When a Jewish prince is betrayed and sent into slavery by a Roman friend, he regains his freedom and comes back for revenge. [imdb]
Nominated for 12 Oscars:
Best Picture (WINNER)
Best Director: William Wyler (WINNER)
Best Actor: Charlton Heston (WINNER)
Best Supporting Actor: Hugh Griffith (WINNER)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Cinematography, Color (WINNER)
Best Original Score (WINNER)
Best Art Direction, Color (WINNER)
Best Costume Design, Color (WINNER)
Best Editing (WINNER)
Best Sound (WINNER)
Best Visual Effects (WINNER)
The only reason I went for Ben-Hur again was to continue my almost-forgotten Best Picture series, where I see (again) all the Best Picture winners, in chronological order. This started years ago, and, as you can tell, I'm not doing that great. :) But here is Ben-Hur, a film I disliked the first time, felt better about the second time around, and disliked it again now. It does feel like an epic, no doubt about it, but too superficial in many ways, which made me roll my eyes more than once.
With 11 wins, it solely held the record for most Oscar wins, until Titanic came along 38 years later and matched it, and then LOTR: The Return of the King happened, and the record was matched again. It only missed Adapted Screenplay, which is kind of surprising to me: not because it's a great screenplay (no way!), but because it's wordy and lengthy enough for them to justify a possible win in this category too.
I wouldn't have rewarded the film with Oscars in any of the leading categories: definitely not Best Picture, there were better supporting actors and definitely better Best Actor contenders. Heston does an ok job, but he gets so many cheesy moments, that it's very distracting at times. The directing impresses, but it also fails in some key moments. The technical aspects however are great all around.
The biggest flaw of the film, as I said, was making it too commercial, with too many moral standards and values, and not enough character study or any nuanced feelings or actions. The chariot race scene is impressive, the storyline with Jesus becomes surprisingly touching for a couple of scenes, but all these can't overcome the flawed screenplay development.
My rating for the film: 6/10. Stephen Boyd's Oscar snub for Supporting Actor was surprising, considering he had even won the Golden Globe.
***The updated BEST PICTURE WINNERS ranking is HERE (click!)***