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Worst Best Picture: Is Rebecca Better or Worse Than Crash?

rebecca

Alex Russell

In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. Posts will be relatively spoiler free, but there may be some details revealed. Today’s installment is the 1940 winner Rebecca. Is it better than Crash?

Rebecca, Alfred Hitchcok’s sole win for Best Picture, is mostly about what you don’t see. The story starts with a young woman (Joan Fontaine, who is not Rebecca, but we’ll get to that) who falls in love with a rich aristocrat named Maxim de Winter (Laurence Olivier). Maxim has recently lost his wife Rebecca and is deeply intrigued by the naive woman. They’re an unlikely pair, and the whole thing feels just a bit odd. There is virtually no courtship and they decide to marry right away. If that troubles you, well, that’s probably for the best.

Upon returning to Maxim’s absurd estate of Manderley, it becomes clear that Maxim’s life is not quite ready for a new wife. The house staff still feels a kind of deep bond with Maxim’s late wife, and even the moments of kindness they show his new one are more awkward than they are anything else. It’s difficult to write about this because “Rebecca” is dead at the start and Joan Fontaine’s character is never named. She’s the most prominent character, but she’s never named in a nod to how much Rebecca, a dead woman, controls her new life. She can’t even be “Mrs. de Winter,” as she soon learns, because Rebecca is that, forever.

It would be enough if the movie were about the struggles to replace a ghost, but it wouldn’t be Hitchcock. The first act of Rebecca touches on that topic, though, and it’s fascinating to watch the young woman walk around an enormous mansion and try to figure out how to be someone she’s never met. She’s too young to be married, even for the time period, and she’s certainly too young in “ways of the world.” It’s heavily suggested that she doesn’t know what to do, in more ways than one, and Maxim clearly got remarried to try to fix his public image as much as he did to try to get over his first wife.

The film gets complicated as some truths about Rebecca start to come out, and I won’t spoil all that. You’ve either read the source material of Daphne du Maurier’s novel or you want to keep this one exciting for yourself, either way there’s no reason to reveal the surprise. It’s genuinely not what you’re expecting, though. For as certain as I was about what the central struggle of Rebecca would be… nope. That much is worth your time, alone.

The strangest thing about Rebecca might be that it’s Hitchcock’s only win. Four of his films were nominated for Best Picture and he was nominated for Best Director five times, but none of those nine instances earned him a win. Rebecca is the sole Academy Award to Hitchcock’s name, and at that time they still gave Best Picture Oscars to the producer. Realizations like that make the Best Picture list problematic as a great history of film, because it is possible to complete the list to date and see only one Hitchcock movie. No list is ever going to be perfect, but my nomination for best Hitchcock movie, Strangers on a Train, would have competed with the airy musical An American in Paris. What may be worse, An American in Paris also beat A Streetcar Named Desire that year, and that’s a travesty.

So maybe the current list of 86 Best Picture winners isn’t meant to be a complete history of film. That’s fine. You should still see most of them, and this is one of the better ones. It’s dramatic — almost scary, though it’s not a horror movie — and it’s shocking, even 70 years later. It was Hitchcock’s first American film, and though the Academy likely had no idea how important he would become to American film, they got one right when they crowned it “best.”

The Best Part: The supporting cast! George Sanders, who you will recognize from All About Eve, attempts to blackmail a major character. Even with limited screen time, Sanders is remarkable. He plays the “snotty, sneaky aristocrat” type better than anyone, to the degree that you could make a case that he’s a reincarnation of his All About Eve role. Don’t write than fanfic. Judith Anderson also deserves note for her role as Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper that will never accept a new Mrs. de Winter.

The Worst Part: It’s honestly difficult to find something for this spot, sometimes. For Rebecca the closest I can come is that some of the staff at Manderley are a little absurd. Other than the terrifying Mrs. Danvers, no one really matters. Not a huge complaint, but a missed chance for some better characters, perhaps.

Is It Better or Worse than Crash? If for no other reason than one is a powerful entrance to American cinema for one of the greatest directors of all time and one is a movie where Ludacris talks about wanting coffee with spaghetti, I am going to have to tip this ever-so-slightly in favor of Rebecca.

Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement | 12 Years a SlaveThe Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty | Gigi | It Happened One Night | Driving Miss Daisy | Shakespeare in Love | Wings | Midnight Cowboy | Rocky | Gone with the Wind | Chicago | Gladiator | Cavalcade | The Greatest Show on Earth | You Can’t Take It With You | The Best Years of Our Lives | The GodfatherCasablancaGrand Hotel | Kramer vs. Kramer | The French Connection | In the Heat of the Night | An American in Paris | Patton | Mrs. Miniver | Amadeus | Crash, Revisited | How Green Was My Valley | American Beauty | West Side Story | The Sting | Tom Jones | Dances with Wolves | Going My Way | The Hurt Locker | The Life of Emile Zola | Slumdog Millionaire | The Deer Hunter | Around the World in 80 Days  | Chariots of Fire | Mutiny on the Bounty | Argo | From Here to Eternity | Ordinary People | The Lost Weekend | All the King’s Men | Rebecca

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.

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Worst Best Picture: Is All the King’s Men Better or Worse Than Crash?

all the king's men

Alex Russell

In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. Posts will be relatively spoiler free, but there may be some details revealed. Today’s installment is the 1949 winner All the King’s Men. Is it better than Crash?

When you look at all of these in a row, you start to see trends. Broderick Crawford, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Willie Stark in All the King’s Men, was a giant of his time and apparently a huge alcoholic. There may as well be a copy-and-pasted subsection on every Wikipedia page for every Best Actor winner from 1930 to 1980 that explains how they were hard to work with because they were drunk half the time. They’re all eerily consistent from person to person. Since I never met the man, I’ll have to review this movie without those specifics.

The film is a retelling of the Robert Penn Warren classic about a politician based on Huey Long, the legendary Louisiana governor. It focuses on the rise to power of Willie Stark, a self-made lawyer who has good intentions but is consumed by his own ambition once he gains power. In his early days, he is followed by an earnest reporter who is glad to have found an honest man, but that same reporter parallels his downfall as he forgoes his own principles to fall deeper into the inner circle of Willie Stark. The reporter, Jack Burden (John Ireland) is a memorable character, and the parallels help Stark feel like less of a super villain and more like an inevitability of the “power corrupts” idea. Stark still looms through every scene he’s in — he’s still exceptional, which is important — but his motivations seem easier to believe when compared with Burden’s.

It’s fantastically watchable for 1949. It immediately follows 1948’s extremely hard to watch version of Hamlet and though 1950 offers All About Eve, the 50s features a few weird selections before the decades start to even out. At 109 minutes it’s one of the shortest films on the list, and it feels that way. The entire rise-to-power sequence is wonderful. It all feels like you’re watching an already great man be discovered, and the featured speeches help you forget as an audience that this is the villain. That’s the sign of great political drama: you root for the bad guy!

One of the greatest strengths of All the King’s Men is wrapped up in that sentence. Is Willie Stark the bad guy? Things certainly get less complicated as he’s forced to make more and more drastic plays against his enemies, but the people behind this movie certainly want you to wonder about what’s driving all that. Is this the story of one man blinded by ambition or is this the story of ambition itself, and the way it always manifests itself in the powerful?

The Best Part: Mercedes McCambridge might not be a name you know, but she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Sadie Burke, Stark’s fast-talking campaign assistant. The story of great men is often the story of the women behind them, and though her performance is dwarfed by his much larger role, she’s not to be missed. She wields actual power within the Stark regime, but there’s a sadness to her that makes her complicated. Walter Burke is also great as Sugar Boy, Stark’s gun-toting, crazed sidekick.

The Worst Part: As the world starts to fall down around Willie Stark, he is largely undone from the inside. His son is arrested after driving drunk, which sets off a chain of events that includes Stark’s pay off attempts of the victims’ family and his son’s refusal to play football out of disgust with himself and his father. All of it makes sense as it happens, and there’s an argument that it’s disjointed because Stark’s life is becoming disjointed… but really it just feels messy compared to the tightness of the first hour. Add on a love triangle that I won’t even get into and there’s a little too much happening for a 100-minute political drama.

Is It Better or Worse than Crash? There are weird choices that keep All the King’s Men from being one of the all-time greats on the list, but Broderick Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge turn in two performances for the ages. It’s a solid political drama with a point that has new relevance for the modern age, as presumably all political dramas will, forever. While the message of Crash carries as much timelessness as the “power corrupts” message of All the King’s Men, I don’t think Crash has any truly great performances. Everyone who is decent in it is better in something else. Even Terrence Howard, arguably the bright spot in Crash even though he has many of the silliest lines, is better in something else as Djay in Hustle & Flow, which earned him an Oscar nom. I know I’ve beaten this to death at this point, but even in trying to find the greatness in Crash the best I can come up with is “watch the people in it be better elsewhere.”

Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement | 12 Years a SlaveThe Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty | Gigi | It Happened One Night | Driving Miss Daisy | Shakespeare in Love | Wings | Midnight Cowboy | Rocky | Gone with the Wind | Chicago | Gladiator | Cavalcade | The Greatest Show on Earth | You Can’t Take It With You | The Best Years of Our Lives | The GodfatherCasablancaGrand Hotel | Kramer vs. Kramer | The French Connection | In the Heat of the Night | An American in Paris | Patton | Mrs. Miniver | Amadeus | Crash, Revisited | How Green Was My Valley | American Beauty | West Side Story | The Sting | Tom Jones | Dances with Wolves | Going My Way | The Hurt Locker | The Life of Emile Zola | Slumdog Millionaire | The Deer Hunter | Around the World in 80 Days  | Chariots of Fire | Mutiny on the Bounty | Argo | From Here to Eternity | Ordinary People | The Lost Weekend | All the King’s Men

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.

Worst Best Picture: Is The Lost Weekend Better or Worse Than Crash?

the lost weekend

Alex Russell

In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. Posts will be relatively spoiler free, but there may be some details revealed. Today’s installment is the 1945 winner The Lost Weekend. Is it better than Crash?

If a movie “doesn’t hold up” what exactly does that mean?

People don’t love The Lost Weekend like they used to love it. It is perhaps the best example of a movie that was brilliant at the time but seems silly now. It’s the story of a momentous weekend in the life of Don (Ray Milland), an alcoholic in the truest sense of the word. Don promises his brother that he’ll go away with him for the weekend and try to write, but his brother is clearly nervous about Don’s very recent patch of sobriety. The characters hint at how bad Don is when he drinks, but for the first 10 minutes of the movie there is no alcohol.

That is the last time that is true.

Alcoholism is often glamorized in film, to the degree that I can really only think of three 100% negative portrayals. I’m sure there are more, but here are my three:

1. Leaving Las Vegas, the sad story of a man who gives up on life and decides to drink himself to death in Vegas.

2. Successful Alcoholics, a nearly perfect short film featuring Lizzy Caplan and T.J. Miller as two alcoholics who drink nearly nonstop but still “function.”

3. The Lost Weekend

All three are essentially the same story, told differently. While Leaving Las Vegas and Successful Alcoholics show a little bit of an upside, The Lost Weekend is a battering ram of the rest of the disease. Don is a disaster. He can’t keep a relationship, he can’t keep a job, and he can’t even keep his own family. He blows off the weekend trip with a story that he’ll take the later train (with no intention of making it) and scours his apartment for any hidden booze. Finding none, he heads down to his favorite bar and drinks shots of rye whiskey until he can’t stand up.

The next two days are a continued disaster of cheap whiskey and fear. Don explains to the bartender and various women that he wants to stop, doesn’t want to stop, can’t stop, must stop, will never stop, and so on. It’s a haunting portrayal of the last days of a man who has given in to the worst parts of himself. Ray Milland is excellent in the role, and other than small parts for women, the bartender, and an alcoholic ward nurse, there’s really no room for anyone else. It’s all him losing his mind in the middle of the frame, over and over. He robs people, hides whiskey, and falls deeper into drink and into himself.

The movie has been rethought lately and seems to be seen as too over-the-top to be relevant. Leaving Las Vegas is an extremely similar story, and I can definitely see how it’s more effective for a modern audience. Successful Alcoholics is just a short you can see for free online, but it’s the most chilling of the three, for me. All of them are trying to send the same message — drinking is wrong, if you’re an alcoholic — but they do it through different narratives. The main characters in the other two stories are functional alcoholics. They insist they are fine until something so bad that they can’t stop it happens. The Lost Weekend is about when you can’t function anymore. Don is beyond the farthest anyone can go, and it’s definitely shocking to watch.

That’s the main takeaway from The Lost Weekend: the shock. It’s a movie from nearly 70 years ago, but it’s about a universal reality of humanity. We like alcohol, but a lot of us are afraid of it. I don’t think anyone could watch this and not relate to Don, or at the very least the terror of being consumed by something completely.

The Best Part: A lot of people will find it absurd now, but I love the soundtrack. Every time Don is consumed by his demons, a creepy theremin plays in the background. It feels ghostly and strange, which is a great effect. It happens… a lot, which is why the soundtrack is both the most iconic part of The Lost Weekend and the most derided element. Your mileage may vary.

The Worst Part: Everyone other than the lead is a bit forgettable. The women in Don’s life are mostly figurative nurses and the men scold him and berate him, but everyone’s essentially the same non-character. The bartender at his favorite bar has some memorable moments and his girlfriend is essential to the plot, but no one really sticks out aside from Ray Milland. It’s a one-man show.

Is It Better or Worse than Crash? Leaving Las Vegas is so tonally similar to this that I wonder if we’ll get a remake of Crash in 50 years or so. Check back then to see. No, really, please don’t remake Crash.  The Lost Weekend will be silly to a lot of people, but it will be chilling for just as many. I think the reality is that a lot of the effects are dated, but the message is timeless enough to carry the narrative. It holds up for me, but even if it doesn’t for you you’ll love it more than the disjointed message of Crash.

Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement | 12 Years a SlaveThe Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty | Gigi | It Happened One Night | Driving Miss Daisy | Shakespeare in Love | Wings | Midnight Cowboy | Rocky | Gone with the Wind | Chicago | Gladiator | Cavalcade | The Greatest Show on Earth | You Can’t Take It With You | The Best Years of Our Lives | The GodfatherCasablancaGrand Hotel | Kramer vs. Kramer | The French Connection | In the Heat of the Night | An American in Paris | Patton | Mrs. Miniver | Amadeus | Crash, Revisited | How Green Was My Valley | American Beauty | West Side Story | The Sting | Tom Jones | Dances with Wolves | Going My Way | The Hurt Locker | The Life of Emile Zola | Slumdog Millionaire | The Deer Hunter | Around the World in 80 Days  | Chariots of Fire | Mutiny on the Bounty | Argo | From Here to Eternity | Ordinary People | The Lost Weekend

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.

Worst Best Picture: Is From Here to Eternity Better or Worse Than Crash?

image source: complex

image source: complex

Alex Russell

In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. Posts will be relatively spoiler free, but there may be some details revealed. Today’s installment is the 1953 winner From Here to Eternity. Is it better than Crash?

From Here to Eternity is about the big things that happen to us when we’re obsessed with our own lives. It’s a war movie, to a degree, but it’s mostly about how people can ignore a war. The entire film takes place in the few months just before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Much has been said about that time, but the most fascinating part of this movie is that it never comes up at all. People go about their lives and try to do their best in the military, but there are no foreboding scenes about “what might happen” or the upcoming events. It’s dramatic irony at its best: we know that none of these problems matter because all of these people are about to die, but they care because that’s what people do.

It would be possible for that to diminish the film, but it doesn’t. The performances are so tight that it’s easy to forget that the time and the setting mean that you already know everyone here is doomed. Whether you can look past that or not will determine how much you enjoy the film’s narrative, but you can’t ignore the greatness. It’s an enormous achievement, even if it’s not one that comes up on the list of “greats” as often as other Best Pictures.

Everyone is entangled, which helps to distract from the unstoppable reality of World War II. Private “Prew” Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) joins up with the other enlisted men on Oahu and does not want to continue his famed boxing career. His superiors demand that he does, and the struggle of violence vs. non-violence is on. There’s a quiet symbolism here, and Clift’s character definitely speaks to an America that was strong enough to engage with anyone, but would rather not utilize that strength, if possible. When the company’s Captain Dana Holmes (Philip Ober) threatens an extreme punishment, his second-in-command Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster, who is outstanding even among so many great performances) offers that they should merely try to break his spirit rather than court-martial him.

Thus the stage is set. People continually try to push Prewitt into fighting, but he won’t strike back. The last time he boxed he blinded a man, and now he’s hung up his gloves for good. The metaphor might sound a little strong in this description, but it’s subtle in the film. Prewitt would rather endure a difficult life than use his strength to hurt a man, but he’s forced into action when his best friend Angelo Maggio (Frank Sinatra, who won an Oscar himself for what should feel like a weirder role than it does) is brutalized by a superior. Prewitt has to find a way to balance his principles with protecting his friend, and the twain shall never meet.

There are also two beautifully drawn love stories: Prewitt meets a working girl (Donna Reed, who also won an Oscar for her role) in a gentleman’s club and struggles to begin a relationship with her and Warden starts a full-on criminal affair with his superior’s wife (Deborah Kerr) that has its own issues. Both relationships are honest in a nontraditional way, and they have a sense of reality that a lot of movie romances don’t have. They also both are doomed by circumstance as much as by World War II, which plays again into the main idea here: the things you’re working so hard to control might be out of your hands.

Then, as in all war movies, the war comes. You know it’s coming, but no one else does, and neither you or the cast will be ready for it when it happens.

The Best Part: Sinatra’s sad, defeated Maggio is a powerful character, and he’s insanely likable because he’s Sinatra. Lancaster steals the show and his relationship with Deborah Kerr is the iconic part of the movie, but it’s such an odd sensation to watch Frank Sinatra in a movie about Pearl Harbor. Hard to pick between them.

The Worst Part: While it’s important for the narrative that Sinatra and Clift’s characters be ganged up on, some of their antagonists are a little one-note. Ernest Borgnine plays the particularly brutal head of the stockades, and I can’t say I’m a fan of his performance. He’s largely drawn as just “a bully” which seems too simple, based on the motivations around him.

Is It Better or Worse than Crash? It’s a top-10 film on this list of some of the greatest films of all time. It’s a powerful metaphor about strength vs. demonstrated power and war. It’s an amazing achievement featuring some of the greatest actors and actresses of its day. It cannot be recommended highly enough. Don’t see Crash. I was going to make a joke here about a bad scene in Crash, but I couldn’t decide between the extended fart joke subplot or the country music discussion. Pick neither. Watch From Here to Eternity.

Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement | 12 Years a SlaveThe Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty | Gigi | It Happened One Night | Driving Miss Daisy | Shakespeare in Love | Wings | Midnight Cowboy | Rocky | Gone with the Wind | Chicago | Gladiator | Cavalcade | The Greatest Show on Earth | You Can’t Take It With You | The Best Years of Our Lives | The GodfatherCasablancaGrand Hotel | Kramer vs. Kramer | The French Connection | In the Heat of the Night | An American in Paris | Patton | Mrs. Miniver | Amadeus | Crash, Revisited | How Green Was My Valley | American Beauty | West Side Story | The Sting | Tom Jones | Dances with Wolves | Going My Way | The Hurt Locker | The Life of Emile Zola | Slumdog Millionaire | The Deer Hunter | Around the World in 80 Days  | Chariots of Fire | Mutiny on the Bounty | Argo | From Here to Eternity

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.

Worst Best Picture: Is How Green Was My Valley Better or Worse Than Crash?

how green was my valley

Alex Russell

In “Worst Best Picture” we search every single Best Picture Oscar winner of all time from 1927 to present to uncover the worst of them all. Conventional wisdom says that 2005’s winner Crash is the worst winner in history. We won’t stop until we’ve tested every last one. Read the the first, our review of Crash, here. Posts will be relatively spoiler free, but there may be some details revealed. Today’s installment is the 1941 winner How Green Was My Valley. Is it better than Crash?

They aren’t all fun. Hell, most of them aren’t any fun, but How Green Was My Valley is the distinct opposite of “fun.”

You’re forgiven for not knowing anything about it. For years it was just my default guess at bar trivia whenever I had no idea about a movie from the 40s. It is the ur-movie-from-the-40s, really. It’s a sad, voiceover-filled retrospective about a time gone by. There’s really no better way to sum up this subset of Oscar history, so at least that can be said for this one. It’s about mine disasters and the death of the mining economy in Wales in the 19th century. Feelgood story it ain’t.

Through the perspective of young Huw Morgan, we follow the travails of the Morgan family as they are injured, degraded, humiliated, shamed, and abused by the impossible economy of brute force underground in a mine. The light moments are all about how the family came together even in the face of misery and a lack of hope. If I sound like I’m describing something Hard to Watch then I am doing a good job.

How Green Was My Valley exists these days mostly as a good sign of what things were like in film decades and decades ago. The tone is bleak throughout. The narrator gets beat up at school and the solution offered by his family is to reward him for getting hurt fighting. If you need to know how bleak this all is, the “good” solution to “our kid is getting beat up at school” is to send some family members down there to kick his teacher’s ass, which they do in front of the class. The problem is thus solved, we out.

How Green Was My Valley isn’t bad, but it’s a relic. It doesn’t really make sense anymore. It fills you with sadness for a people you can’t help. For an economy that has already bottomed out. In America we bemoan the death of our industrial cities, but How Green Was My Valley will put it in perspective: it has been thus for a long damn time.

The Best Part: Watching the dudes beat up a teacher in a classroom — even though I was very nearly a teacher — is hilarious. We deserve it. But for real, it’s an insane scene. It really deserves to be seen.

The Worst Part: There’s some good stuff in here, but it’s overshadowed by the relentless darkness of it all. At one point the patriarch of the family is challenged for wanting to stand by his ethics of “hard work” in opposition to a strike. There’s a chance to make a statement, but most of the movie is spent on darker, less complicated material.

Is It Better or Worse than Crash? Better, but slower. How Green Was My Valley and Crash are definitely at opposite ends of every spectrum. Crash may be more interesting to a modern viewer — it’s in color — but it’s a dumber message that doesn’t deserve to be listened to. You’re better off slogging through the sad history of Welsh mining, and I realize how insane that sounds. Take that as a slight to Crash and put it on the box: less interesting than the history of mining.

Worst Best Picture Archives: Crash | Terms of Endearment | Forrest Gump | All About Eve | The Apartment | No Country for Old Men | Gentleman’s Agreement | 12 Years a SlaveThe Last Emperor | The Silence of the Lambs | The Artist | A Man for All Seasons | Platoon | The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King | The King’s Speech | Rain Man | The Departed | The Bridge on the River Kwai | Marty | Gigi | It Happened One Night | Driving Miss Daisy | Shakespeare in Love | Wings | Midnight Cowboy | Rocky | Gone with the Wind | Chicago | Gladiator | Cavalcade | The Greatest Show on Earth | You Can’t Take It With You | The Best Years of Our Lives | The GodfatherCasablancaGrand Hotel | Kramer vs. Kramer | The French Connection | In the Heat of the Night | An American in Paris | Patton | Mrs. Miniver | Amadeus | Crash, Revisited | How Green Was My Valley

Alex Russell lives in Chicago and is set in his ways. Disagree with him about anything at readingatrecess@gmail.com or on Twitter at @alexbad.