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JulyDiaz

Ben Hur

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I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that - while Ben-Hur is certainly a classic - it maybe shouldn’t be on the Top 100.

 

I thought it might be fun for us to “save” one of the 36 movies that didn’t make the 10th Anniversary List. So, of the 36 movies below, which one would you like to see reinstated in place of Ben-Hur?

 

AFI ABSOLUTION

 

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Amadeus (1984)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The Third Man (1949)

Fantasia (1940)

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Stagecoach (1939)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

An American in Paris (1951)

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Giant (1956)

Fargo (1996)

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Frankenstein (1931)

Patton (1970)

The Jazz Singer (1927)

My Fair Lady (1964)

A Place in the Sun (1951)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

 

There’s a lot to choose from, but personally, because of its epic nature - and my apparent preoccupation with Rock Hudson - I’d like to see Giant back on the list.

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I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that - while Ben-Hur is certainly a classic - it maybe shouldn’t be on the Top 100.

 

I thought it might be fun for us to “save” one of the 36 movies that didn’t make the 10th Anniversary List. So, of the 36 movies below, which one would you like to see reinstated in place of Ben-Hur?

 

First of all, Dances With Wolves? Really? Granted I haven't seen it in ages but, really?

 

Personally I would pick Fargo because it is so unique in it's tone and mood. All the actors are on top of their game creating very real characters. It's a weird blending of genres and setting in a part of the country rarely seen in film makes it feel different and unique. All those wonderful Roger Deakins shots. There are a lot of reason why this could go back on.

 

My backup would be The Third Man.

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My backup would be The Third Man.

This is definitely my pick but I'm surprised to see it considered American. I would consider it British. British writer, director, producer, released in the UK before the US. David O Selznick was a producer and out stars an American but ehhhhh... I think a few of these movies are questionably American.

 

If that doesn't count as an American film, I'd probably say Giant or Close Encounters.

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This is definitely my pick but I'm surprised to see it considered American. I would consider it British. British writer, director, producer, released in the UK before the US. David O Selznick was a producer and out stars an American but ehhhhh... I think a few of these movies are questionably American.

 

If that doesn't count as an American film, I'd probably say Giant or Close Encounters.

 

Regarding The Thin Man, apparently you’re not the only one who questions it’s “American-ness.”

 

Per Wikipedia:

 

On June 26, 1998, the Chicago Reader published an article by film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum which offers a detailed response to the movies in the AFI list, as well as criticism of the AFI's appropriation of British films, such as Lawrence of Arabia and The Third Man. Rosenbaum also produced an alternative list of 100 American movies that he felt had been overlooked by the AFI.[1] Rosenbaum chose to present this alternative list alphabetically since to rank them according to merit would be "tantamount to ranking oranges over apples or declaring cherries superior to grapes."

 

I also get his point about listing them alphabetically rather than by ranking by “merit.”

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I also get his point about listing them alphabetically rather than by ranking by “merit.”

I get his point as well. I've never been big on ranking things except maybe in small groups like a top 5. I prefer film lists being chronological but even that can lead to an implied growth or improvement over time.

 

I glanced through his list. It's interesting. I'm completely unfamiliar with several of the movies. As someone who looks at movie lists a lot, that's unusual. I don't know if he's purposefully choosing more obscure movies or maybe he just has different taste.

 

I'm glad Amy and Paul are choosing to not go in list order. I think that shuts down any "is this movie really better/worse than the last movie?" discussion that I find not particularly worthwhile.

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I get his point as well. I've never been big on ranking things except maybe in small groups like a top 5. I prefer film lists being chronological but even that can lead to an implied growth or improvement over time.

 

I glanced through his list. It's interesting. I'm completely unfamiliar with several of the movies. As someone who looks at movie lists a lot, that's unusual. I don't know if he's purposefully choosing more obscure movies or maybe he just has different taste.

 

I'm glad Amy and Paul are choosing to not go in list order. I think that shuts down any "is this movie really better/worse than the last movie?" discussion that I find not particularly worthwhile.

I was just looking at his list too and would be curious to hear the reasons behind some of them. You could argue that a lot of the AFI movies even if you haven't seen are movies you've heard of but some of his picks are completely new to me. Hallelujah I'm A Bum? Track of the Cat? Never heard of them. Also I find it sort of interesting to think about the AFI list the median year is 1965 while on his list the median year is 1953.

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I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that - while Ben-Hur is certainly a classic - it maybe shouldn’t be on the Top 100.

 

I thought it might be fun for us to “save” one of the 36 movies that didn’t make the 10th Anniversary List. So, of the 36 movies below, which one would you like to see reinstated in place of Ben-Hur?

 

 

For me it would be Fargo. It might be the best movie of the 1990s for me. Which is funny, because I didn't love it when I saw it in the theater for the first time.

 

And Close Encounters should replace E.T. :P

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I think we’re all pretty much in agreement that - while Ben-Hur is certainly a classic - it maybe shouldn’t be on the Top 100.

 

I thought it might be fun for us to “save” one of the 36 movies that didn’t make the 10th Anniversary List. So, of the 36 movies below, which one would you like to see reinstated in place of Ben-Hur?

 

AFI ABSOLUTION

 

Doctor Zhivago (1965)

The Birth of a Nation (1915)

From Here to Eternity (1953)

Amadeus (1984)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The Third Man (1949)

Fantasia (1940)

Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

Stagecoach (1939)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

An American in Paris (1951)

Wuthering Heights (1939)

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Giant (1956)

Fargo (1996)

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

Frankenstein (1931)

Patton (1970)

The Jazz Singer (1927)

My Fair Lady (1964)

A Place in the Sun (1951)

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)

 

There’s a lot to choose from, but personally, because of its epic nature - and my apparent preoccupation with Rock Hudson - I’d like to see Giant back on the list.

 

I haven't seen everything here, but from this list I'd say The Third Man is the best movie. I know there is some question of how much that is an "American" film, though. So of the purely American productions I'd go with Close Encounters.

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I haven't seen everything here, but from this list I'd say The Third Man is the best movie. I know there is some question of how much that is an "American" film, though. So of the purely American productions I'd go with Close Encounters.

 

I really need to see The Third Man, huh?

 

I’m actually surprised Close Encounters isn’t on the updated list. When I saw it was one of the movies taken off, I had to double check sure that it wasn’t a mistake.

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I count 23 movies on that list of omitted films not 36?

 

I hadn't thought about whether the movies were really American. Lawrence of Arabia feels super-British to me, though I have no idea who financed it. Same with Bridge on the River Kwai, though that has an American leading actor at least. I guess we're claiming David Lean for some puzzling reason? Or did they become "American" because they were academy award winners that were beloved by American audiences?

 

BTW, I'm so glad Guess Who's Coming to Dinner came off that list.

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I count 23 movies on that list of omitted films not 36?

 

I hadn't thought about whether the movies were really American. Lawrence of Arabia feels super-British to me, though I have no idea who financed it. Same with Bridge on the River Kwai, though that has an American leading actor at least. I guess we're claiming David Lean for some puzzling reason? Or did they become "American" because they were academy award winners that were beloved by American audiences?

 

BTW, I'm so glad Guess Who's Coming to Dinner came off that list.

 

Hmmm...I copied that right from Wikipedia. I wonder what I missed...

 

You can keep Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner off the list, but can we at least keep this scene?

 

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I was just looking at his list too and would be curious to hear the reasons behind some of them. You could argue that a lot of the AFI movies even if you haven't seen are movies you've heard of but some of his picks are completely new to me. Hallelujah I'm A Bum? Track of the Cat? Never heard of them. Also I find it sort of interesting to think about the AFI list the median year is 1965 while on his list the median year is 1953.

I think this is the difference between individual taste and collective taste. My top 100 is going to be different from everyone else's. When we combine everyone's lists, that's when we start seeing a homogenous list of great movies with Citizen Kane and Vertigo overlapping on on many lists. Since I don't know Jonathan Rosenbaum as a critic, his list (which has been expanded to over 1000 essential movies) doesn't hold much value to me the way Roger Ebert's or Mark Kermode's list might.

I count 23 movies on that list of omitted films not 36?

 

I hadn't thought about whether the movies were really American. Lawrence of Arabia feels super-British to me, though I have no idea who financed it. Same with Bridge on the River Kwai, though that has an American leading actor at least. I guess we're claiming David Lean for some puzzling reason? Or did they become "American" because they were academy award winners that were beloved by American audiences?

 

BTW, I'm so glad Guess Who's Coming to Dinner came off that list.

A quick look through Wikipedia has some later David Lean movies as semi-joint productions between the UK and sometimes America. They'll list Horizon as the producer but call it a UK/USA movie. Doctor Zhivago is an MGM production but it's a UK/Italy movie. The only fully American production seems to be Summertime. So, I'm with you in the confusion.

 

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner's racial politics are woefully dated. Sidney Poitier is basically the perfect man that anyone should be happy to have as a son-in-law. If he had been flawed in any way, it would have aged better. Now, it's just a well acted movie to make white people feel good about themselves.

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I really need to see The Third Man, huh?

 

Oh yes! Lots of iconic stuff in there.

 

Also a nice one to see after Citizen Kane, with Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles playing against each other again.

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I'm curious how many other people watched a ton of Turner classic Movies in the 2000s. Here's a video they used to explain widescreen format using Ben-Hur as an example. Any time I think about Ben-Hur, I think of Sydney Pollack getting the heebie jeebies.

 

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I had to pause Ben-Hur and consult its plot summary on Wikipedia at one point, because the film abruptly cuts from a scene where the Emperor "frees" Judah to another where he's a five-time chariot champion with an apparent love interest and an adoptive father. I thought something was wrong with my copy of the film, but I guess I was supposed to infer that passage of time from a crossfade?

 

I disagree with suggestions that Jesus be cut in the interest of time. As an ex-Catholic raised on a steady diet of The Ten Commandments, the idea of The Bible happening just off-screen is hilarious (hence, Life of Brian.) There should have been more scenes of Jesus as a peripheral character; Judah walking past the Last Supper, Judas hanging himself in the background of an unrelated scene, etc.

 

Instead, cut all of the leper material. Miriam and Tirzah actually die in prison, Judah stumbles out into the empty chariot arena after Messala's death and realizes how hollow his vengeance is, so he chooses to embrace Christ's teachings rather than foment uprising against Rome. Same message without the additional 90 minutes of cruft.

 

Ultimately, I can't tell if Heston is any good because whenever he speaks I only hear Phil Hartman's impression of him from Saturday Night Live. "All we had was bananas, bananas, bananas."

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Oh yes! Lots of iconic stuff in there.

 

Also a nice one to see after Citizen Kane, with Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles playing against each other again.

 

 

I keep thinking of Shadow of a Doubt -- which I love and has terrific acting by Cotten.

 

 

 

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner's racial politics are woefully dated. Sidney Poitier is basically the perfect man that anyone should be happy to have as a son-in-law. If he had been flawed in any way, it would have aged better. Now, it's just a well acted movie to make white people feel good about themselves.

 

I used to have that discussion with my parents -- 20 plus years ago! The real drama should have been whether the daughter was good enough for Pointier.

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I used to have that discussion with my parents -- 20 plus years ago! The real drama should have been whether the daughter was good enough for Pointier.

This is one of those things that maybe we don't understand how controversial it was at the time. They mention their marriage would have still been illegal in parts of the US at the time. Maybe he needed to be that sanitized even for the most liberal audiences. I don't know.

 

I know my step sister was in an interracial marriage and I believe my stepfather refused to attend the wedding (This was all before my mother ever met them, so I'm not totally clear). This would have been in the late 90s I think. So, maybe the message is still more relevant that we think it is.

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Another thing, since Ben-Hur is a vey long movie and that's touched on by Paul, what is the longest film everyone has seen?

 

I thought the best usage of Charlton Heston was in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, when he plays an actor in the play-within-a-play. His stagy presence works perfectly there.

 

My reference here makes me think that Hamlet could be the longest film I've watched (242 minutes, longer than Ben-Hur at 212). I did also see The Best of Youth, but it was broken up into two parts (two different theatrical showings).

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My reference here makes me think that Hamlet could be the longest film I've watched (242 minutes, longer than Ben-Hur at 212). I did also see The Best of Youth, but it was broken up into two parts (two different theatrical showings).

I had no idea it was this long? Do you know if it had an intermission in its theatrical run?

 

This suddenly made me remember the extended Return Of The King is 251 minutes. Although I think this version had that really really long credits that pad out the length.

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I'm surprised people didn't like this more, in this thread. I recognize its flaws (the '50s style acting bugged me - I'm glad Paul brought this up, the interminable length) but the story was clear and the scope was impressive and it did well to suck me into its world. I lagged in (more than a) few spots but overall I was INTO it.

 

Actually in thinking about this in relation to Citizen Kane, I -- a liberal atheist who far prefers indie auteurs over big spectacle blockbuster-type movies -- probably preferred Ben-Hur. Go figure! :)

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I'm surprised people didn't like this more, in this thread. I recognize its flaws (the '50s style acting bugged me - I'm glad Paul brought this up, the interminable length) but the story was clear and the scope was impressive and it did well to suck me into its world. I lagged in (more than a) few spots but overall I was INTO it.

 

Actually in thinking about this in relation to Citizen Kane, I -- a liberal atheist who far prefers indie auteurs over big spectacle blockbuster-type movies -- probably preferred Ben-Hur. Go figure! :)/>

 

I didn’t hate Ben-Hur. It had a lot of great parts. I just don’t feel like those parts came together in a way that made the entire movie great. There are other movies on the list that I feel are far less deserving than Ben-Hur.

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Sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth. I was just reading through the thread, seeing a lot of critique, and far less excitement than I expected... which is why I felt compelled to post.

 

I do agree with Paul and Amy's points about there not being enough emotion here (when it EASILY could have been devastating). I gather this had a ton of writers but maybe needed one more to fix that, and to as you say, coalesce some of the parts.

 

But I guess my point is, I got swept up in it (esp. the first half). It seems like a difficult movie -- crazy long, religious, old, brownface, outdated acting, etc. -- but I guess to my happy surprise, it wasn't at all. I had a good time with it.

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This was discussed in the episode, but seriously, was Charlton Heston good?

 

I think I’m of the same opinion as Paul in that Heston wasn’t exactly “good,” but I couldn’t really look away either. I’ve watched quite a few Elvis movies lately and it’s kind of the same thing. It’s this crazy, ineffable star quality that some people just seem to possess. It’s pretty amazing really.

 

I think it’s his eyes. The man doesn’t blink! Also, it was fascinating how when he opens his mouth to speak, it seemed like you could see all his teeth.

 

Anyway, I’m a bit late to the party, but i wanted to bring up a few things.

 

In the opening montage, did anyone else notice this girl?

2hHzcEh.jpg

 

I feel like she just wandered onto the set in her 50s A-line dress and nobody kicked her out.

 

Question for the group - if you were Ester, would you keep the fact that Judah’s family were alive a secret from him? If you were Judah, would you have forgiven Ester so easily?

 

Lastly, leper spelled backwards is repel. Coincidence??

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Sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth. I was just reading through the thread, seeing a lot of critique, and far less excitement than I expected... which is why I felt compelled to post.

 

I do agree with Paul and Amy's points about there not being enough emotion here (when it EASILY could have been devastating). I gather this had a ton of writers but maybe needed one more to fix that, and to as you say, coalesce some of the parts.

 

But I guess my point is, I got swept up in it (esp. the first half). It seems like a difficult movie -- crazy long, religious, old, brownface, outdated acting, etc. -- but I guess to my happy surprise, it wasn't at all. I had a good time with it.

 

No, it’s cool. I didn’t take it that way at all. It was a really good movie, but I doubt I’d be in a rush to watch it again. It’s awesome that it worked for you though. I think I may have said something like this already (or at least I meant to), but I think I’m just jaded. For people at the time, I bet this movie blew their minds. For sheer scale alone, it deserves to be on here.

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