News Thoughts

The Saddest Movie Scene of All Time?

The Smithsonian magazine recently reported that The Champ (1979) contains the saddest movie scene of all time.

Although you might think that such a claim was the result of a reader poll or a subjective list by journalists, it turns out to have a basis in science.

Franco Zefirelli’s boxing drama starring Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway and Ricky Schroder has a special place in the hearts of scientists, who have used a scene from the film (spoiler alert if you click through) to gauge subject’s emotions.

Richard Chin writes in the current issue:

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).

It dates back to research conducted by the University of California in 1988, when psychology researchers were looking for movie scenes that triggered a single emotion at a time.

The emotions and films used to trigger them were as follows:

After numerous tests it was found that the pivotal scene in The Champ triggered sadness exclusively more than any other film they screened (Bambi was second).

Since then the three-minute clip has been cited in hundreds of scientific articles and even been used as a humane way to make test subjects sad in other studies.

But of course, emotions triggered when watching a film can be acutely personal and sad scenes can easily lapse into sentimentality.

With that in mind, here are some of the saddest movie scenes I can think of which don’t fall into cliché.

There is the montage sequence from Up (2009):

This scene from The Elephant Man (1980):

I’ve Tried So Hard to be Good
The Elephant Man at

Then there is this scene from Terms of Endearment (1984) – spoiler alert if you haven’t seen it:

Emma’s Goodbyes
Terms of Endearment at

Then of course, there is the pivotal flashback scene from Sophie’s Choice (1982), which deserves a category all of its own (major spoiler warning for that one).

Any other suggestions?

> Original article in The Smithsonian
> The Champ at the IMDb
> PDF of the original study ‘Emotion Elicitation Using Films’ by James J. Gross and Robert W. Levenson in ‘Congition and Emotion’ (1995)


House from Pixar’s Up Now Exists

A working version of the floating house from Pixar’s Up has been created by the National Geographic Channel.

As part of their series “How Hard Can It Be?” engineers built a basic house structure and lifted it into the air for over an hour using 300 weather balloons.

More photos can be seen below and at My Modern Net:

[via Brainpicker and My Modern Net]

> Find out more about Up at IMDb and Wikipedia
> National Geographic Channel
> Sad but moving story about a young girl who wanted to see Up

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

DVD & Blu-ray: Up

Up (Disney): The latest animated film from Pixar continues their extraordinary run of success with a superbly crafted odd-couple adventure which deservedly reaped huge critical acclaim and box office success.

Carl Fredricksen (Ed Asner) is a widowed ex-balloon salesman who, at the age of 78 and threatened with eviction, decides to go on an adventure by tying hundreds of balloons to his house and flying off to South America.

When he discovers mid-flight that a persistent young Junior Wilderness Explorer named Russell (Jordan Nagai) is on board, they embark on a journey which takes them to the jungle, where they encounter various creatures and a mysterious explorer (Christopher Plummer) from the past.

Pixar have become so good at feature length animation that it’s easy to take their brilliance for granted: the visuals are vibrant, imaginative and beautifully rendered; the characters are wonderfully crafted – from the contrasting leads to the supporting cast of exotic birds and talking dogs – and the expert pacing makes the 89-minute running time fly by.

Directed by Pete Docter, who was also behind ‘Monsters, Inc.’ (2001) as well as co-writing ‘Toy Story’ (1995) and ‘WALL-E’ (2008), it is the second highest grossing Pixar film (after Finding Nemo).

Much of the appeal was almost certainly cross-generational, with much of the comedy coming from the clash between grumpy old Carl and the naively innocent Russell.

The use of colour, from the balloons to the creatures and plants in the jungle, is as good as any Pixar film and gave it a captivating quality well suited both to 3D in the cinema and Blu-ray in the home.

The physical comedy, especially scenes involving a bird named Kevin and a talking golden retriever called Dug, is also a real treat, providing a lot of laughs and charm.

There is also a wordless sequence near the beginning which is among the most perfect I’ve ever seen in a mainstream film: over just five minutes, a whole marriage is portrayed with incredible economy and deep reserves of emotion.

Michael Giacchino’s score is his best yet for Pixar, with the melodies and instrumentation managing to complement the energetic set pieces and quieter moments with considerable skill and class.

If I had one complaint, it would be that when the film enters into the final act, it evokes a feeling of deja vu with the action seeming a little formulaic (e.g. characters fighting, getting out of scrapes in the nick of time).

The transfer for the Blu-ray is also a marvel to behold. Animated films benefit from coming from a digital source, which means unlike some of their celluloid counterparts, there is no digital noise, grain or flaws to speak of.

Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver has posted some screen grabs here.

Disney are releasing it on DVD and Blu-ray in the following packages:

DVD Deluxe

  • Theatrical Short, Partly Cloudy
  • Exclusive Short, Dug’s Special Mission
  • Home Theatre Maximizer
  • Director Commentary w/ Pete Docter & Bob Peterson
  • Feature Documentary, Adventure is Out There
  • Alternate Scene, The Many Endings of Muntz
  • Learn How to Take Your Favourite Movies on the Go

Blu-ray Disc One

  • Cine-Explore
  • Easter Egg, The Egg

Blu-ray Disc Two

  • Global Guardian Badge Game
  • Documentaries:
  • Geriatric Hero
  • Canine Companions
  • Russell: Wilderness Explorer
  • Our Giant Flightless Friend, Kevin
  • Homemakers of PIXAR
  • Balloons & Flight
  • Composing for Characters
  • Alternate Scene, Married Life
  • Promo Montage
  • Trailer #2
  • Trailer #3

> Buy Up at Amazon UK on DVD or Blu-ray
> IMDb Entry

blu-ray DVD & Blu-ray

UK DVD & Blu-ray Releases: Monday 15th February 2010



Up (Disney): Pixar’s latest animated film is the tale of a retired balloon salesman named Carl (Ed Asner) who, at age 78, decides to use his balloons to finally go on a trip down to South America along with an unexpected young stowaway named Russell (Jordan Nagai). [Read the full review here]

The Go-Between (Optimum): A Blu-ray only release for this 1970 adaptation of L.P Hartley’s novel, directed by Joseph Losey and adapted by Harold Pinter. Set over a Norfolk summer in 1900, it sees a young boy become a pawn in the illicit relationship between an aristocratic woman (Julie Christie) and a local farmer (Alan Bates). [Read the full review here]

Pierrot Le Fou (Optimum): A Blu-ray only release for one of the iconic films of the French New Wave, which is Jean-Luc Godard’s 1965 film about a couple – Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) and Marianne (Anna Karina) – who get caught up in a mysterious gun-running scheme involving Marianne’s brother (Dirk Sanders). [Read the full review here]

The Ladykillers (Optimum): A Blu-ray only release for this classic 1955 Ealing comedy directed by Alexander Mackendrick. It stars Alec Guinness stars as criminal mastermind who leads a group of thieves about to commit the perfect crime and rents a room from sweet and harmless old lady (Katie Davies) in her crooked London house. [Read the full review here]

The Leopard (BFI): Luchino Visconti’s classic 1963 adaptation of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s best-selling novel, which stars Burt Lancaster as the head of an ageing  Sicilian family coming to terms with the emerging unified Italy in the 1800s. Finally released on Blu-ray – a fitting format for one of the most sumptuous epics ever made. This is the complete and uncut version released by the BFI in collaboration with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Inc.



Cirque Du Freak – The Vampire’s Assistant (Universal) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Life on Mars: The Complete Series (Fox) [Buy it on DVD]
Ong Bak: The Beginning (Sony) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]
Pandorum (Icon) [Buy it on DVD | Buy it on Blu-ray]

The Best DVD and Blu-ray releases of 2009
UK cinema releases for Friday 12th February including The Wolfman, Ponyo and A Single Man

Amusing Viral Video

Up (in the Air) Mashup

This mashup of Pixar’s Up and George Clooney’s monologue from Up in the Air is simple but surprisingly effective.

Amusing Viral Video

Up meets Gran Torino

A very amusing mashup of Pixar’s Up and Gran Torino.

[Via Hollywood Elsewhere]

Amusing Random

The Real Life Russell from Up

The real life Russell from Up

Apparently this is the real life inspiration for the character of Russell – the young kid in Pixar’s Up.

(Another picture can be found here)


[Link via Buzzfeed]


UK Cinema Releases: Friday 9th October 2009

UK Cinema Releases 09-10-09



Up (Disney): The 10th film from Pixar is the tale of an old man named Carl (Ed Asner) who decides to go off on an adventure by using balloons to fly his house down to the South American jungle. Along the way he discovers a young stowaway Wilderness Explorer (Jordan Nagai), a collection of talking dogs and a mysterious explorer (Christopher Plummer) living in the jungle.

As you might expect from Pixar, the animation and storytelling are first rate, although the first half of the film is a touch more satisfying than the second, due in part to a dazzling sequence early on which is amongst the best they have ever done. Director Pete Docter deserves a lot of praise for cleverly mixing deep emotions with breezy action and it bears some similarities in tone to his previous feature-length film, Monsters, Inc.

This is the first all new Pixar film to have the 3D treatment (seemingly standard for major studio animation these days) and on the big screen I saw it on it looked crisp and clean, making clever use of the spaces in certain scenes. One of the more pleasing aspects of the film is the attention paid to character, especially Carl, which has long been a hallmark of Pixar’s best work but for some reason resonates very strongly with this film.

Disney will be expecting a half-term box office bonanza from family audiences along the lines of £20 million but I can’t help feeling they missed out on a higher potential gross by not releasing it in the summer given the lack of a major football tournament and a general dearth of decent films, let alone family themed ones. Never the less, the number 1 slot is assured. [Cert U / Nationwide]

Zombieland: (Sony Pictures): Think Adventureland meets Shaun of the Dead and you’ll get some idea of this fast-paced and highly enjoyable zombie comedy. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as survivors of a zombie apocalypse who have to team up in order to survive.

Directed by first timer Ruben Fleischer from a script by Paul Wernick and
Rhett Reese it manages to reference the zombie genre and satirise it at the same time. Part of the key here is the tone, which is wise but never too serious and the pacing which is admirably brisk. Another key plus point are the performances which are excellent with Eisenberg doing a sterling job in the lead, a character who is something of a nerdy, likeable everyman.

The irony about this film is that it comes after a wave of Shaun of the Dead rip-offs which have flooded the market over the last couple of years (memo to young British directors: stop trying to be Edgar Wright), but it does actually feel fresh and funny. This is more because of the execution rather than the ideas, but never the less it works.

Word of mouth and critical buzz from the US is very good and Sony will be hoping for a solid showing amongst the 16-34 year old demographic, with this being perfect fodder for couples on a Saturday night. Up is going to pull in the big numbers this weekend but Zombieland could do very good business given that everyone is probably still bummed out how average The Invention of Lying was. [Cert 15 / Nationwide]

Love Happens (E1 Entertainment): A romantic drama about a widower (Aaron Eckhart) and author of a best selling book on loss selling guru, who falls for a woman (Jennifer Aniston) who attends one of his seminars.

The bad reviews and poor buzz are likely to put off female audiences, but that still doesn’t explain why the poster is almost identical to the one for Revolutionary Road. [Cert 12A / Nationwide]

Halloween II (Entertainment): The Rob Zombie directed sequel to his own naff 2007 remake bombed in the US (where some were repulsed by the hacky directing and sadism) and is likely to do the same here.

Profits on DVD is probably where this one is going to make its real money.



Goodbye Solo (Axiom Films): An indie drama written and directed by Ramin Bahrani about a Senegalese taxi driver (Souléymane Sy Savané) who forms an unlikely connection with an older passenger (Red West).

Critical acclaim after a successfull festival circuit run could translate into decent art house business.

Katalin Varga (Artficial Eye): The feature film debut of British director Peter Strickland filmed and set entirely in the rural wilds of Romania about the journey taken by the title character and her son, Orban, after Katalin’s husband banishes them from their home following a scandalous discovery.

Will need significant critical support to make waves on the arthouse circuit but well be a slow burner on DVD, especially if Strickland’s career progresses.

Vanishing of the Bees (Dogwoof): A documentary about the disturbing decline in the UK honeybee population last winter, which is potentially serious given they pollinate a third of our food.

Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee (Warp/Verve Pictures): A low budget, experimental mockumentary about an Arctic Monkeys roadie (Paddy Considine) from director Shane Meadows.

Shot in only five days on a micro-budget of £48,000, it will have a brief run in certain cinemas followed by a quickie DVD release.

Died Young Stayed Pretty (ICA Films): A documentary that examines the underground poster culture in North America directed by Eileen Yaghoobian. [ICA Cinema]

> UK cinema releases for October 2009
> DVD & Blu-ray picks for this week including Katyn, Beaufort and Time Bandits (W/C Monday 5th Ocotber 2009)


UK Cinema Releases: October 2009

UK Cinema Releases - October 2009


  • Army Of Crime (15) / Optimum Releasing
  • The Beaches Of Agnes (18) / Artificial Eye
  • Beyond A Reasonable Doubt / Entertainment
  • District 13: Ultimatum (15) / Momentum Pictures
  • I P Man (15) / Showbox Entertainment / ICA Cinema & Key Cities
  • The Invention Of Lying (12A) / Universal
  • Driving Aphrodite (aka My Life In Ruins) (12A) / Warner Bros.
  • Pandorum (15) / Icon
  • Toy Story In 3D (PG) / Walt Disney
  • Vinyan (18) / Revolver Entertainment


  • Zombieland (15) / Sony


  • Up (in 3D) (U) / Walt Disney
  • Creek / (Entertainment)
  • Died Young Stayed Pretty / ICA Films / ICA Cinema & selected Key Cities (from 23 Oct)
  • Goodbye Solo (15) / Axiom Films Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Curzon Renoir & Key Cities
  • Halloween II (18) / Entertainment
  • Katalin Varga (15) / Artificial Eye
  • Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee (15) / Verve Pictures
  • Love Happens (12A) / E1 Entertainment
  • The Vanishing Of The Bees / Dogwoof


  • Couples Retreat / Universal


  • The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (12A) / Lionsgate UK
  • Ong Bak: The Beginning (15) / Revolver Entertainment
  • Pontypool (TBC) / Kaleidoscope Entertainment / Key Cities
  • Thirst (18) / Metrodome
  • Triangle (15) / Icon


  • A Thousand Words / Paramount
  • Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant / Universal
  • Coffin Rock / (High Fliers Films)
  • Colin (18) / Kaleidoscope Entertainment / London & Key Cities
  • The Cove (12A) / Vertigo Films
  • Fantastic Mr Fox (PG)/ 20th Century Fox
  • Freestyle / Revolver Entertainment
  • Johnny Mad Dog (15) / Momentum Pictures
  • Made in Jamaica (15) / Network Releasing
  • The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard (15) / Warner Bros./Pathe


  • 9 (12A) / Universal
  • Michael Jackson’s This is It (TBC) / Sony Pictures


  • An Education / E1 Entertainment
  • Animal House (R/I) / Universal
  • Citizen Kane (U) / bfi Distribution / BFI Southbank & Key Cities
  • Dead Man Running / Revolver Entertainment
  • Love Exposure / Third Window Films
  • Tales From The Golden Age (12A) / Trinity Filmed Ent

Keep a look out every Friday for a breakdown of the weekly releases with more detail on each film.

If you have any questions about this month’s cinema releases or any upcoming titles then just email me or leave a comment below.

> Get local showtimes via Google Movies (just enter your postcode)
> Find out about films showing near you at MyFilms


Up balloon flies under Tower Bridge


Disney and Pixar have flown a balloon under Tower Bridge in London ahead of the release of Up, which is out at UK cinemas next Friday.


Pixar let dying girl see ‘Up’ at home

Pixar Special Up Screening

Pixar recently arranged a home screening of their latest film Up for a 10 year old girl dying of a terminal illness.

Back in 2005, Colby Curtin was diagnosed with vascular cancer and her condition had worsened in recent months to the point that she only had days to live.

After seeing a preview at a cinema back in April, she was keen to see Up, which is about an old man who flies to South America in a floating house suspended from helium balloons.

However, by early June her condition had deteriorated to such an extent that she couldn’t leave the house.

Her mother Lisa feared that she would never get to see the film and it was at this point that a family friend named Terrell Orum started cold calling Pixar and Disney to see if anyone could help them.

After eventually getting through to Pixar, the company agreed to send an employee to Colby’s house the next day with a special DVD of ‘Up’.

When he arrived, the group gathered around for a special screening, although because of Colby’s condition her mother had to describe the events on the screen.

The employee left after the film had finished, taking the DVD with him.

Colby passed away later that evening at 9:20 p.m, just seven hours after seeing the film.

The Orange County Register reported on how thankful Colby’s mother was about the special screening:

With her daughter’s vigil planned for Friday, Lisa Curtin reflected about how grateful she is that Pixar – and “Up” – were a part of her only child’s last day.
“When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie,” said Curtin, 46. “I just know that word ‘Up’ and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven.”
Pixar officials declined to comment on the story or name the employees involved

With her daughter’s vigil planned for Friday, Lisa Curtin reflected about how grateful she is that Pixar – and “Up” – were a part of her only child’s last day.

“When I watched it, I had really no idea about the content of the theme of the movie,” said Curtin, 46. “I just know that word ‘Up’ and all of the balloons and I swear to you, for me it meant that (Colby) was going to go up. Up to heaven.”

Pixar officials declined to comment on the story or name the employees involved.

A remarkable story, which shows what a class act Pixar are, on a personal and professional level.

> Read the full story at the Orange County Register
> Find out more about Pixar and Up at Wikipedia

Animation Cannes Festivals

Pixar’s Up at Cannes

Here is a short video feature of the world premiere of Pixar’s Up at the Cannes film festival this week.

The film opened to largely rave reviews.

> Official site for Up
> Critical reactions to the film at the festival
> Up at IMDb
> More about Pixar at Wikipedia


Trailer: Up

The latest trailer for Pixar‘s new film Up.

It is released in the US on May 29th and in the UK on October 16th.

> Official site for Up
> Listen to our recent interview with Pixar chief John Lasseter

Animation In Production Interesting

First video from Pixar’s next film ‘Up’

Here is the first footage of Pixar’s next film Up.

Original Video– More videos at TinyPic

The story is about an older man (voiced by Edward Asner) who finally fulfils his lifelong dream of exploring the world.

Up is released in the US in May 2009.

> Up at the IMDb
> Official site for the film
> More on the film at Pixar’s blog

[Link via The Animation Blog]