This beat Citizen Kane?
How Green Was My Valley is a 1941 drama film directed by John Ford and stars Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Donald Crisp, and Roddy McDowall. It was nominated for 10 Oscars, and won five. These five, not counting Best Picture, included Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Supporting Actor.
The story revolves around a family known as the Morgans. They live in a condensed mining town in the South Wales Valleys in the 19th century. The family experiences many hardships, and the town goes through several rough patches.
Boring, uneventful, and feels-longer-than-it-actually-is are the three ways I would sum up How Green Was My Valley. Boring is the dominant of these three complaints of mine. I sat there desperately trying to stay focused and not lose track of where the film was going. Alas, like too many of the Best Picture winners beforehand, I once again asked myself, "Who cares?" and "What the heck is going on?" Previous winners like It Happened One Night and Gone with the Wind are able to answer this question, because we can feel emotionally attached to their respective stories and we don't have a difficult time staying engaged with the plot.
The only reason someone might care about How Green Was My Valley nowadays is because it defeated Citizen Kane, considered by many to be the greatest film of all time, for Best Picture, not to mention Best Cinematography which I would say Citizen Kane deserved to win. That envy and confusion we feel (depending on if you like Citizen Kane or not) is the only spark to get us to watch How Green Was My Valley. We can't resist making the comparison, especially because of Citizen Kane's impressive status, whereas How Green Was My Valley does not have such a luxury.
- The only two scenes during How Green Was My Valley did I find noteworthy were when the miners go on strike, and then when our main character, a boy named Huw, is sent to a public school for the first time. The miners' strike is portrayed by several scenes of crowds of men walking like zombies down a dirt road, as they are all now devoid of work. Huw gets harassed by a bully and his teacher. He takes up small boxing lessons to be able to get his knuckles dirty with the bully, only to get whipped on the back by his teacher. They don't like Huw apparently because he's not stuck-up or as ostentatious as everyone else in the school. I found myself feeling quite bad for Huw, and as for the miners on strike, their emotions and struggles were displayed well.
- How Green Was My Valley is boring. Painfully boring at that. Aside from the scenes I described above, none of the other characters are interesting in any way. The supposed chemistry between some of the characters is awkward and shallow. The plot begins to drift off into a cloud of tangled and inconsistent encounters and events. When this happens, the feels-longer-than-it-actually-is feeling begins to set in, and that is never enjoyable. When it's all said and done, you'll be lucky if you can remember all of the specific events that took place. You might remember a few, but the movie wrestles and numbs your brain with boredom that you'll eventually forget to care.
I am not sure what the Academy saw when watching this film, because it seems to me they never consider if a film will still hold up well into the future. It's not appropriate to say How Green Was My Valley is bad just by comparing it to Citizen Kane. It's better to say it's bad because it has failed the test of time, and because it is lacking of any intrigue or truly memorable moments. Yet another Forgettable Best Picture Winner.
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