Friday, 28 January 2011

A-Z #21: Ben-Hur

You can pick up hundreds of DVD's for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. Its never about quantity, its about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and justifying why I own the films... or you can tell me whether I should sell 'em...

#21 - Ben-Hur 

Why did I buy it?

A few reasons which, if you are reading these points, no doubt you will gather - first up, the most successful Best Picture Oscar winner. It won 11 Academy Awards and was only matched 48 years later by Titanic and then a few years after that by The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Fact is, it has never been topped.

Secondly, my brother - the Bangor/Bath Rep - and I have always joked about this film. It felt like, when we were younger, our Saturday and Sunday afternoons were plagued by this film taking over the family TV. Unlike the kids of today, we had our NES set-up in the lounge so everything had to be shared ... but ultimately Dad chose what was on TV and, if Ben-Hur was on, there was no way we would sit there for four-hours until he was finished. We would simply remain gutted and leave the room - potentially setting up our NES with the crappy black-and-white TV. Duck Hunt was no fun on the blac-and-white TV. [Second] Fact is, I never sat and watched the whole thing - though we would mock my Dad endlessly for it - so I knew I had to at some point... and by purchasing this sweet, 4-DVD boxset, I knew that I would eventually watch it...

Why do I still own it?

The Best Picture point still stands. Sarah and I watched it over a weekend - 2-hours Sunday and 2-hours Saturday - when we lived in Finchley, North London. Personally, I love the Jesus Christ parrallel story - how, rather than seeing God-as-man, we see, just a man who is broken down to nothing - ut is forced to stand up. The chariot-race is the stuff of legend and, I think there truly is something incredible about such a huge, epic story - I mean, I don't even think Gladiator is on such a huge scale: does Gladiator take on God himself? without even showing his face?

But you may disagree - shall I throw Ben-Hur to the lions?

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  1. love, Love, LOVE this film!!

    It was the very first classic I ever watched back at the young age of 13, and it had a big impression on me. I'll never forget the awe I felt watching that chariot race for the first time - and watching it again just six or seven weeks ago, I realized that it is still such a spectacle.

  2. But it is a long film ... and I can appreciate that some people fnd the word 'epic' to mean long-and-boring. I love it - I just think you really have to be prepared for the scale of it.

  3. Hatter, as much as you love it I am willing to bet my life that you don't love it as much as my mother. This is one of those movies she will watch whenever it is on - she'll even spout off the dialogue to key bits, verbatim. I like it, a bit religiously manipulative but well intended and it deserves its Oscars - all for one. I don't get Hugh Griffiths supporting actor nod, which becomes even more vexing when I remember than Stephen Boyd won the Golden Globe (same film) and wasn't even nominated. Major Oscar fail.

    (And that chariot race, aaargh. BRILLIANCE.)

  4. i have a funny feeling that for most of our parents this was the big-ass-budget film of its time that everyone saw ... akin to AVATAR. The use of colour, the epic scale, the widescreen... must have been good back then!

  5. this came out when i was in high school. i had to sit in the front row to see it and it blew my mind (though minds didn't actually get blown till years later). i went right out and bought the LP film score.

    Then, years later, I slipped out of work and watched it at the mall and found the Christian stuff embarrassing. Maybe reflects the upswing in Asian, Indian, and Mid-Eastern co-workers.

    Now, of course, there is the whole Stephen Boyd - Heston gay subtext that causes a giggle.

  6. Im obsessive about soundtracks and BEN HURS is incredible! I think the religious stuff is a bit ... OTT, but its a nice touch how you never see his face and, ultimately, he is not the centre point.

    Finally, its interesting how SPARTACUS has that clear gay subtext, whilst BEN-HUR's is less obvious ... i'll be every sword-and-sandal film appears to have some sort of gay subtext.


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