Matchup of the Day: Ida vs. Arsenic and Old Lace
How much do you really know about your aunts? Often, aunts know things about your family history that you can’t learn from anyone else. Then again, sometimes aunts are secretly serial killers. You just never know with aunts!
In the 2013 Polish film Ida, which won Best Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards, a young woman (Ida, played by Agata Trzebuchowska) is sent from her nunnery to spend a few weeks with her alcoholic aunt (Agata Kulesza). The transition isn’t easy for the cloistered, religious Ida. When her aunt isn’t sleeping off a bender, she smokes, visits nightclubs, and enforces the rigorous communist ideology of the state from the judge’s bench — it’s just a dozen some after World War II, and Poland is under the sway of the Soviet Union. The skeletons of the past, though, lie not far below the surface. Bit by bit the aunt reveals painful, identity-altering truths about Ida, and between their long drives through the Polish countryside in search of answers and closure, Ida is compelled to make difficult decisions about the future course of her life. I mustn’t give it all away, but suffice to say, the movie concerns the genocide of the Jews in wartime Poland.
In the screwball comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, Cary Grant gets to show off the double-taking, gibbering, hopping-mad skillset that defined his early career when his character discovers that his two spinster aunts have a deeply unwholesome hobby: murder. They’ve killed upwards of a dozen men, bachelor boarders for the most part, and stashed the bodies in the basement of their quaint turn-of-the-century house. And they aren’t the only crazies in Grant’s family: his brother “Teddy” believes himself to be Teddy Roosevelt circa the Spanish-American War, while his other brother Jonathan is a dead-ringer for Frankenstein’s monster (Jonathan is played by Raymond Massey in the film, but was played by Boris Karloff on stage, and Karloff is referenced in the screenplay.) Grant’s task in the film — which, again, is a comedy — is to keep his dotty aunts out of jail and stop them from committing any further murders while also keeping his romantic interest in the dark about their bloody pastime.
In this battle of the aunts, Flickcharters prefer the Frank Capra-helmed Arsenic and Old Lace. I say they’re wrong. It’s funny enough in the early going, but wears out its welcome during the long stretches when Grant isn’t on-screen. Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski is a bracing ethnological and personal saga in a plain but graceful package, and is perhaps the most intimate film about World War II since Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (2002), also a product of Poland.
Here are the stats:
Arsenic and Old Lace
- Global ranking: 216
- Wins 48% of matchups
- 4096 users have ranked it 48849 times
- 9 users have it at #1
- 136 users have it in their top 20
- Global ranking: 3089
- Wins 53% of matchups
- 402 users have ranked it 7710 times
- 0 users have it at #1
- 11 users have it in their top 20