Saturday, November 6, 2010

1968: Oliver!

Oliver Twist is an orphan who is sold from the workhouse to a funeral parlor, from which he runs away to London to seek his fortune.  There he falls in with a group of criminals who want to turn him into a pickpocket.  When he is brought to court for stealing, and proven innocent, the man who accused him takes pity on him and offers to care for him.  But the criminals are afraid that Oliver will turn them in, so they have to steal him back.

The story itself is quite interesting, which explains why the book is considered one of the greatest classics in English literature.  But this movie does a really good job of turning a fascinating story into two and a half hours of boredom.  The pacing is terrible.  Important events happen in the blink of an eye, and then the story comes to a grinding halt for irrelevant 15-minute musical numbers.  The philosophy of this film is: if something bad happens, sing about it; if something good happens, sing about it; if nothing happens, sing about it.  And it helps if you sing in an inconsistent Cockney accent while pretending to have a fit...I mean, "dancing".

I can tell that this film is trying to make a statement about how easy it is to become swept into debauchery if you don't have anyone to care for you, but it's almost impossible to take that statement seriously with all the random singing and awkward dancing going on.  Some of the songs are pretty good on their own, but they drag on and on, and often have very little - if anything - to do with the story.  The performances are okay, but not the best.  The kid who plays Oliver is cute, but his acting skills are not that great, and his singing voice is too high, too soft, and very difficult to understand.

I am appalled that this film won six Academy Awards.  It's entertaining from a "Let's watch a movie to make fun of it" standpoint, but from a "Let's watch a classic Best Picture" standpoint, it's thoroughly disappointing.

Next up: Midnight Cowboy

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