19 May 2008

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ

Here's the trailer. Watch it or else.

So this month we honor the passing of our friend Charlton Heston by watching and discussing Ben Hur: A tale of the Christ. I hope everyone enjoyed it. So here we go.

Ben Hur was made in the day when huge epics with elaborate sets and thousands of extras were the norm. Back then people had no problem going to the theater and having an intermission. Can you even imagine that today? What would you do for 15 minutes? Probably steal someones seat while they are in the bathroom. So in an age of Epics, to me this was the Epic film. Ben Hur tells the tale of Judah Ben Hur, a Jewish prince. His childhood friend Messala returns from Rome to be the tribune in Judea. He asks Judah to help him put down local unrest. Judah refuses and loses Messala's friendship. The new Roman governor, while entering town, is struck by a loose tile from the roof of Ben Hur. Ben Hur is condemned to be a galley slave. En route to his ship Ben Hur is given water by a man that he does not know but who is obviously Jesus. Then, while at sea his ship is lost but he saves the life of Quintas Arrius who adopts him as a son and teaches him to be a great chariot driver - 5 time champion at the Roman Circus. Judah returns to Jerusalem to find his mother and sister and to exact revenge on Messala who could have freed all of them. Judah teams up with an Arab horse owner to race against Messala. In this race Messala is defeated and mortally injured. Ben Hur visits him on his death bed and declares to Messala "I see no enemy." Messalla with his last breath reveals that Ben Hur's mother and sister are lepers who live in the valley of the lepers. Judah finds them. He brings them into Jerusalem in the hope of finding Jesus who is known to heal the sick. they come too late and find Jesus just as he is being led away to his crucifixion. It is only then that Judah realises that this is the same man who offered him water while he was a slave. Later, while reflecting on who Jesus was, Ben Hur's mother and sister find themselves healed.

One of the first things I want to bring up is the title of the film: Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ. I really wanna hear your comments on this. Why go with that title when we only see Jesus (and never his face) for more then 2 minutes in the entire film? The most important scenes are the ones that mirror each other: As Judah is dying of thirst Jesus gives him water to drink. Then as Jesus collapses under the weight of the cross he is bearing Judah returns the favor and offers him a drink. The other times we see him from behind as he preaches to a crowd but he seems to follow Judah with his eyes as Judah walks away. We also see him lifted up on the cross. So why call it A Tale of the Christ? Why not call it Ben Hur: Chariot Racing Barrel-Chested Hunk? My own take is that story of Jesus is perhaps best told on the role he plays in the lives of those who benefit from His great gift. Judah's life is touched several times as his life is sustained by miracle after miracle, but perhaps the greatest miracle is that Ben Hur learns to forgive. There is also a great image in the end where the rain washes away from the crosses and (it may just be my poor quality copy) but there seems to be blood washing away with the rain. How appropriate since it is the blood of Christ that washes us clean from our sins, as rain washes the earth. Anyway, let me know what you all think.

Charlton Heston won Best Actor for this role. Deservedly so. This is probably his best acting work. He kinda get's John Wayney in his later films where he just plays Charlton Heston no mater the role (which is fine with me), but he really pours himself into this role and it shows.
Ben Hur won 10 other academy awards. So, good for it. I also learned that despite what I had always held to be true, no one was killed during the filming of the chariot race. In fact there was only one minor injury. The footage of Judah flipping over the front of his chariot and climbing back over wasn't supposed to happen, but it looked so good they kept it in. The stuntman got a cut on his chin. Anyway, great film.

On to June. The category, ala the Chapman Family, is series films. For example the Police Academy movies, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. The way this is gonna work (sorry Monique but I'm about to take some licence) is that everyone will suggest a series. For example I am going to put forth the Jason Bourne movies. I will do a poll and one film series will win. From that series I will do a new poll with all movies from that series (Ex: Bourne Identity, Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum) and we will choose the best one and watch it, perhaps commenting on it's place within the series as a whole. So suggest away.

09 May 2008

Where Magic Happens

Sportswise this is the hardest time of the year for me. This helps a little bit.