Friday, November 09, 2012

Sad To Say

Maybe it's because I've seen so many movies and am too aware of the manipulation, but I'm rarely moved to tears at the cinema.  I'll look around me, see the hankies coming out and register that the film should do pretty well, but I'm not crying myself.

The Champ, which won Wallace Beery an Oscar, is a famous tearjerker from 1931.  It was a little different in that most such films were built around women, but this one is about a down-on-his-luck boxer and his son.  It's hardly a classic, but it works well enough.  It was remade in 1979, starring Jon Voight in the title role along with Faye Dunaway and a young Ricky Schroder.  The critics were not kind.  I saw it on TV and thought it was fairly ridiculous.

But it turns out to be more potent than I suspected.  According to an article in The Smithsonian, the modern Champ is used by researchers studying sadness.  If they need a short clip to find out something about people crying, they use the death scene at the end.  Unfortunately it can't be embedded, but here it is.

The whole thing seems odd to me since I would think a film needs to earn emotion. Good or bad, you need to get to know the characters and the situation until you're invested enough to care.  But apparently the scene itself is enough to get the waterworks flowing. (In fact, maybe it works better if you haven't seen what preceded it).

The scene from The Champ is part of a short list that a couple researchers compiled to elicit certain emotions.  Their paper on how they chose the titles is fascinating.  Here's the list, though I don't think it's too helpful without the actual clips:

Amusement: When Harry Met Sally and Robin Williams Live
Anger: My Bodyguard and Cry Freedom
Contentment: Footage of waves and a beach scene
Disgust: Pink Flamingos and an amputation scene
Fear: The Shining and Silence of the Lambs
Neutral: Abstract shapes and color bars
Sadness: The Champ and Bambi
Surprise: Capricorn One and Sea of Love


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is sad. I sort of enjoyed it.

"Paula Broadwell’s passion for leadership stems from her background in the U.S. military as well as her academic pursuits."

3:13 PM, November 09, 2012  
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