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Thread: The Saddest Movie in the World

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    Elite Member witchcurlgirl's Avatar
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    Default The Saddest Movie in the World

    The Saddest Movie in the World

    How do you make someone cry for the sake of science? The answer lies in a young Ricky Schroder




    In 1979, director Franco Zeffirelli remade a 1931 Oscar-winning film called The Champ, about a washed-up boxer trying to mount a comeback in the ring. Zeffirelli’s version got tepid reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes website gives it only a 38 percent approval rating. But The Champ did succeed in launching the acting career of 9-year-old Ricky Schroder, who was cast as the son of the boxer. At the movie’s climax, the boxer, played by Jon Voight, dies in front of his young son. “Champ, wake up!” sobs an inconsolable T.J., played by Schroder. The performance would win him a Golden Globe Award.


    It would also make a lasting contribution to science. The final scene of The Champ has become a must-see in psychology laboratories around the world when scientists want to make people sad.


    The Champ has been used in experiments to see if depressed people are more likely to cry than non-depressed people (they aren’t). It has helped determine whether people are more likely to spend money when they are sad (they are) and whether older people are more sensitive to grief than younger people (older people did report more sadness when they watched the scene). Dutch scientists used the scene when they studied the effect of sadness on people with binge eating disorders (sadness didn’t increase eating).


    The story of how a mediocre movie became a good tool for scientists dates back to 1988, when Robert Levenson, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and his graduate student, James Gross, started soliciting movie recommendations from colleagues, film critics, video store employees and movie buffs. They were trying to identify short film clips that could reliably elicit a strong emotional response in laboratory settings.


    It was a harder job than the researchers expected. Instead of months, the project ended up taking years. “Everybody thinks it’s easy,” Levenson says.
    Levenson and Gross, now a professor at Stanford, ended up evaluating more than 250 films and film clips. They edited the best ones into segments a few minutes long and selected 78 contenders. They screened selections of clips before groups of undergraduates, eventually surveying nearly 500 viewers on their emotional responses to what they saw on-screen.


    Some film scenes were rejected because they elicited a mixture of emotions, maybe anger and sadness from a scene depicting an act of injustice, or disgust and amusement from a bathroom comedy gag. The psychologists wanted to be able to produce one predominant, intense emotion at a time. They knew that if they could do it, creating a list of films proven to generate discrete emotions in a laboratory setting would be enormously useful.


    Scientists testing emotions in research subjects have resorted to a variety of techniques, including playing emotional music, exposing volunteers to hydrogen sulfide (“fart spray”) to generate disgust or asking subjects to read a series of depressing statements like “I have too many bad things in my life” or “I want to go to sleep and never wake up.” They’ve rewarded test subjects with money or cookies to study happiness or made them perform tedious and frustrating tasks to study anger.


    “In the old days, we used to be able to induce fear by giving people electric shocks,” Levenson says.


    Ethical concerns now put more constraints on how scientists can elicit negative emotions. Sadness is especially difficult. How do you induce a feeling of loss or failure in the laboratory without resorting to deception or making a test subject feel miserable?


    “You can’t tell them something horrible has happened to their family, or tell them they have some terrible disease,” says William Frey II, a University of Minnesota neuroscientist who has studied the composition of tears.


    But as Gross says, “films have this really unusual status.” People willingly pay money to see tearjerkers—and walk out of the theater with no apparent ill effect. As a result, “there’s an ethical exemption” to making someone emotional with a film, Gross says.



    In 1995, Gross and Levenson published the results of their test screenings. They came up with a list of 16 short film clips able to elicit a single emotion, such as anger, fear or surprise. Their recommendation for inducing disgust was a short film showing an amputation. Their top-rated film clip for amusement was the fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally. And then there’s the two-minute, 51-second clip of Schroder weeping over his father’s dead body in The Champ, which Levenson and Gross found produced more sadness in laboratory subjects than the death of Bambi’s mom.


    “I still feel sad when I see that boy crying his heart out,” Gross says.
    “It’s wonderful for our purposes,” Levenson says. “The theme of irrevocable loss, it’s all compressed into that two or three minutes.”


    Researchers are using the tool to study not just what sadness is, but how it makes us behave. Do we cry more, do we eat more, do we smoke more, do we spend more when we’re sad? Since Gross and Levenson gave The Champ two thumbs-up as the saddest movie scene they could find, their research has been cited in more than 300 scientific articles. The movie has been used to test the ability of computers to recognize emotions by analyzing people’s heart rate, temperature and other physiological measures. It has helped show that depressed smokers take more puffs when they are sad.


    In a recent study, neuroscientist Noam Sobel at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel showed the film clip to women to collect tears for a study to test the sexual arousal of men exposed to weepy women. They found that when men sniffed tear-filled vials or tear-soaked cotton pads, their testosterone levels fell, they were less likely to rate pictures of women’s faces as attractive, and the part of their brains that normally light up in MRI scans during sexual arousal were less active.


    Other researchers kept test subjects up all night and then showed them clips from The Champ and When Harry Met Sally. Sleep deprivation made people look about as expressive, the team found, as a zombie.


    “I found it very sad. I find most people do,” says Jared Minkel of Duke University, who ran the sleep-deprivation study. “The Champ seems to be very effective in eliciting fairly pure feeling states of sadness and associated cognitive and behavioral changes.”


    Other films have been used to produce sadness in the lab. When he needed to collect tears from test subjects in the early 1980s, Frey says he relied on a film called All Mine to Give, about a pioneer family in which the father and mother die and the children are divided up and sent to the homes of strangers.


    “Just the sound of the music and I would start crying,” Frey says.


    But Levenson says he believes the list of films he developed with Gross is the most widely used by emotion researchers. And of the 16 movies clips they identified, The Champ may be the one that has been used the most by researchers.


    “I think sadness is a particularly attractive emotion for people to try to understand,” Gross says.


    he 16 Short Film Clips and the Emotions They Evoked:
    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
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    Elite Member faithanne's Avatar
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    I can cry on cue if I hear or read the lyrics to the song "Two Little Boys" by Rolf Harris. I'm tearing up just thinking about it. And it's got a happy ending! I'm so lame.
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    Elite Member KrisNine's Avatar
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    Hmmm, the movie that makes me cry the most is either Steel Magnolia's or My Life (Michael Keaton/Nicole Kidman). I cry every, single time.

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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KrisNine View Post
    Hmmm, the movie that makes me cry the most is either Steel Magnolia's or My Life (Michael Keaton/Nicole Kidman). I cry every, single time.
    same here!
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    Elite Member FashionVictim's Avatar
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    Those two are the worst

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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    Watership Down, where the black rabbit comes for Hazel at the end. Gets me every freaking time, sad cow that I am.

    The Green Mile all the way through and the part when you see Mr Jingles still pushing his cotton reel at the end just finishes me off completely. My rough, tough BFF howled like a baby when he watched it with me.

    Cyrano de Bergerac, where he confesses all at the end.
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    Elite Member msdeb's Avatar
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    the original Brians Song (with James Caan and Billy Dee Williams) made me cry.

    i HATED The Champ. I wanted to punch Ricky Shroeder in his stupid crying face. "Champ!!!! come on Champ" gag.
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msdeb View Post

    i HATED The Champ. I wanted to punch Ricky Shroeder in his stupid crying face. "Champ!!!! come on Champ" gag.
    Oh thank God I'm not the only one! Dead bunnies and itty bitty mice get me, but that kid in The Champ made my fists itch. It didn't help that he looked like one of the creepy kids from Village of the Damned.

    Perhaps this should go in the unpopular opinions section, but people kept telling me that I had to watch ET and that I'd cry when he went home. I came, I saw, I wondered what the hell all the fuss was about and didn't even get slightly teary eyed.
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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    watership down kills me.

    i also broke down during the last 20 minutes or so of 'dancer in the dark'. i was with my brother and he had to hold me while i sobbed uncontrollably.

    never let me go is another tearjerker.

    i also can't watch dumbo without sobbing.
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    Elite Member Seth82's Avatar
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    Even as a kid I never got what the hell all the fuss was about ET
    Quote Originally Posted by Kat Scorp View Post
    My fellow 1982 Scorpion! Never occurred to me that penises go into ears until your twitpics
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    Elite Member Kittylady's Avatar
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    [YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MODq81_cDKI[/YOUTUBE]

    Oh Gawd!
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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    The part in Schindler's List where Ben Kingsley gives Liam Neeson the ring, in my opinion the most tear inducing scene in movie history, no contest. Way more tear inducing than 'Champ' IMO.

    [YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIp_8RNNX4k[/YOUTUBE]

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    Elite Member Seth82's Avatar
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    several scenes in Schindler's List makes me tear up every time

    including the scene you posted
    Quote Originally Posted by Kat Scorp View Post
    My fellow 1982 Scorpion! Never occurred to me that penises go into ears until your twitpics
    @NickoMoralesXXX
    @Sexy_Seth_1982 awe sexy! You're just too cute to be true- I can't take my eyes off of you-

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    Silver Member marvel's Avatar
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    terms of endearment is the only movie that made this slasher movie lover cry!

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    Elite Member Bluebonnet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msdeb View Post
    the original Brians Song (with James Caan and Billy Dee Williams) made me cry.
    Me too!!! I'm glad I'm not the only one! That theme song alone makes me cry. The remake wasn't as sad for some reason.

    Terms of Endearment brings me to tears every single time I watch it. I know it's coming...I try to prepare myself, but instinctively, the tears start flowing.

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