Oscars Challenge #62: Oliver! (1968) Movie Review
Oliver! may have a great set of child actors that played many roles, but it is arguably one of the worst Best Pictures of all time. Its controversial win against the non-nominated Stanley Kubrick juggernaut, 2001: A Space Odyssey, haunted the Academy until today. Instead, it faced off against Katharine Hepburn and The Lion In The Winter, Funny Girl, Rachel Rachel, and another controversial winner, Romeo and Juliet.
Oliver! is the first and only G-rated Best Picture film to win. It's also a musical film.
Based on Charles Dicken's 1838 classic, Oliver Twist. The movie is divided into two parts. In the first half, we are introduced to Oliver, an orphan who lives in an orphanage hoping to get a better life and meal, especially after discovering that his superiors corruptly have a better meal than just soup and potatoes. He gets reprimanded and paraded to the streets to sell him. After getting another mistreatment, Oliver becomes desperate to search for a family to care for him. One day he decided to run away aboard a train to London.
In London, he meets a street boy named Artful Dodger, who instantly agrees to take him to where he lives. It seems that Artful Dodger lives with other pickpocketers led by Fagin. Soon, Oliver is taught ways how to steal from other people creatively. We also meet a couple of people, especially Bill Sikes, the star burglar who always gets the best items, and his kind waitress lover, Nancy.
During one of their pickpocket stints, Oliver was mistakenly arrested but luckily bailed out by several kind people. The victim, Mr. Brownlow, also adopts Oliver into his lovely home.
The second part consists of several events with Oliver living comfortably in his new home. At the same time, Fagin and Mr. Sikes will do everything to bring back Oliver because, to them, he is an asset that will help them steal more from other people.
Oliver! hit the right notes when it comes to showing a G-rated movie because not only does the story straightforward to understand, but it's a rags-to-riches children's story that everyone can appreciate. But for me, it is nothing special and, in more ways, quite dull. I know the Charles Dickens book is a mad classic, but I am unsure if it should be adapted as a musical. This shows that after Oliver, it will be over 30 years until another musical wins Best Picture.
There are only a few things that I liked about the story. I understand its simplicity and vast audience attraction might have been why this film won Best Picture. Maybe, 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Lion In The Winter are too common to win the award. But I'd like to think Oliver! is more heavily promoted than the other nominees or non-nominees.
In more ways than one, the accompanying music and soundtrack are enjoyable, but they didn't give justice to the whole film.
The winners during the 1960s were all stacked with musical films, so it's not surprising that another one bagged the award. But I think this might be the weakest among the winners.
Oliver! may be an entertaining watch when it first came out of the theaters, but it certainly is the one that aged like milk. As much as I want to praise it with its unique and entertaining songs and the use of so many child actors that gave them the opportunity to bag other roles in the future, this one can be skipped, and only if you are a completionist.
Needless to say, Oliver! deserves 1.5 out of 5 stars.