10-16 November 2008

November 16 2008 at 6:20 pm (The list)

cabaret_ver2Cabaret (1972)

Bob Fosse’s ‘modern-day nightmare in song and dance’ (his words) is not the cheery happy-go-lucky picture that musicals are so often derided for being. Set in Berlin in 1931, Cabaret sees English teacher Brian Roberts (Michael York), the perfect repressed English gentleman, fall in love with Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli), a singer and dancer at the Kit Kat Club. Audiences in 1972 will already have seen song-and-dance numbers based around the horrors of the Nazi party in The Sound of Music, but Cabaret is far darker. The music is used sparingly and is used more as social, political and cultural commentary rather than as a storytelling device which is to the film’s benefit. Liza Minnelli is terrifically spunky as Sally, part impulsive sex kitten, part wide-eyed innocent, but Joel Grey’s creepy master of ceremonies is the beating heart of the film. Both actors received Oscars but Grey’s performance is notable for being an almost entirely singing role and beating off stiff competition from three of the cast of The Godfather. The real star of Cabaret, though, is director Bob Fosse whose brilliant use of montage pits the escapism of the Kit Kat club against the brutality of the outside world.

 

Rating: 4/5

 

rosemarys-babyRosemary’s Baby (1968)

Actor Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) and his wife Rosemary (Mia Farrow) move into a New York apartment and quickly make friends with their elderly neighbours Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon, who won an Oscar for the role). Rosemary is overjoyed to learn that she is pregnant but things start getting a bit weird and she starts believing that their neighbours are not the sweet couple that they seem. The beauty of Roman Polanski’s slowburning chiller is that you’re never quite sure until the very end whether Rosemary is crazy or not, which makes Mia Farrow’s paranoid performance all the more unsettling. Polanski’s powerful control allows the tension to slowly build with dropped hints and seeming non sequiturs to deliver a truly classic horror. The moral of the story? Beware of old people bearing gifts.

 

Rating: 5/5

 

Shame list total: 1,236

 

The shame list has decreased slightly this week. I have decided to no longer include the constantly changing IMDb top 250.

 

Also this week, perhaps my favourite film of the year:

 

mist-poster-bigThe Mist (2008)

For Frank Darabont’s third Stephen King adaptation, he decided to put down the austere drama and pick up the author’s more trademark eerie chills. The plot is fairly basic: a strange thick mist full of horrible beasties traps a group of disparate people in a supermarket in a small town in Maine. Soon enough people start panicking and become irrational, impulsive and dangerous. More than just a series of cheap shocks and gushing blood, The Mist is a deceptively intelligent horror film. What starts out as a typical siege movie becomes a poignant and intense critique of the dangers of religion and the fragility of the human mind. Although you get up close and personal with the nasty creatures, it becomes clear that the real monsters are the people.

 

Darabont hired crew members from TV show ‘The Shield’ which gives the film a well judged handheld, fly-on-the-wall feel. The cast too is impressive, although some of the characters occasionally slip into horror cliché. Toby Jones is brilliant as a surprisingly heroic store clerk (he’s a crack shot with a revolver but you wouldn’t know it to look at the guy) and Thomas Jane’s normal-guy-in-peril makes for a believable hero, but the film belongs to Marcia Gay Harden as a terrifyingly zealous Christian who believes that their situation is part of God’s plan to weed out those unworthy of survival.

 

Although marred ever so slightly by some ropey CGI (some of the creatures are a bit cartoony), the film’s trump card is the ending which has divided audiences. Not a twist as such but so tragically upsetting that it’s almost comical, it is a perfect finale to one of the most interesting horror films in years.

 

Rating: 5/5

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