Sunday, 29 April 2012

Oliver with a Twist

“Oliver!” – Classic Period Movie with a Twist!
With the stage show of Dickens’ Oliver Twist (Oliver!) hitting recent headlines for still touring the UK after a staggering 50 years, it is appropriate to take a look at the 1968 movie it so closely relates to.
The 1968 version of “Oliver!” has an original take on most period movies as it contains music. All of the script, music and lyrics are by British musician Lionel Bart. Although there have been remakes of the Dickens classic for over one hundred years, another excellent version being the David Lean adaptation from 1948, which stars actor Anthony Newley as the Artful Dodger; “Oliver!” has to be one of the most memorable. One of the reasons for this is the outstanding cast which features Sir Harry Secombe as Mr Bumble, Leonard Rossiter as Mr Sowerberry, Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes, Ron Moody as Fagin and Mark Lester in the title role. The story is played out as follows:
At the start Oliver is living at an orphanage with fellow young boys and dares to ask for more gruel. In this period such insolence was considered outrageous so Mr Bumble ‘Caretaker’ of the workhouse promptly sells him to undertaker Mr Sowerberry. Oliver fights bully Noah Claypole after he insults his late mother and escapes in a commotion when Mr Bumble comes to collect him.
Oliver heads to London and makes friends with the Artful Dodger without realising he’s a pickpocket. Dodger lures a trusting Oliver to Fagin’s lair where he initially believes they make handkerchiefs, only to discover later in the story that they steal them. Oliver meets Nancy, the live-in girlfriend of terrifying Bill Sykes and it is apparent there is a strong bond between them.
Oliver is framed for a crime he didn’t commit when Mr Brownlow, a wealthy man is robbed. However, he happily resides with Mr Brownlow and Mr Brownlow can’t help but notice the resemblance Oliver shares with his niece. Bill Sykes worries Oliver may reveal the whereabouts of the den so Nancy and Bill grab Oliver. Nancy protects Oliver when Bill tries to beat him and Fagin reviews his ways.
Feeling remorseful about taking Oliver, Nancy returns him to Mr Brownlow, after Mr Brownlow has worked out from a locket with the assistance of Mr Bumble that he and Oliver are related. Bill follows them and kills Nancy, grabbing Oliver as his hostage. Two Policemen sneak up on Bill and one fatally shoots him, leaving Fagin again to ‘Review the Situation’.
How successful has this version been?
The financial success of this version speaks volumes, with Box Office figures being recorded as over $37 million domestic and $56.8 million worldwide and rentals. One of the stars to have his name engraved on a prestigious Golden Globe award is the legendary Ron Moody for his portrayal as Fagin. He achieved ‘Best Actor Motion Picture Musical or Comedy’.  Additionally to Ron Moody’s award, another engraving the film received was on the Golden Globe for the Best Motion Picture in 1968. It also won 6 Academy awards.

Ron Moody as Fagin
Although the Dickens novel is at times gloomy, this version has uplifting moments and the viewer gets to experience a wide range of emotions. Bart’s musical score is truly excellent, catchy and memorable including songs such as “Food Glorious Food”, which has since been used in many commercials, the moving “Where is Love?” which rather controversially wasn’t actually recorded by Mark Lester and the upbeat “Consider Yourself”. It can only be a positive point that the portrayal of Fagin by Ron Moody in this production is a toned down version of the Dickens original that has been described as anti-Semitic. In fact Fagin is often seen as a likeable rogue by his viewers. In the stage production the character is often portrayed now by Comedians/Comic Actors including Jim Dale and Rowan Atkinson.

Rowan Atkinson

Eagerly awaited Sequel
 A sequel has recently been written called “Dodger!” It is set 7 years after the events in the Oliver Twist novel. Part of the plot includes Artful Dodger being sentenced to an Australian penal colony. Dodger also becomes romantically involved with a friend of Nancy’s called Bet (who appears briefly in the original movie.) I can only hope this will be turned into a movie of the same stature, but there is no doubt “Oliver!”is going to be a tough act to follow!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


This is a guest post by Imogen.

Titanic Resurfaces Fifteen Years After Original Release with a 3D Makeover

When it was first released in 1997, James Cameron’s Titanic made a staggering 1.8 billion dollars at the box office. This week it was re-released with a 3D twist to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the disaster. Cameron and his team have spent several years editing frames of the epic tragedy with computer generated effects, leaving critics and fans waiting with baited breath to see if the film the world fell in love with fifteen years ago could possibly be improved upon. The answer to this seems to be a resounding yes.
Similarly to his past success, Avatar, Cameron uses the 3D format artistically and subtlety in order to enhance only relevant frames. The first scenes on board Brock Lovett’s ship may leave audiences feeling underwhelmed after paying their increased 3D admission fee, but as soon as Rose takes them back to 1912 they’ll begin to get their moneys worth. The Southampton Port scene in particular utilises the 3D format to create a swelling, vibrating crowd that captures the frantic atmosphere surrounding the maiden voyage of the ‘unsinkable ship’. After the iceberg hits, the added effects make for some spectacular visuals that really convey the colossal size of the ship and colossal nature of the tragedy.
Titanic 3D

However Cameron uses the 3D effects sparingly and only scenes that will benefit from a 3D makeover get one. In the more intimate moments, the 3D effects are kept to a minimum to retain the charm and magic of the original film. The general consensus is that Cameron has made a great film even greater by revitalising scenes and making them fresher, crisper and even more captivating without going over the top.
Of course even films with a vast budget and impressive special effects are nothing without a gripping story and relatable characters. This is why audiences are still in love with Titanic fifteen years on, over and above all the other celebrity cruise ships; because at the heart of the drama, chaos and disaster are Jack and Rose – a young, mismatched couple who the audience truly begin to care about. Rose (Kate Winslet) is a young, American socialite trapped in a loveless engagement to rich but cruel Cal (Billy Zane) because her mother is in financial difficulty. Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a kind but penniless artist who won his ticket on the Titanic in a game of poker. After falling for each other on the ill fated voyage, Jack and Rose try and overcome obstacles such as class barriers, Rose’s mother’s disapproval and ultimately a sinking ship in order to be together. Their love affair seems doomed from the start, and yet such is the chemistry between the two young actors that the audience watch on in desperate hope of a happy ending.

By keeping the focus on the love story between Jack and Rose, Cameron manages to avoid confusing the audience with too many sub plots. The film boasts a strong supporting cast with Kathy Bates, Frances Fisher and David Warner to name a few – but ultimately they are just that: supporting characters. The Jack/Rose/Cal love triangle is the story at the heart of the film and is executed flawlessly with moments of heartbreak, humour and hope that the audience will not forget in a hurry.
Kate Winslet as Rose &
Leonardo Dicaprio as Jack
However despite the poignancy of Jack and Rose’s fictional love story, it is impossible to overlook the true tragedy that the film is based around. One thousand five hundred people died on the Titanic in 1912 and the visual effects used in both the original and 3D versions of the film to capture the horror of the disaster are awe inspiring. The footage we see in the opening scenes of the film (where Brock Lovett’s team are searching the wreck of the Titanic) also include shots taken by Cameron’s crew of the real Titanic lying on the ocean floor. This only adds to the films authenticity and reminds the audience that far from being a whimsical love story, Titanic is a memoir of a true disaster that touched the lives of many people one hundred years ago this week. This, coupled with an engaging plot, loveable characters and dazzling special effects makes for a film that includes both style and substance.