Tuesday, September 22, 2015

1972: Liza Minnelli for Cabaret

In this disturbing, thought-provoking musical, Liza Minnelli plays Sally Bowles, an American performer working at a cabaret in 1931 Berlin. Sally's too busy having a good time and trying to become an actress to worry about politics, but 1931 Berlin is a time and place when everyone should worry about politics.

Every time I watch this movie, I am in awe of how well done it is. The way the silly, dramatic cabaret numbers are set up to mirror the very serious, devastating events that are happening outside conveys a powerful message without belaboring it. And it's impossible to talk about this movie without mentioning Joel Grey's incredible, eerie portrayal of the Master of Ceremonies, which very deservedly earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. But despite the fact that Grey kind of steals the movie, Minnelli's performance is also quite stunning, and certainly Oscar-worthy.

For one thing, she has a killer voice, so her songs are fabulous. The way she belts out the title number still gives me chills, and it's one of my most-played songs. She also does some great dancing, especially in "Mein Herr." Her performance would be worth watching for the musical aspect alone, but it's not just the singing and dancing; her acting is spot-on as well. She perfectly embodies every aspect of this character. She delivers her lines, some of which are very bizarre, as though it's exactly the way she always talks. Maybe it is, but I kind of doubt it. Sally is utterly ridiculous, and I've never met anyone remotely like her, but I still find her believable. It would have been very easy, especially with that makeup, to ruin the character by going way over-the-top with this performance, but Minnelli refrains from doing so. Not to say that she's never over-the-top, but it's only when it makes sense for the character to be over-the-top. Basically, Liza Minnelli is perfect for this role, and her performance is incredible to watch. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out.

Given that she's the daughter of Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli, Liza surprised exactly no one by ending up in the entertainment field. She made her first appearance in a movie when she was a toddler. However, most of her career has been spent on the stage, so this is her only Academy Award. She was nominated for Best Actress once before, for 1969's The Sterile Cuckoo. She's still around, but she hasn't made any movies for a while so I'm pretty sure this will remain her only Oscar. It's also her most famous, and quite possibly best, performance, which is unusual.

Coming up next: Glenda Jackson's second win

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