Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ben-Hur

Dir: William Wyler, 1959 (8.2*)
Best Picture (AA, BAA, GG)

AFI Top 100
I expected more from Wyler, this should have been better than it turned out. Maybe trim a half-hour or more and you have a tighter film, and no less an epic. The sea battle and the chariot race are superb movie-making, but not a lot else is very compelling. Charlton Heston (Oscar) is ok, but overacting as usual. We get a (by then) Hollywood cliché Crucifixion sequence that is anti-climactic by the time it comes. I thought this when I first saw it in the theater the week it premiered; I think I was nine! Still, major "Bigness" on film, it helped define the Hollywood epic. 11 Oscars (a record)

1 comments:

pablo November 13, 2011 at 5:28 PM  

Ben Hur is a true classic, a must see, based on the novel by Civil War Union officer Lew Wallace, it is a moral tale of one man's search for justice in a world that is brutally unjust. Judah Ben-Hur ( Charleton Heston) sees his life and the lives of those he loves carelessly destroyed by the selfish powers of the Roman Empire. The plot follows Judah's spiral downward and downward until he ultimately learns that what is far more valuable than domination and power is kindness, mercy and self sacrificing love. His early interaction with Jesus of Nazareth and his later witnessing of the crucifixion summarize his difficult life lessons.

Heston is mesmerizing and his ability to portray the deepest of emotions and personal conflict are unmatched. At times his acting can seem a bit affected but only if allow yourself, the viewer, to emotionally step out of the movie.

The movie is best known for it's hair raising chariot scenes and it's equaling riveting naval battle scenes. These are best appreciated with a full understanding the struggles that brought him there.

The movie can not be divorced from the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the moral tale of Ben Hur is that of a man ultimately seeing the futility of human ambition divorced from mercy and love. It after all Ben-Hur, a tale of the Christ.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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