Thursday, October 7, 2010

1959: Ben-Hur

This classic tells the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish nobleman living during the time of Christ.  When Judah, his mother, and his sister are wrongfully convicted of a crime, he vows revenge on Messala, his former friend who has condemned them.  After surviving three years as a slave on a Roman ship, Judah gains his freedom and returns to compete with Messala in an intense chariot race.

Two things would make me like this film better: if it was a little shorter, and if someone else played Judah Ben-Hur.  For as long as it is, it's surprisingly not boring, but there are a few scenes that could have been cut down a bit.  And I'm not sure what it is about Charlton Heston that irks me so much, but I can't stand him.  When I watch this film, I have to keep reminding myself to be on his side.  But other than that, it is a very good film.  A lot of people only watch it for the chariot race, but the rest of the film gives the chariot race meaning.  The character development throughout the movie is very well done.  I also really like the way Jesus is portrayed in the film.  His life intersects with Judah's several times, but we never see Jesus' face clearly, nor do we hear his voice.  I thought that was a very interesting choice by the filmmakers, and it works well.

This was a really good year for films.  I'm slightly surprised that neither North By Northwest nor Some Like It Hot was nominated for Best Picture, since those are both excellent, highly acclaimed movies.  They're also more fun to watch than Ben-Hur, especially since they have nothing to do with Charlton Heston.  But I'm not at all surprised that this film won because in years when there are a lot of good films to choose from, the Academy almost always picks the long epic (see 1939).  And, much as I hate to admit it, this film definitely deserved to win.  If I could get over my dislike of the star, I would enjoy it a lot more.

Next film: The Apartment

1 comment:

  1. I recently saw a silent version of Ben-Hur which also portrays Jesus without showing his face, but in a really cheesy manner. I like this version much better.