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A Re-make of the 1961 film West Side Story--Opinions of a Nay-Sayer:

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West Side Story is a beautiful classic movie-musical, hands down.  The people who said that there would never, ever be another film like it when it first came out were right on their money.   Having said that, I firmly believe that West Side Story is a classic that should never, ever be re-made, for the following reasons:

A)  One of the beautiful things about West Side Story, as a film, is the fact that there's no explicitly sexual or overly graphic  or steamy romance scenes in it.  Had West Side Story come out afew years later, or if and when a re-make of this film does occur, the romance scenes, especially between  Tony and Maria, as well as Anita and Bernardo, would be a great deal steamier, more graphic and more explicitly sexual.  

B   The police in many places here in the United States have become much more militarized, much harsher in their ways of treating miscreants, delinquents or criminals, especially if they're on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, or people of color, and in a re-make of the film  West Side Story, Lt. Schrank and Officer Krupke would become even meaner, more militant and rougher in their treatment of the newly-arrived Puerto Rican Sharks and the White European Ethnic American Jets (but especially Bernardo and the Sharks and their girls), and the language that the police used would be "bluer" and much harsher and more threatening.

C)  The skirmishes on the playground, as well as the Rumble (especially the Rumble) would be more graphic and bloodier, especially because guns, especially automatic assault weapons, would be used, and the insults between the Jets and Sharks would be even harsher, and more people would be killed, plus the deaths of Riff, Bernardo and Tony would be much, much bloodier.

D)   In the 1961 film version of West Side Story, and in West Side Story as a musical, generally, there was a much more balanced point of view;  both the Jets and the Sharks were at fault for all their hatred of and feuding with each other.  With a re-make of West Side Story, there would be too much of a good guys vs. bad guys atmosphere;  The Jets and their girls would be considered the bad guys, and the Sharks and their girls would be considered the good guys, if one gets the drift.  

E)  When Rita Moreno spoke about the upcoming re-make of the film West Side Story, she was predicting that a re-make of this film would be very different, and that the musical score would be either hip-hop or rap.  That, imho, would help destroy what's really great about this film, as would the re-make of the dancing, which would undoubtedly be much more frenzied and overly filled with emotion.

F)   The Sharks and their girls would undoubtedly be conversing with each other and singing in Spanish, which is an interesting idea on the face of it, but, it did not work when it was applied to the more up-to-date Broadway stage revival of West Side Story.  It did, in affect, mess with a classic.  I think the same would happen in a re-make of the film version of West Side Story.

G)   In the more up-to-date Broadway stage revival of West Side Story, certain very integral and vital aspects of the story behind West Side Story, such as the Jet gang whistles, the finger-snapping, and the message of reconciliation between the Jets and Sharks at the end of West Side Story were all taken out of it, which, imho, detracted from the story itself, by taking these very important parts out of this Broadway stage revival of a great musical.  I believe that this could very well happen in a re-make of the film West Side Story.  

H)   The Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the story of West Side Story was originally set, and, originally filmed in many areas, is no longer the poor, run-down and somewhat rough area of NYC that it was at the time.  Lincoln Center now stands in the area where West Side Story was filmed, and much of NYC's Upper West Side is  now quite gentrified.  It would be extremely difficult to re-create this classic film for this reason, as well.

I)   West Side Story, as a movie, won ten well-earned Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in late October of 1961, when it was first released into the movie theatres.  It makes no sense to re-make a classic that won so many awards.  

J)   Hollywood, unfortunately, has run out of creative ideas, which is why there are so many re-makes and sequels taking place.  With rare exceptions, re-makes of classic films often come out rather badly.  Witness the re-makes of both Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", and the 1968 film, "Planet of the Apes", as well as the  two 1970's re-makes of the 1933 film "King Kong".  These re-makes of good, classic films all went over like lead balloons, and with ample reasons.  It's extremely difficult and awkward to re-set the times that are now so far out of our reach.  There's something quite dreadful about trying to re-make films that were made during certain older times, or whose stories were set in older times;  Quite often, it doesn't work very well.  These re-makes were absolutely no exception, and I see no reason to believe that West Side Story, if and when it gets re-made, will come out any better.  The fact that these are all older movies are what makes them so special, and there's no reason to destroy what's great about them by attempting to update them.  West Side Story is no exception, imho.

K)   What seems to sell these days in the way of movies, especially to today's younger generation, are movies where there's constant exploding of things on the screen, and more graphic and explicit sexual scenes, and almost constant "blue" language.  I'm admittedly no stranger to "blue" language myself, but it would be totally inappropriate and out of line in a film such as West Side Story.

L)   A number of advocates of a re-make of the 1961 film version of West Side Story believe that it would be more accessible to younger viewers, in their teens and 20's.  I disagree with that assumption.  Imho, the best way to introduce today's younger generation(s) to this great, golden oldie-but-keeper of a classic movie-musical is to have more national re-releases of the original 1961 film version of West Side Story into selected movie theatres, nationwide, as they're having later this month.  

M)  There are a number of people who feel that the original 1961 film version of West Side Story is racist.  I also disagree with this particular assumption.  On the contrary, West Side Story, both as a film and a stage play, has one of the most, if not the most anti-racist messages of any films, particularly films coming out nowadays.

N)  To re-make the film West Side Story would be to turn it into a piece of junk, which destroys everything great about it, and contains a hip-hop or rap musical score of the original score, to make it more graphic and explicitly sexual, and even bloodier, with even more killings at the Rumble, much "bluer" language on the part of the police and on the part of the Jets and Sharks, and a more aggravated, hostile and angry "Doc", the Candy Store owner.  

O)  Some people that I've talked to believe that a re-make of the 1961 film version of West Side Story would make many more people of all ages curious about the original 1961 film and be even more interested in seeing it.  I'm not sure I agree with that, however.  I can't help but have the feeling that, with the exception of availability on TV and/or DVD-Blue-Ray, that the original 1961 film West Side Story would only be available on TV, and no longer be played in movie theatres, at all.  As a devout fan of the original 1961 film version of West Side Story, I would genuinely hate to see that happen!

 

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"Would be"..."would be"..."would undoubtedly be"....You seem awfully certain about something that hasn't even happened yet. Have you talked to Steven Spielberg or Tony Kushner, the multiple award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has collaborated twice already with Spielberg on Munich and Lincoln? I respect your love of the 1961 version and that you took up so much space (A-O) to defend it, but I'd be much more interested in hearing your opinion after this has become a reality. You haven't convinced me that Spielberg is bent on saturating this project with "blue" language, ultra violence and assault weapons. If the material is as great as you say it is (and I agree with you), it could (and I'm not saying "would") survive reinterpretation, just as many of the great operas have survived (and profited by) reinterpretation over the years. Forgive me, but I'm old enough to have seen this movie in its original release and I can tell you for a fact that there were people at the time who questioned the 1961 version's relevance and believability in terms of the social issues it addressed. Rather than see the earlier version set in stone as the only way to view this material, I'd be curious to see what a more modern perspective might (again, not "would") bring to it. You'll always have the 1961 version you and so many others so rightly treasure, but please try to keep an open mind about this new project. I admire your passion but I reject your assertion that a remake would automatically be a "piece of junk".

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Just about every remake that non-creative Hollywood does today is terrible.   A Star is Born was great and when Streisand did it, it was garbage.  So was The Wiz....a horror of a film.  Remakes should be done of lesser known films that have a strong story line, not because they were great films.  They don't need to be redone.  That is pandering to the less sophisticated tastes of today's audiences.

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I'm not someone who's automatically drawn to remakes, but I don't automatically condemn them either.  What I don't buy into is the idea of a "non-creative Hollywood" and the "less sophisticated tastes of today's audiences". I'm happy to agree that the two examples you gave of A Star is Born and The Wiz (which was a film version of a Broadway musical, not a remake of anything) weren't very good, but I get impatient with the broad leap to a claim that just about every remake today is "terrible". Using words like "garbage" without supporting them with anything other than attitude doesn't help your case. I'm sure you're aware that the 1954 A Star is Born was itself a remake of an earlier film (1937), which was substantially based on an even earlier film, What Price Hollywood? Should none of them been made after the first one, in your opinion? That would leave poor Judy Garland out in the cold and an Oscar nomination short. Jane Austen's legacy doesn't rest on film versions of her work, but my personal feeling is that our understanding of her power as a storyteller wouldn't be as sharp as it is if we only had Greer Garson's Elizabeth Bennett to look back on. I stand by my previous claim that good material can support reinterpretation. Last year PBS broadcast a British restaging of Gypsy with Imelda Staunton in the lead. It was a stunning production and a performance which didn't shy away from the meanness of the character and didn't gloss over the mini-breakdown in the midst of "Rose's Turn" the way some other versions have. Material like that survives because new eyes are essential to longevity. I'm perfectly happy to wait and see what new eyes could bring to a reinterpretation of West Side Story, particularly when those eyes belong to Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg. If you choose to see it as "pandering" before a second of the movie has been shot, that's on you, just as miki's claim that it will be a "piece of junk" is on miki. (Do you two know each other, by the way?)

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This is a terrible idea and really do not understand why they remaking a perfect movie- yes the political correct would like to see a more realistic portrayal specially with a Latino cast- but from Steven Spielberg? If he wants to do a musical why not adapt something new.  The creators estate will no allow any production that changes the music and seriously is anyone alive today who can top Bernstein and Sondhein?

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I seem to have become the voice of opposition in this thread, which I never intended to happen, so this will probably be the last I have to say. 

I don't think Spielberg wants to make a musical; I think he wants to make this musical. If he can and has secured the rights, I don't think political correctness or the 1961 version's stature or anything else should be a factor in whether or not he goes ahead. If he and Kushner aren't up to the task, the marketplace will reject this big-time and all the dire warnings here will be validated. As for a more realistic portrayal of Latino characters, I'm sure there are many qualified actors who are currently in a great state of excitement at the prospect of working on this. I'm not a diehard Spielberg fan myself, but I am a diehard Kushner fan and it's primarily his connection to this project which excites me. He's demonstrated that he can develop and shape stories with important themes and I'm more than curious to see his vision for such an iconic story. 

What's primarily motivated me to defend this project is the meanness of some of the rhetoric ("garbage", "piece of junk", etc.) and the unwarranted assumptions about it (assault weapons, mass carnage, etc.). Otherwise, I would have simply read the thread with interest and moved on, but absurdities such as those compelled me to comment.

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I stand by everything I've said here, DougieB.  I'm still of the opinion that some classics really  should not be touched, and West Side Story is most definitely one of them.  Tony Kushner, to me, is a bit too "I'm holier than thou" for my liking, as well.

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Anyone who knows the history of film knows about the many versions of "A Star is Born."  We are not saying the Judy Garland version should not have been made.  The first three are very different..."What Price Hollywood,"  "A Star is Born" with Gaynor and March, and then the one with Garland and Mason.  All very different pictures.  "Sabrina" was another example of a film which should have not been remade as are many many others.  It seems that in the 1970s the ability to make great musicals which entertained with the amazing talents, many of whom came out of vaudeville...such as Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Astaire and others, were no longer utilized nor were there the great composers, writers, etc. to be part of the great musical units that once existed at the studios.

The best films were made once upon a time as were the great songs, by the greatest composers and lyricists.  

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On 7/4/2018 at 5:12 AM, DougieB said:

I seem to have become the voice of opposition in this thread, which I never intended to happen, so this will probably be the last I have to say. 

I don't think Spielberg wants to make a musical; I think he wants to make this musical. If he can and has secured the rights, I don't think political correctness or the 1961 version's stature or anything else should be a factor in whether or not he goes ahead. If he and Kushner aren't up to the task, the marketplace will reject this big-time and all the dire warnings here will be validated. As for a more realistic portrayal of Latino characters, I'm sure there are many qualified actors who are currently in a great state of excitement at the prospect of working on this. I'm not a diehard Spielberg fan myself, but I am a diehard Kushner fan and it's primarily his connection to this project which excites me. He's demonstrated that he can develop and shape stories with important themes and I'm more than curious to see his vision for such an iconic story. 

What's primarily motivated me to defend this project is the meanness of some of the rhetoric ("garbage", "piece of junk", etc.) and the unwarranted assumptions about it (assault weapons, mass carnage, etc.). Otherwise, I would have simply read the thread with interest and moved on, but absurdities such as those compelled me to comment.

I'm with you on this, Dougie. As you said the remake hasn't even been made or released yet. So it is very premature to get into a stir and assume the worst.

Also I don't agree with the OP who seems to think a remake touches or tarnishes the original. Nope. The original stands as it is. Nothing can touch it. But a remake can be equally great in its own way.

Can you imagine if someone said nobody could ever make a new version of Romeo & Juliet? As we know WEST SIDE STORY (1961) was a musicalized remake of Shakespeare's great play, which itself was a remake of the Pyramus & Thisbe story in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

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53 minutes ago, AstaireCat said:

Anyone who knows the history of film knows about the many versions of "A Star is Born."  We are not saying the Judy Garland version should not have been made.  The first three are very different..."What Price Hollywood,"  "A Star is Born" with Gaynor and March, and then the one with Garland and Mason.  All very different pictures.  "Sabrina" was another example of a film which should have not been remade as are many many others.  It seems that in the 1970s the ability to make great musicals which entertained with the amazing talents, many of whom came out of vaudeville...such as Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Astaire and others, were no longer utilized nor were there the great composers, writers, etc. to be part of the great musical units that once existed at the studios.

The best films were made once upon a time as were the great songs, by the greatest composers and lyricists.  

You still provide no valid or sound reasoning for why a film shouldn't be 'remade'.  (I don't even like using the term since to me each film is a 'new' adaptation of the original source material (book,  play, original short story).

You listing many amazing talents (I also love those actors),  many who have been dead for decades,  is in fact a reason to make a new adaptation since these actors are no longer making any films.

If the original source material is solid I see no reason why a new generation of producers, actors,  directors, etc.. shouldn't make their film version.     In addition Hollywood has been making what you call 'remakes' since the beginning of movie making.

Note that 'but the new film will NOT be better than the original' isn't a reason and remakes bring attention to prior 'versions' which is only a good thing.

 

  

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4 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

You still provide no valid or sound reasoning for why a film shouldn't be 'remade'.  (I don't even like using the term since to me each film is a 'new' adaptation of the original source material (book,  play, original short story).

You listing many amazing talents (I also love those actors),  many who have been dead for decades,  is in fact a reason to make a new adaptation since these actors are no longer making any films.

If the original source material is solid I see no reason why a new generation of producers, actors,  directors, etc.. shouldn't make their film version.     In addition Hollywood has been making what you call 'remakes' since the beginning of movie making.

Note that 'but the new film will NOT be better than the original' isn't a reason and remakes bring attention to prior 'versions' which is only a good thing.

Sometimes I think fans of the originals are afraid the remakes will outshine them. So they have to go out of their way to trash the remake, in this case, before it's even been produced. What's wrong with having two or three great versions of the same story? 

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Sometimes I think fans of the originals are afraid the remakes will outshine them. So they have to go out of their way to trash the remake, in this case, before it's even been produced. What's wrong with having two or three great versions of the same story? 

To me the key point you make is 'same story'.   As you know that is NOT the same as 'same film'.   This is another area the anti-'remake' folks fail to understand.    Like I said if the story is solid, people should be open to a new generation doing their version of said story.   

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12 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

To me the key point you make is 'same story'.   As you know that is NOT the same as 'same film'.   This is another area the anti-'remake' folks fail to understand.    Like I said if the story is solid, people should be open to a new generation doing their version of said story.   

Right. Same story not same film. Even the same director redoing the same story (like Howard Hawks remaking RIO BRAVO) does not get the same result each time. 

Now if the remake is not good, THEN it deserves to be derided. But if the remake is good in its own unique way, then it deserves to be lauded.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Right. Same story not same film. Even the same director redoing the same story (like Howard Hawks remaking RIO BRAVO) does not get the same result each time. 

Now if the remake is not good, THEN it deserves to be derided. But if the remake is good in its own unique way, then it deserves to be lauded.

Exactly. Like Hitchcock's two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much. Different films, but both of interest in their own ways.

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On 7/6/2018 at 8:58 PM, jamesjazzguitar said:

To me the key point you make is 'same story'.   As you know that is NOT the same as 'same film'.   This is another area the anti-'remake' folks fail to understand.    Like I said if the story is solid, people should be open to a new generation doing their version of said story.   

Why?  Neither our generation or generations before us demanded that classic films that previous generations have always enjoyed be re-made to fit our demands.  it's one thing for younger generations not to want to follow the previous generations' opinions, but they should also have some respect for what's already there, and not demand that it be totally re-tailored to their liking.  

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7 hours ago, miki said:

Why?  Neither our generation or generations before us demanded that classic films that previous generations have always enjoyed be re-made to fit our demands.  it's one thing for younger generations not to want to follow the previous generations' opinions, but they should also have some respect for what's already there, and not demand that it be totally re-tailored to their liking.  

Movies are a business. If the studios can make money by re-tailoring stories for a new audience, they will do it as long as it remains profitable. You can't dictate to a studio what they can or cannot do with stories they own.

There is no generation war going on with remakes, so I don't know why you're trying to turn it into that. It's strictly business. And I still don't see what's so wrong about a new generation putting their own spin on a classic. It's not like the original film has been destroyed and cannot be seen by people who still prefer it.

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10 hours ago, miki said:

Why?  Neither our generation or generations before us demanded that classic films that previous generations have always enjoyed be re-made to fit our demands.  it's one thing for younger generations not to want to follow the previous generations' opinions, but they should also have some respect for what's already there, and not demand that it be totally re-tailored to their liking.  

Talking source material (a book, play,  original story),  and making a movie from it is showing respect for that material.    I.e. producers feel the material is so good they wish to spend money to make a movie based on it.  THAT is showing respect.

You imply that by reusing source material to make a movie that was already made into a movie is showing a LACK of respect.    This is where we have a 180 degree difference in opinion.    To me that is showing respect.

AGAIN,   one is NOT re-tailoring the prior film version, one is re-tailoring the original source material.   Note that this is the same thing that was done with the original movie;  ALL movies are re-tailoring of the original source material (because film is a different art form then a book, play or short story). 

E.g.  The movie version of West Side Story that we both love so much is a re-tailoring of the play.    

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