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West Side Story (2020)

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jake Lipson, Jan 19, 2018.

  1. Chelsearicky

    Chelsearicky Agent

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    I didn’t mean this as a personal accusation; it’s just that this issue always plays out the same way when ‘WSS’ casting is discussed.
     
  2. StrongRex

    StrongRex Extra

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    To me, it's just called being an actor.
     
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  3. Message #543 of 566 Aug 29, 2019
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
    Cineman

    Cineman Second Unit

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    I think your assessment of the problems with the original stage show and how it was made so much better in the original movie are right on with the possible exception of the placement of "Gee, Officer Krupke" later in the show. No doubt about it, that song logically works better where it was placed in the movie. But I can't say Prince, Laurents, Bernstein, Sondeim, et al, "made a mistake" by putting it where it was in the stage version. They were faced with a dilemma regarding a live stage show that doesn't usually apply to a movie; they needed something with pop and energy, even a bit of humor in the latter third of the show to keep the live audience from squirming through such a depressing, downer mood for quite so long and all the way to the final curtain.

    This is something that, for whatever reason, does not apply to a movie-going experience nearly as much as it does to a live show experience. As an aside, I have always thought the reason we are willing to sustain and endure a more prolonged downer of a mood in a movie that we are not so willing to accept and endure in a live show is because of the addition of almost ever-present, incidental, background soundtrack "mood" music in a movie to accompany and carry us through the experience, which is generally not the case in a live show.
     
  4. Message #544 of 566 Sep 1, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    StrongRex

    StrongRex Extra

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    That's interesting, because that part of my assessment is what I feel strongest about. With "Cool" taking place before the war council, I can at least forgive it because it's not completely illogical - the worst I can say about it is that the song's atmosphere is just way too extreme for this scene and Riff is overreacting to Action and the Jets being pumped about the upcoming fight with the Sharks.

    But with "Gee, Officer Krupke," it doesn't belong after the rumble. At all. Riff is dead. Bernardo is dead. Tony committed murder. Both the Jets and the Sharks took part in the scene that led up to that murder. They're all in big trouble. Now is not the time or place for humor or lightheartedness of any kind, even sarcastic, angry humor.

    Action would also never take control of the situation the way Ice did.

    They did make a mistake. I've known for a long time that even great artists can be wrong about their work, but Laurents and Bernstein were stubborn to a fault about this issue, as far as what I've been told about them. And as far as I know, they held on to this position to their graves.

    Also, I'm pretty sure Prince wasn't involved in the making of West Side Story.

    Yeah, I have something to say about that too. I read this tidbit in the IMDb trivia of West Side Story:

    "Robert Wise wanted the film to have a single rising line of tension, with no light moments after the rumble. Therefore, "I Feel Pretty" was moved earlier, and the positions of "Cool" and "Gee, Officer Krupke" were reversed. Those who feel that the sassy, lighthearted tone of "Gee, Officer Krupke" is out of place following the deaths that end the first act prefer the film's ordering of the numbers. The placement of "I Feel Pretty" and "Gee, Officer Krupke" after the rumble in the stage version was meant to help cheer people up after the deaths of Bernardo and Riff, as audiences were not used to death occurring in Broadway musicals. This issue is still heatedly debated among the film's fans. Stephen Sondheim himself had voiced concerns about the issue in the original production, and later confessed he felt partly responsible for the ongoing debate."

    My response - tragic deaths in stage shows of any kind have been going on for thousands of years. They go all the way back to ancient Greece. Plays, operas, ballets, you name it had them. Shakespeare alone was notorious for having multiple characters die off throughout his tragedies (and hello, this musical is an adaptation of a famous Shakespeare play!). So I don't buy it for a second that audiences "weren't used" to deaths on Broadway - it's happened before I'm sure, and they've seen deaths in stage productions other than Broadway and in movies. And even if that was true, I care more about the story and characters making sense than the audience's fragile feelings. Also, it's much more powerful this way, the show stands out a whole lot better, and the message really gets across. The message gets watered down if the writers don't take the show seriously and trade a powerful message in for lighthearted humor that ultimately doesn't matter or lead to anything.

    And if audiences can't handle that, then maybe they shouldn't be near theatre. Why would they go see a Shakespeare tragedy where characters die throughout the show and not a musical where a few die in the second half and consequences arise because of it? Besides, I'm not even sure that's true - I would argue that if West Side Story onstage had been written just like the movie, with the Somewhere ballet still intact, it would have run even longer on Broadway. With only 732 performances, it's not even close to being in the top 120 longest running Broadway shows, which is a real tragedy because the movie is an absolute masterpiece!

    I did hear that Sondheim had reservations about the placement of those two numbers in the stage show, but now he regrets saying something about it?

    Give me a break, Sondheim. It's not my problem if you're not assertive enough to stand by your concerns.

    All I can say is this - Robert Wise, you made the right call.

    To me, there is no difference between storytelling in a movie or stage show, only limitations on what you can do in either. Background soundtrack mood music has nothing to do with it for me. The story would make sense (or not) with or without it.
     
  5. Wayne_j

    Wayne_j Cinematographer

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    Harold Prince was co producer for West Side Story.
     
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  6. StrongRex

    StrongRex Extra

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    I stand corrected.
     
  7. Message #547 of 566 Sep 2, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
    Cineman

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    For me, of the many classic, superlative elements of the original West Side Story movie, the most important, the most beautiful and most memorable is the music and orchestrations. What Leonard Bernstein, Irwin Kostal, Saul Chaplin, Johnny Green, Sid Ramin, Richard Carruth as well as each and every musician involved in the movie soundtrack produced is absolutely transcendent. I might notice places where a minor detail here and there could have been changed or improved upon ever so slightly elsewhere in the original movie. But not those musical sounds entering my ears, brain, heart and soul for all time.

    Not to exclude Sondeim's contributions to the emotional effect by any means. Or the vocals. I am only pointing to the one element where, if the remake falls short in any way, I will feel the effort diminished the potential impact of a great work of art as we now know it could have been done instead.
     
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  8. MartinP.

    MartinP. Supporting Actor

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    It's not quite the same issue. Blackface was meant to portray caricatures of black people and the face was usually the only thing made up. Natalie was meant to be a Latina character in whole and not a caricature.

    It's the fact blackface was used by whites to caricaturize blacks that is the more problematic notion. Just as gay men are/were often caricaturized as nelly, lisping, limp-wristed and non-manly. It's the stereotyping that's problematic.

    But, yes, in 2019 these are problematic decisions.

    I don't think it's inappropriate at all. I find it quite compelling watching the girls optimism while the audience knows what's happened. It's like watching a Titanic film and knowing what's going to happen to those people. It makes you feel even more empathy for the plight of these characters and the situations they're coping with. I think it's quite effective.

    Well, to quote your post above:

     
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  9. Message #549 of 566 Sep 5, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
    StrongRex

    StrongRex Extra

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    I will admit I don't feel as strongly about this as I do Cool and Gee, Officer Krupke because you really can't blame Maria for not knowing the truth yet. If Cool and Gee, Officer Krupke were in their proper places but I Feel Pretty was still after the rumble, it wouldn't bother me as much. But I still consider it to be the right move to place the number in the bridal shop before the rumble simply because I agree with Robert Wise's decision to have a single line of rising tension throughout the show, with no light moments after the rumble whatsoever.

    I wouldn't say I Feel Pretty is one of my favorite songs from WSS, but I definitely enjoy listening to it in the movie and in my car when it pops up in my playlist. I wouldn't enjoy it as much in the stage show simply because too much is at stake. In the bridal shop, you can relax a little and enjoy the song more plus it's a point of character development for Maria. It's a much more appropriate atmosphere because we know Maria is in love with Tony and we get to see her friends react to her suddenly showing feelings of being lovestruck. Not to mention the bridal shop couldn't be a more perfect setting to have that song performed in, with all the flowers and pretty dresses hanging around and with Maria trying on different ones - another wasted opportunity by the writers of the show! After the rumble, it's kind of already too late to have that kind of song and we just want to keep things moving.

    I also have to say that it works better for the structure of Act I and Act II. If you have Act I end with Tony killing Bernardo at the rumble, it makes it too long and Act II too short. Plus, I'm pretty sure Tony is still in his dancing attire when he cleans up Doc's store during the war council, so if I Feel Pretty is not in the next scene during the bridal shop, that's one very fast costume change Tony will have to do! He won't have very much time between his conversation with Doc and when he's supposed to pop in to see Maria.

    If Act I ends with Doc saying "I'm frightened enough for the both of you", that's a perfect amount of foreshadowing to leave the audience uneasy enough to know the possibility that things won't turn out well for our two lovers, but hoping that they might anyway. If Act I ends with the rumble and Riff and Bernardo dead, the entire mystery and most of the suspense is gone - you know that it's all going to go downhill from there, there's no coming back, and that's not a good cliffhanger. You can pretty much guess what will happen after that if you've never seen WSS before. The way the movie writers handled it showed they had a much better understanding of how good cliffhangers work, unless you just keep watching the movie without taking a break, of course. (Plus it gives Tony more than enough time to change his costume for Act II when he's next seen in the bridal shop.)

    In that quote, I was referring to the claims that having Gee, Officer Krupke after the rumble works because "it cheers up the audience" or that it shows the audience that "there's still more fun to be had". And I believe that's wrong because it doesn't work in terms of story. My point was if audiences prefer humor and light moments to good storytelling and can't handle the rough parts then they shouldn't be near theater and I stand by that statement, because theater (and movies) are full of tragic and dark subjects depending on where you go. Also, different audiences prefer different things - Bernstein, Laurents, and Sondheim should have kept that in mind. It sounded like they didn't know who they wanted their audience to be if they had that kind of concern.

    There's tension that drives the story and moves it forward, and there's tension that's there for the sake of having more tension. The case with "I Feel Pretty" being after the rumble falls into the latter category, especially because in the way it's written in the stage show, it brings the story to a screeching halt (Gee, Officer Krupke even more so) and delays the inevitable. I never said tension had to be in all situations, so you misapplied my quote.
     
  10. MartinP.

    MartinP. Supporting Actor

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    I don't consider the song being placed after the rumble make it a light moment. It is for her, but not the audience, which makes it extremely effective, IMO. I also don't feel it brings the story to a screeching halt. However, besides that, I have no problem with it in the movie, nor do I have a problem with the play as staged. They're just different and I like both of them. I don't feel a need to elevate one over the other.
     
  11. StrongRex

    StrongRex Extra

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    It's a light moment considering how upbeat the melody and Maria's mood is during the scene.

    To each their own. But if I had it my way, both the stage version and the movie would have this number as it is in the movie, for the reasons I listed.
     
  12. MartinP.

    MartinP. Supporting Actor

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    Yes, it's contrapuntal.
     
  13. usrunnr

    usrunnr Writer

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    With Rita Moreno playing the Store Owner, I'd like to see her husband next to her --- played by George Chakiris
     
  14. PMF

    PMF Producer

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    Personally, I felt that King King became a much better film when they re-wrote it as King Kong.;)
     
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  15. Tino

    Tino Executive Producer
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    Ha. I agree. ;)

    Amusing tho that my original question was never answered.
     
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  16. Message #556 of 566 Sep 17, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2019
    Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    The Moderator Staff has removed some posts. This discussion has gone off the tracks. Let's stop with the ethnicity comments regarding what color, people of Spanish descent are and re-focus our attention back to this upcoming movie. If anybody ignores this warning then they'll be banned from this thread as this isn't up for any type of debate as the staff isn't in the mood to discuss it any further.
     
  17. SamT

    SamT Producer

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    [​IMG]

    IT'S A WRAP!

    20th Century Fox has revealed that production has officially wrapped on director Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story remake.
     
  18. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Director

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    Spielberg's letter:
    WestSideStory_2020_003.
    The Jets and the Sharks (click to enlarge):
    WestSideStory_2020_004.

    Rita Moreno in costume on set (click to enlarge):
    WestSideStory_2020_005.
     
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  19. benbess

    benbess Producer

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    A wonderful letter by one of the greatest directors of all time.
     
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  20. Jake Lipson

    Jake Lipson Lead Actor

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    I do think it's weird that he used the phrase "without precedence," since, really, it does have a precedent in the previous film. I get that he was trying to be complimentary and was, but his word choice there was a little odd considering it is a remake.
     

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