If there’s one thing about the Academy Awards, it’s winning. Of course, within that one word, there are two emphases. There’s “winning,” and then there’s winning. Sure, you could win Best Picture, but if that’s your only win (like with 1928’s The Broadway Melody) would everyone else really agree with you? Now, the flip side of that coin is if you’re nominated for double-digit awards but only walk away with a few (as with 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with 13 nominations and 3 wins). If you didn’t even win the Best Picture award, it makes people wonder if your film’s prestige was all hype. However, there do exist films that so dominate the Academy Awards that they end up winning most of the awards. Only five films have come away from the ceremony holding 10 or more statuettes, including Best Picture. Movies like West Side Story (1961), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), and Titanic (1997) pretty much swept the Oscars for their respective years. This week’s two films are included in that list of Oscar sweepers.
Gone with the Wind
Length: 238 minutes / 3.97 hours
Often, Box Office sensations rarely win many awards. And yet, Gone with the Wind (1939) is perhaps the exception. Before 1939, the most Oscars one film had received was five. This record was blown out of the water with Gone with the Wind‘s 10 wins. What is perhaps more impressive is the number of times this film has been re-released to theaters. Aside from its original 1939 release, this film has been re-released eight times (1947, 1954, 1961, 1971, 1974, 1989 and 1998), which is why Gone with the Wind is often considered the highest-grossing film of all time, garnering more than $400 million in ticket sales alone. To further its importance, the American Film Institute has placed Gone with the Wind as high as #4 on its list of Top 100 movies of the last 100 years.
With an impressive running time nearing four hours (with a 15-minute intermission included), Gone with the Wind (1939) is perhaps the longest epic film ever made, or at least it was upon its release. Of course, when adapting a Pulitzer-prize winning novel, there is obviously a lot of material to cover. After all, the entire first half of the film covers life in the South before the Civil War. There wasn’t much to worry about at that time, except for who you were going to marry. And yet, once the war hit, many struggled to maintain their lifestyles. The second half of the film dives deep into poverty, in stark contrast to its first half. What will people resort to when their lives of luxury are lost? Most will come to terms with their fate and make sure that they’ll “never be hungry again.”
Length: 212 minutes / 3.53 hours
There’s just something about epic films. While not nearly as long as Gone with the Wind, Ben-Hur (1959) comes pretty close. And yet, the distinction of most Oscars won was held by Gone with the Wind for twenty years before Ben-Hur came along. It held this distinction for a much longer time frame since the next film to win more Oscars than Ben-Hur was Titanic in 1997 (almost 40 years later). Of course, as this was a remake, who knows if the original Ben-Hur filmed in 1925 (also based on a book of the same name) would have done nearly as well at the Academy Awards, had they existed at that point. Then again, winning 11 of 12 available awards is quite a feat, percentage-wise as well. Needless to say, plenty of memorable cinematic moments occurred in this film, which is why the American Film Institute has placed it at #72 on its first Top 100 films list.
Ben-Hur starts out much in the same way that Gone with the Wind did. Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) is an influential and wealthy man in Jerusalem during the time of Roman rule. Unfortunately, for keeping his standards and not ratting out some Zionist revolutionaries, he is wrongfully accused for some harm that had befallen a Roman near Ben-Hur’s house. As such, he is shipped off into slavery where he is shown to have some talent. After refusing to ride chariots, he is put on a warship that eventually sinks. However, fortune smiles upon him as he escapes and resumes his life as a free man. Unfortunately, his sister and mother have gone missing, and he still needs to take revenge against the man who sent him to a life of slavery. But what luck! A chariot race can give him his revenge, and his old connections know where his family is. And yet, it’s never that straightforward, now is it?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 big winners