Saturday, 19 November 2011

Top Classical Films, in Anticipation of The Immortals: Part 2

Here, I continue my countdown of my ten favourite classics-related films (for #10-5, and for links to three trailers for the film The Immortals, see here), as I prepare mentally and emotionally to watch the film as soon as possible (tomorrow hopefully).

5. Ben Hur

Good reasons to like: I must confess that I haven't actually seen this preposterously long Heston-fest in one sitting from start to finish, but I have seen all 222 minutes of it at some point or another, and it did win 11 Oscars, so I couldn't really leave it out of the list. And besides, any film that involves racism, buxom Jewesses and cruelty to animals is alright in my book.

Silly reason to like: Like many films from the period, the scores of extras are pricelessly gormless.

4. 300

Good reasons to like: Despite widespread derision and pooh-poohing, this film is, to my mind, right on the money. Contrary to the claims of many critics, rather than imposing anachronistic norms and ideals onto ancient times, 300 follows the account of Herodotus fairly closely, even down to one of my favourite jokes in Greek literature, from Spartan quipster Dieneces (although in the film it's delivered by 'Stelios' and in the wrong context): having been told that the arrows of the Persian archers would block out the sun, he responds: "[Good.] Then we will fight in the shade." Beyond that, a stirring and entertaining retelling of a truly significant event in Western history - with no more embellishment, I would argue, than Herodotus' own account.

Silly reason to like: "Spartans, what is your profession?!" "A-oo! A-oo! A-oo!"

P.S. What happened to Gerard Butler?

3. Jason and the Argonauts

Good reasons to like: Another Harryhausen classic, but so much better than the original Clash of the Titans. Some of the special effects are breathtaking, and the mythology is hard to fault. One of the oldest and best stories from the Greek canon, it's not only the adventure that's well delivered: the scenes that focus on political intrigue, romantic eye-brow-waggling and philosophical introspection are every bit as riveting as the giant metal-man and the animated skeletons. Even if they weren't the last few words of that sentence justifies this film's place on the list.

Silly reason to like: On a personal note, when my Dad sat me down in front of this movie when I was a wee lad, it not only sparked an enduring interest in Classics, but also (and more significantly) Medea (Nancy Kovack) presented me with my first ever crush. Fact.

2. Gladiator

Good reasons to like: Now, on this one I don't think I'll have any disagreement - save for the fact, perhaps, that I haven't put it at number one. Ticks all the boxes, from direction to acting to score to cinematography (whatever that is), and ridiculously quotable. In fact, it's hard not to just list all of the brilliant lines from the film. Would you not be entertained?! (What we quote in blogs, echoes in eternity.)

Silly reason to like: The closest Russell Crowe has ever come to maintaining an accent throughout a film.

1. Hercules

Good reasons to like: Well, I mean, it's a Disney film, isn't it? And a cracker, at that. Maybe a bit heavy on the anachronism-based jokes, but solid family-fare from the greatest film-makers in History (this blog will talk a lot about Disney, just warning you now). Stellar performances from the always fantastic Danny DeVito and James Woods, consistently good songs, with consistently good lyrics set to consistently good music, and a wholesome message to boot. God, those people at Disney know what they're doing. And it's (sort of) got (some of) the Classics (almost) right.

Silly reason to like: At one point, Herc(ules) takes off a lion-skin and Phil(octetes) wipes his face with it - the skin in question belongs to Scar, from the Lion King. Cute.

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