This was a nice surprise! Just as I began discussions about doing a special presentation for the Smithsonian Associates on West Side Story to coincide with the movie’s release (or maybe the Broadway revival’s opening this summer, mplo issued this timely Comment of the Day on a year old post, “The Hypocrisy Of Politically Correct Casting Mandates: Spielberg’s “West Side Story” Virtue-Signaling Debunked.”
Here it is; I’ll have one comment at the end:
In my opinion, it would’ve been better if Spielberg had just left the original 1961 film version of West Side Story alone and created his own film with a similar theme, an homage to WSS, instead of trying to update and remake it.
I have seen pictures of the cast, examples of Justin Peck’s choreography of the dancing, and the scenery settings, and how colorful they all are. I don’t like what I’ve seen, at all.The backdrop scenes look far more like wealthier, tonier parts of the city, as opposed to the impoverished, rough-and-rundown parts of the city that served as a backdrop in the original. The colors are too jarring.
The Jets, the Sharks and their girls in Spielberg’s reboot/remake of the film “West Side Story” look far more like wealthy suburban prep-school kids who are dressed to the nines for partying all over town than two street gangs who are at war with each other. The Jets, the Sharks and their girls in the original 1961 film version of “West Side Story” look way rougher and tougher than the ones in Spielberg’s movie.
Justin Peck’s choreography looks too hyper, and more like hip-hop or rap dancing. I’ve seen pictures of that. Simon Oakland’s Lt. Schrank, William Bramley’s Officer Krupke, and the late Ned Glass’s Candy Store owner, Doc, also look rougher than Spielberg’s Lt. Schrank, Officer Krupke and “Doc,’ who has been given a sex change in the new script. [JAM: This was a gimmick to get Rita Moreno, the original film Anita, into the movie]
The idea of having Doc replaced by Valentina is ridiculous. Rita Moreno looks quite awful in the photos. [JAM: To be fair, she is 88 years old, even older than Joe Biden] When she played Anita in the original 1961 film version of “West Side Story”, that really suited her and the role. She played the role with sheer determination and grit (she practiced and practiced for the part before her audition ), and had the personality, exuberance, energy, charm, looks and dancing skills to carry it off.
Remakes of classic films generally come out rather dreadful anyway.I don’t see Spielberg’s attempt being an exception.
One of the things that made the original 1961 film version of “West Side Story” so great is the fact that it was preserved as a larger than life-size piece of theater transferred from stage to screen. Another highlight of the original 1961 film version is that there were no good guys or bad guys in the movie. Both sides bore responsibility for the feuding, hatred and violence,as well as the fact that lives were lost on both sides.
I know that much of the excitement over the upcoming remake is because Steven Spielberg is directing it. Sure, he’s a good director, and he’s done some great films, and he busted his hump for 15 years in order to obtain the rights to the film, but that doesn’t make this a wise project to undertake.
Having said all of the above(I mentioned this in another comment, but it bears repeating), I plan on voting my pocketbook and boycotting Spielberg’s remake. I won’t be going to see it when it hits the movie theaters around Christmastime this year.
I was disappointed in Spielberg for taking on this project. In 2012. when he was asked to direct the misbegotten remake of “The Ten Commandments” he initially agreed, then pulled out, saying, in essence, that it was foolish to try to improve on a film that was done perfectly the first time. He agreed that technology would allow better special effects, but said that nothing he could do to part the Red Sea would have a fraction of the impact on audiences that Cecil B. DeMille’s depiction had on audiences of the day. Spielberg also said that it was folly to try to out-DeMille DeMille on his own territory, and perhaps disrespectful to try. The director learned from masters like Hawks, Hitchcock, Ford, Capra and DeMille, and he felt it was hubris to presume to improve on them.
Why would Spielberg treat “West Side Story” any differently? The 1961 film won a record (for a musical) ten Academy Awards. I wonder if he has insufficient understanding of the genre. If so, he’s riding for hard, hard fall. I find myself thinking about Richard Attenborough’s unwatchable film version of “A Chorus Line,” or the dreadful movie of Lerner and Lowe’s “Paint Your Wagon” that was adapted by brilliant playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (“Network”) who had apparently never seen a musical, much less adapted one.
Spielberg thinks he can do anything, but he’s failed before when he got outside his admittedly broad range. His big budget WWII screwball comedy “1941” is spectacular in many ways; Stanley Kubrick told Spielberg that the film was great, but not funny, as if a un unfunny comedy could be great.
I won’t boycott Spielberg’s “West Side Story,” because I’ve followed his career and seen all of his movies. He’s also remade a classic successfully, with “War of the Worlds.” That was a genre he knew well, though: science fiction. Like mplo, I wish Spielberg had left “West Side Story” alone.