Snap Reviews – Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 and Cabaret

By D.G. McCabe

I saw a couple of movies this past week, but neither is worthy of a full write-up.

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (2008)

What do you get when you combine three of America’s greatest obsessions (college, football, and 1960’s social change)?  Let’s find out.

In 1968, the annual Yale-Harvard football game ended in a 29-29 tie.  Forty years later, documentarian Kevin Rafferty (best known for “The Atomic Cafe” (1982) and “Radio Bikini” (1988))  interviewed the men who played in that game (including actor Tommy Lee Jones) to talk about their time in college.  The interviews are inter-cut with broadcast footage of the game itself.

Now, most people who went to college love talking about it, even four decades later, and the conversations turn to interesting topics (the genesis of the comic Doonesbury, sit-in protests at Harvard, and Al Gore’s musical prowess on the touch-tone phone).  It isn’t the most thrilling film ever conceived, but it’s an interesting piece of social history especially if you like college football and you don’t know how a team could “win” a tie game.

You might like Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 if: You like to learn about the history of college football, especially Ivy League college football.

You might not like Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 if: You could care less about college football and have no interest in hearing middle-age men reminisce about it.

Cabaret (1972)

Caution – some films bear limited resemblance to their source material.  Obviously Bob Fosse thought that you – the film audience – are dumber than the theater audience.  While I could be forgiven for not necessarily expecting more from the man who invented “jazz hands,” I do expect that the so-called “academy” of motion picture arts and sciences would recognize the director of the greatest American film over the creator of a watered down stage show (Fosse beat out Francis Ford Coppolla for Best Director in 1972).

Cabaret the musical is the first hand account of Clifford Bradshaw, a young writer making his way through Berlin.  He meets an unstable singer at the seedy Kit Kat Klub who he eventually falls in love with.  The story is one of increasing tension and external, unspoken terror, highlighted by the increasingly fascist songs being played at the Kit Kat Klub.  This is accentuated by the set used in the stage play, since no matter where the action takes us, we are never far from the club or what it represents – the rise of Nazi Germany.

The film is much different and does not do justice to the musical’s enclosed, suffocating environs.  A tacked-on subplot doesn’t really work and the open spaces detract from the story’s dark undertones.  While Liza Minnelli and the rest of the cast provide yeoman’s performances, the film feels like a disjointed and watered down shadow of the intense stage play.

You might like Cabaret if: You can’t get enough of 1970’s Hollywood musicals or Liza Minnelli.

You might not like Cabaret if: You are expecting the film to capture the tension, suffocation, and symbolism of the stage show.

(c) 2013 D.G.McCabe