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Experience the high-spirited adventures of Oliver Twist in this Oscar(r)-winning musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic tale! Young Oliver (Mark Lester) is an orphan who escapes the cheerless life of the workhouse and takes to the streets of 19th-Century London. He's immediately taken in by a band of street urchins, headed by the lovable villain, Fagin (Ron Moody), his fiendish henchman, Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed), and his loyal apprentice, The Artful Dodger (Jack Wild). Through his education in the fine points of pick-pocketing, Oliver makes away with an unexpected treasure... a home and a family of his own. Set to a heartfelt score that includes such favorites as "Consider Yourself," "Where Is Love?" and "As Long As He Needs Me," Oliver! leads us on a journey in search of love, belonging, and honor among thieves. Winner of six Academy Awards(r) (1968), including Best Picture and Best Score, Oliver! will steal your heart!
Film buffs and critics can argue until their faces turn blue about whether this lavish Dickensian musical deserved the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1968, but the movie speaks for itself on grandly entertaining terms. Adapted from Dickens's classic novel, it's one of the most dramatically involving and artistically impressive musicals of the 1960s, directed by Carol Reed with a delightful enthusiasm that would surely have impressed Dickens himself. Mark Lester plays the waifish orphan Oliver Twist, who is befriended by the pickpocketing Artful Dodger (Jack Wild) and recruited into the gang of boy thieves led by Fagin (played to perfection by Ron Moody). The villainous Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed) casts his long shadow over Oliver and his friends, but the young orphan is still able to find loving care in the most desperate of circumstances. Full of memorable melodies and splendid lyrics, Oliver! is a timeless film, prompting even hard-to-please critic Pauline Kael to call it "a superb demonstration of intelligent craftsmanship," and to further observe that "it's as if the movie set out to be a tribute to Dickens and his melodramatic art as well as to tell the story of Oliver Twist." --Jeff Shannon
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The technical achievements are also hallmark. It is no small thing that the camera angles are expertly framed for the wide view as well as for the intimate, closer shots. (Take a look at the first "Annie" movie and see if you don't agree.) The editing, too, is great, making the scenes unfold with grandeur and a timing that is as close to perfect as a musical movie gets. The songs are great, too, even if they sometimes linger too long, especially "As Long as He Needs Me," but at least it gives the audience a moment to pause and catch its collective breath. Some are sing-alongs, like one would expect at a lively pub, including "Oom Pah Pah," "Consider Yourself" and "It's a Fine Life". Then, there are songs with the grandeur of "Who Will Buy?" Variety is enhanced with other songs, like "Boy for Sale," which seems rooted in opera.
This movie makes one believe it could be made today; it is so timeless. Yet, it draws so much from the old musicals and innovates with new elements, that it could only have been made in this place and time (England, 1968). It is hard to find anything (except maybe "The Sound of Music" or "An American in Paris") that matches the quality of this film. It is heart-warming, suspenseful, and engaging throughout.