Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Oliver! (1968).
Much like the earlier My Fair Lady, Oliver! often gets overlooked with those two other horrid musicals that won Best Picture getting all the acclaim for ‘60s musicals. Also like My Fair Lady, Oliver! is actually a delight. Though I can’t particularly say I understand or endorse the decision to add musical numbers to Charles Dickens, the result is often able to capture a fun, youthful energy that looks at even the worst circumstances with a winking delight. The musical numbers are generally quite engaging, with energetic dance sequences that always feel inventive and vary widely in scale set to enjoyable songs, but most importantly, they all feel like they are in service of the story rather than just being something the film feels like it’s forcing itself to get to. The best of them, “Consider Yourself,” is a huge number that captures the spirit of London with a series of extraordinarily choreographed sequences involving various workers, but the smaller scale ones, like “Reviewing the Situation,” which features a deliciously devious Ron Moody as Fagin, are just as entertaining. Carol Reed strayed far from his work on The Third Man (one of my very favorite films), when he made this one but his work at incorporating all the aspects of filmmaking into making something almost universally appealing is still magnificent, despite genre hangups holding it back a bit for me.
The Real Best Picture:
The Lion in Winter. I enjoy those Medieval British court dramas.