Best Picture Profile: Oliver!

Directed by: Carol Reed

Company: Columbia Pictures

Runtime: 153 minutes

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It’s the only Best Picture winner with a G rating from MPAA. It’s the last musical to win Best Picture before 2002. It’s the movie that gave Carol Reed that Academy Award for Best Director. And this is one of the most hated winners.

The movie is based on two sources: the first is the classic novel by Charles Dickens, and the other one is the stage play based on the novel. It is about an orphan named Oliver who was sold to a family but eventually escaped and ended up in London where he meets The Artful Dodger. Through him, he meets Fagin, the old leader of child pickpocketers.

There, he learned how to do their stuff. But because of some twists, Oliver ended up with the rich man. Afraid that Oliver would expose the secret den of the thieves, they kidnapped him. There, a woman tries to save Oliver, but it is up to his will to survive that will save him.

Basically, it’s a child’s film with very childish parts but also with violent parts. What am I talking about? Whatever. I used to really love it. But upon rewatching, my taste did change.

First, the first thirty minutes and the parts with the children are so immature. I mean it’s like screaming, “Are you stupid, people?” But let me just explain this. The mood at the start before the first musical number is really good. When the children are now called to eat, the walking part is really good. But when the children started to do something else, ugh! The whole thing is so childish. I know, this is not some heavy movie that deals with abortion or whatsoever, but with this story of orphans, just have respect to the thing.

Okay, I may get a little weird here. But I’m just saying that please, don’t make the viewers feel offended and stupid. Because it’s like the movie is just fooling us. And that line delivery – “Mooooore?????” It’s quite good, but it’s childish.

Then we proceed to “Consider Yourself.” It’s quite a number, actually. It’s grand and it’s massive. And it’s cute. And here we have this quite long period of time where Oliver is gone, and actually, it’s a lot better. And after that, we have “Who Will Buy?” musical number that is, for now, my favorite scene in the whole movie. Here is the director’s best scene. It’s not corny, it’s not immature, and it’s just an Oscar scene.

Then we have the tense part. And it’s really working.

The direction is fine, but far from great. I bet Reed just won because he needs to have one. He’s been a long time snub, and they need to reward him. He’s fine here, but it;s uneven.

The screenplay is much more of a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s living up to the spirit of the story. But on the other hand, it tends to forget that it has mature viewers, thus making it look stupid.

The cinematography is really creative. Not necessarily one big innovation, but serves the whole movie very well, visually. The editing is okay. With its runtime and my complaints about it, it is still nicely edited. Some of the big musical numbers are really well-edited though. Sound is the 60’s norm, I guess.

Costume design is great, but I don’t really expect much of grand costumes since they are situated in a poor status of life. Art direction is really good. It lives up to the London feel. And the whole thing is believable, and it doesn’t leave an impression that it’s only done in a studio. Make-up is pretty impressive. But there are no monsters here. So, no big prosthetics.

Music is a mixed bag, but mostly great. Some musical numbers are cringe-worthy (“Where is Love?”, “Get To Pick A Pocket Or Two”, among others) and some are really impressive music pieces (“Consider Yourself”, “Who Will Buy?”, “It’s A Fine Life!”, “Ooom-pa-pah”, among others). But in the end, the good outweighs the bad.

The acting is a rather mixed bag, too. We have a really good Ron Moody as Fagin. He adds layers in his character. He’s campaigned lead, but he was not really given any chance to have a three-dimensional character, but he utilizes it to make Fagin an understandable yet quite an unknown man to us. He leaves this layer of mystery, but there is humanity.

Oliver Reed is a memorable villain here. He is a VILLAIN here. And yes, he lives up to his character.

But for me, the most interesting performance comes from Shani Wallis who, I’m surprised, doesn’t even have a nomination. It’s an incredible piece of acting. She tries to be tough because her environment needs to be. And she loves a man who just happens to be a villain. With that, we don’t really get to know if he’s just blinding herself, of she is already used to that, or she stays because she gets money from him, or she just simply loves him.

Sure, she says that she stays with him because he needs her. But is that really it? Or she is the one who needs him. It’s an incredibly layered and powerful performance. And her line delivery is sharp.

In this group, we have the okay performer – Jack Wild – as The Artful Dodger. He doesn’t add nor harm anything in the movie. But I’m just surprised that he got nominated. Really?

Unfortunately, the worst of the cast is the lead. Mark Lester is no effective actor. Tell me if I’m wrong, but he’s a miscast. He doesn’t fit in there. His acting either goes from too comfortable or too stiff for the role. And the singing voice! It’s not him, and the voice is no even a him, but a her. And it is really awkward to watch.

In the end, the film also has problems with its message: is it really against poverty or is it promoting it? I mean, we have a character in the slums, in the underworld, but should not be there. It’s a horror for him. But he gets friends there. Anyway, it’s just a small observation.

In the end, we have a movie that has both good and bad things in it. But the good things outweigh the bad things a bit that after watching, what you will remember are the good things.

For this, the movie gets:

What are your thoughts, dear reader?

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One thought on “Best Picture Profile: Oliver!

  1. I didn’t reaaly see a problem with the bellowing MOOOORRREEE! from Mr Bumble. Harry Secombe may have seemed stage on screen because he was a stage star. If people can get past Dick Van Dyke’s fake British accent in Mary Poppins I can get past Harry Secombe’s bellowing.

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