance in itself now, here you can see some of those trademark moves being put to their finest use.
Liza Minnelli owns the screen and has never been better since. She adds depth and emotion to the vacuous Sally Bowles making her a much more likeable heroine then in the stage musical. Michael York is also a vulnerable hero whose eyes we witness the whole story through. Both these performances are perhaps overshadowed by Joel Grey as the Emcee, he is hilarious, evil, menacing and heartbreaking throughout. His performance has to be one of the best movie musical performances of all time.
The storyline of Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz is missing from the movie musical, and I do wish it had been left in. I would have loved to have seen Fosse’s handling of huge part of the stage musical.
Cabaret is a unique and dark film and deserves to be at the top of this list and I think it also has it’s place amongst the top of any list of the best films ever. ActorHub
Trivia Fans:
  • Billy Wilder and Gene Kelly turned down the offer to direct the project before it was accepted by Bob Fosse.
  • Liza Minnelli designed all her own hair and make-up with the help of her father, famed musical director Vincente Minnelli.
  • Cabaret was selected in 2003 by the Smithsonian Institution as one of eight films being preserved for future generations.
  • In Money Sally’s nail polish is green at the beginning of the song, red in the middle, and then back to green by the end.

What You Think:

The Top Ten Movie Musicals