Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Orphan Story Part - II

Why all the orphanage have to be run by some greedy, cruel persons? Why it should be a hard-knock life for the little girls in the orphanage? Because if somebody gets lucky like Annie, it'll be a magical experience!
In the same series of movies where I watched 'Oliver!' for the first time, I watched 'Annie' and was bowled over again. I had heard its soundtrack before; songs were good, but they never happened to be so touching before I watched the movie.
Annie is a little orphan girl of eleven years staying at Miss Hannigan's Orphanage. One day the secretary of billionaire Oliver Warbucks comes to the orphanage in search of a girl whom Mr. Warbucks may adopt as a PR stunt. She, charmed by Annie, takes Annie with her to the billionaire's palace. Mr. Warbucks is a never-smiling bachelor man with practically no soft feelings! Annie and her dog Sandy with their childly plays soon become a nuisance to Warbucks. But he doesn't throw them away as it may send a wrong message to public and his image may get hampered. Annie is a charming girl, vibrant, gay and vivacious. And her charms comes to play. Mr. Warbucks starts to show affection towards this young girl and the world starts to change! But the villains are always on lookout and ... well lets not make this a spoiler. But you know all's well that ends well.
Very simple plot, and similar fluent screenplay. This, too was adapted from a stageplay with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin. Very well acted movie, though all the charecters are typical. But in a movie like this you don't look for acting calibre of some characters, you look for performance of the entire team and its amalgamation with the story and the music that flows behind. It is successfull in this.
There is something beyond all these points which makes this movie something special. It is the songs and the situations of the songs. Or to be more precise, three songs touched me very much. The movie opens with a Annie and Molly, another orphan sitting on the window on a dark night and singing the slow tune of 'May be'. I can't help reproducing the lyrics over here:
Maybe far away
Or maybe real nearby
He may be pouring her coffee
She may be straighting this tie!
Maybe in a house
All hidden by a hill
She's sitting playing piano,
He's sitting paying a bill!

Betcha they're young
Betcha they're smart
Bet they collect things
Like ashtrays, and art!
Betcha they're good --
(Why shouldn't they be?)
Their one mistake
Was giving up me!

So maybe now it's time,
And maybe when I wake
They'll be there calling me "Baby"...

Betcha he reads
Betcha she sews
Maybe she's made me
A closet of clothes!
Maybe they're strict
As straight as a line...
Don't really care
As long as they're mine!

So maybe now this prayer's
The last one of it's kind...
Won't you please come get your "Baby"

That moment I feel a teardrop rolling down my cheek! And I love all these little girls who spent their 'Hard Knock Life' with smiles with just a single hope that someday they'll surely find their parents.
After Annie is adopted by Mr. Warbucks, in one sequence Miss Hannigan sings out her laments ('Little Girls') and you see the cruel Miss Hannigan in a different way. She is cruel to the girls, that is not her fault, it is her destiny.
Little girls
Little girls
Everywhere I turn I can see them
Little girls
Little girls

Night and day
I eat, sleep and breathe them
I'm an ordinary woman
With feelings
I'd like a man to nibble on my ear
But I'll admit no man has bit
So how come I'm the mother of the year?

Third time when Mr. Warbucks launches a search for Annie's parents, in a radio show Bert Healy and Boylan Sisters sing out 'You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile' and the little girls carry through the song in their orphanage, suddenly you feel the world is not that bad in spite of all these sorrows and injustice.
There is nothing special in this movie. But you know sometimes there are some very simple and ordinary things which you love more than some precious, beautiful great things you like.

And I love this movie.

The Orphan Story Part - I

Long ago, when I was trying to create a choreography for a particular competition somebody had told me to get hold of this movie as this has wonderful and inspiring choreography. I couldn't manage to watch the movie that time. But I certainly was on a lookout. Just couple of months ago while surfing through TV channels I suddenly noticed a channel playing the opening credits of the movie. And I got immobilized in front of the TV set. It was 'Oliver!' playing on it.
Being on the lookout for 'Oliver!', I had got hold of some of its songs. Beautiful music, I must agree. I had heard that it has a choreographed chariot in one of its songs. Listening to its soundtrack, I wondered which song it might be, and how did they choreograph it. So it was time for me to clarify all my questions through seeing-is-believing.
The story of 'Oliver Twist' is an old orphan classic by the great Charles Dickens. We have a boy orphaned at birth. At the orphanage he is named Oliver Twist. The orphanage is just a medium for earning money for the greedy and heartless caretakers. The children are fed only gruels. One day Oliver gathered up courage to ask for more food and in turn he is beaten and sold to an undertaker. There also he receives pain and on one opportune occasion he fled to London, on foot, alone. Reaching London he first meets the Artful Dodger, who is just about same age of Oliver. Naive Oliver was gladdened to befriend somebody who promises him of food and shelter. Dodger takes Oliver to Fagin's den. Fagin is a criminal who runs an army of young pickpocket boys; and Dodger is one of them. Another life was beginning for Oliver. Here he met Nancy, girlfriend of Bill Sykes, an evil burglar. Nancy and Oliver took an instant liking to each other and Nancy loved Oliver just like her younger brother. She is like a mirage in the gang of villains for Oliver. Oliver is sent on pickpocketing, burglary, etc. One day he got caught and story continues to unfold. I'll not elaborate more, but it turns out that Oliver is actually from a rich family and he is reunited to his family after a long winding road.
Now the movie. A true musical. It had a stage version with lyrics by Lionel Bart. The same screenplay was adopted by Carol Reed with some modifications for the celluloid version in 1968. The movie starring Oliver Reed (Sykes), Ron Moody (Fagin), Jack Wild (Dodger), Marc Lester (Oliver) was a big hit and won six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Direction. A wonderfully made movie. Beautiful music, choreographed acting, innocent faces of Oliver and Nancy, classic script with twists - it had everything. But the thing that truly pulls forward the movie is indeed the choreography. It is no wonder that Onna White won an separate honorary Oscar for her 'Spirited Choreography' in the movie, the honor given inly twice in the history of Academy Awards (Jerome Robbins for the second time).
I sure like musicals. I've seen few musicals like Sound of Music, Singing in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Fiddler on the Roof; and liked them all. Inspiring music knitting the story perfectly supported by some dance sequences. Yes, after watching 'Oliver!', I'm tempted to use the word 'dance sequence' for other musicals, with due respect.
'Oliver!' starts off with a choreographed action of boys in orphanage leading to the opening song 'Food, Glorious Food' and the choreography works magically. It is the choreography that flows underneath the movie telling the story, and music supports it (not the other way round)! The moment Oliver reaches London and meets Dodger, a wonderful city opens up in front of your eyes, rhythmic, lively. The whole city, as if, dances joyously to reciprocate to Oliver's inner joy of freedom and friendship. The song playing in the background was, I think, 'Consider Yourself'. The same spirit of rhythm is carried forward throughout the movie. The dance never ends. Consider Fagin giving Oliver lesson on pickpocketing in the wonderful song 'You've got to Pick a Pocket or Two'. Then the most beautiful sequences of 'Who Will Buy' when Oliver looks over the entire London dancing in its daily rhythm from a window. How can you make a whole city moving in such a rhythm without dancing explicitly! This spirited rhythm is the main pillar for the movie's success. Then the song 'I'd Do Anything'. Dodger, jealous by Oliver and Nancy's closeness tries to impress her and sings this wonderful song. It is the song where the boys make a chariot and mocks the high society. Truly its so spirited!
I was comparing with contemporary musicals, Say 'Sound of Music' or 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' or 'Mary Poppins'. All the dances are purely dance sequences, I mean characters are made to dance to support the music. The dances are very good and impressive. But even then the sequences of the songs like 'Singin' in the Rain' from the same-titled movie or 'Miracle' from 'Fiddler on the Roof' surpasses other dances from these movies. These two choreographies have the quality what I'm trying to call spirited and what I found throughout the movie 'Oliver!'
And that is what makes 'Oliver!' stand out in the row of musicals.
Thats what I like about 'Oliver!'
I am grateful to my friend who first told me about choreography of 'Oliver!'