Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oliver! (1968)

Oliver and The Artful Dodger looking forlorn as only orphan thieves can.
Nominees: "Oliver!" "Funny Girl" "Rachel, Rachel" "The Lion in Winter" "Romeo and Juliet"

He Said: Beautiful but no substance.

So we decided to watch all the Oscar winning best picture movies, totally 83, watching on average 1 a week should take us about 2 years. We are watching them at random and the first one that came up on the random generator is 1936's The Great Zeigfeld. Now me being the cheap-ass tight-wad that I am, we found a copy at the Regina library but no where in the Saskatoon library. Next stop online, nope not available anywhere there either. There are DVD copies on Amazon, but who wants to “pay for something that if you apply yourself you just might get for free.” So we have opted to delay watching the first movie, The Great Zeigfeld, until we make a trip to Regina and can pick it up for free, or if I ever check the local Blockbusters and Rogers to see if they have a copy for rent, because I really don't anticipate liking it so much that I would want to buy it.

In that case onto the next movie...1968's Oliver! Yes the title has an exclamation point in it, something they didn't shy away from in the olden days, punctuation in movie titles! Here it is, the 2.5 hour long musical movie adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist. The twist must have been lost in translation during the adaptation process. At any rate off we go into the first film. Now honestly I don't like musicals. I pretty much hate musicals. Just the stupidity of everyone suddenly bursting into song and dance simply does not resonant with me. The one exception would be musicals that have music in them because the movie is inherently set in a singing atmosphere such as Cabaret or Moulin Rouge. Now this doesn't mean I necessarily enjoy these musicals, but I am more apt to do so. Cabaret is quite a wonderful musical on stage, I mean how can you go wrong with half-naked people, sexual innuendo up the wazoo, and Nazis? I say you can't.

Oliver! is a story set in the 1830's about a poor orphan boy who ends up running away from the evil orphanage and tries to make it in London. Through a convoluted state of affairs, he ends up with a group of orphans/hooligans who work for some men to steal and rob from the rich and give unto themselves. At first I thought, “oh no, this is going to be like Annie!” but I was wrong, he quickly leaves the orphanage and then things get better, then worse, then a lot worse. The odd thing is, it didn't even seem to centre around Oliver, he seemed to be a cog to show us around the city and all the people in it, the main story were the people running the orphans/pickpockets. I have never read the book, but I did see a stage production of Oliver Twist (notice the Twist returneth when on stage) back when I was in grade 9 thanks to good ole' Mr. Nicholas. I didn't particularly enjoy it back then, I tend to have difficulties following the singing and lyrics and can get a bit lost, but the funny thing is that here I was some 17 years later and those same songs that I haven't heard since, were dancing in my head like it was just yesterday. So I guess it has some catchy tunes at least.

And that is about where it stops. The stage production looked amazing, with giant sets and huge throngs of people dancing in the streets, it reminded me of a Monty Python skit, or scenes from The Meaning of Life. I think the most long-lasting memory will be the chase through the town with the townsfolk dancing and the choreography of the butchers dancing with sides of pork and the fish mongers dancing with fish. The choreography was quite a bit of fun. But that is it. The singing sucked, the acting was iffy at most times, the audio was rather poor even for a movie from the 60's. The writing was uninspired, the story was dull, drab, and cliched (yes it is cliched nowadays and not so much back in 1830). How on Earth this thing ever won best picture is beyond me. My only guess is that 1968 must have some pretty awful movies coming out of it for this to win. But I would be wrong, there are a bunch of quality films to come out this year including, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Night of the Living Dead, Rosemary's Baby, Bullitt (apparently they also didn't shy away from misspelling words back in those days, then again look at the new Iglourious Basterds -although that is just Tarantino's inability to spell), The Producers, and Funny Girl.

So that's that, good production value, good dancing and sets, but it pretty much stops there. I would say pass on this one even for nostalgia's sake. And it still doesn't make me want to open up Charles Dickens' novel.

As a side note: Oliver! won not only for best picture but also for best art direction/set decoration, best director, best music, and best sound. It was nominated for lead and supporting actors, costume, writing, editing, and cinematography.

Next up the 1956 classic Around the World in 80 Days.

She Said: Boring. Boring and Lame-o.

Don't get me wrong: it looks beautiful, for the 60s. I especially love the massive sets: now days, that's all done with green screens and computers. But back then, they really had those massive sets with all those dancers, which was pretty cool. I totally see why it won production value awards, but Best Picture? I don't think so.

For starters, the singing was bad. Especially Oliver. I get that small boys have soprano voices, but his was SO high you almost couldn't tell what he was singing about. Some of the songs seemed to go on and on and on for ever.

Secondly, I couldn't STAND the song "As Long as He Needs Me". Not the song itself, it's fine, but that it's basically an apology for wife beating, sung by the "wife" after her "husband" beats her. I almost couldn't believe what I was hearing. Worse, at the end of the movie, he beats her to death. All this in a family movie.

And, finally, a literary criticism. For a movie called "Oliver!", he has remarkably little to do with his story. Basically, he just gets pushed and pulled around throughout the whole movie. He never DOES anything. It should have been called "Oliver's Friends and Enemies."

Verdict: The Academy was wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Cool idea! I look forward to many more he said she saids.