Monday, February 19, 2018

Movie Review: "Oliver!" (1968)

Year Nominated: 1969
Director: Carol Reed
Rating: G
Oscar Nominations: 11
Oscar Wins: 5 (+1 honorary Oscar)
Running Time: 2 hours, 33 minutes

An orphan escapes a workhouse and is taken in by a den of pickpockets. Unfortunately, his hospitable criminal friends may be the very thing that prevents him from improving his situation.

Orphans, child abuse, horrendous working conditions, homelessness, juvenile pickpockets employed by a seedy criminal, prostitutes, murder and cheerful toe-tapping songs are combined to create the 1968 film "Oliver!" It is directed by Carol Reed, who is known for directing movies like "The Third Man" and "The Fallen Idol." The screenplay is written by Vernon Harris, which was adapted from the Lionel Bart stage musical of the same name which was, in turn, adapted from Charles Dickens' classic novel "Oliver Twist." The film stars Mark Lester as the titular Oliver, a boy who grew up in a workhouse before being sold to an undertaker where he got used as free labor. A short time later, Oliver runs away to the city where he meets a young pickpocket called The Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). Dodger brings Oliver back to their squatting place to meet Fagan (Ron Moody), who wants to add Oliver to his army of child pickpockets. Also in the film are Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes, who grew up working for Fagan and is the man all his kids aspire to be, and Shani Wallis as Nancy, the hooker with a heart of gold.

"Oliver Twist" is a social indictment of the way life was for many children in England in the early 1800's. As the years have passed, as laws have changed, and as society progresses, stories like "Oliver!" become less socially relevant and more of a historical time capsule. What Lionel Bart did was take a beloved classic and reimagine it into a musical. We've said it before and we will say it again: musicals live and die on the quality of their songs. Luckily, this film has some really fantastic music. Many musicals have mixed results with their music as some tunes are wonderful and many are forgettable. "Oliver!" has a vast amount of enjoyable numbers throughout its runtime. It has iconic songs like "Food, Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," "It's a Fine Life," "I'll Do Anything," and "Who Will Buy?" The list just goes on and on. This is a musical that will leave you with songs stuck in your head. Beyond the music, the film has many great performances, especially from Ron Moody and Jack Wild, both of whom received nominations for best actor and best supporting actor respectively. The story is engaging as well, and we really root for Oliver to find a way out of his less than fine life. It helps that Mark Lester is an adorable cherub-looking kid that the audience can't help but like.

"Oliver!" is a fantastic film that wound up being nominated for 11 Academy Awards. It took home five golden statuettes, including the one for Best Picture. It was also awarded a sixth honorary Oscar for outstanding achievement in choreography. Out of all the classic musicals out there, "Oliver!" still remains a favorite of BigJ's and is most certainly a must see.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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