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phillyfilmbuff

A West Side Story remake?!!

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I was just told by a friend (another film buff with connections) that -

Are you sitting down?? -

Steven Spielberg wants to do it!! With Tony Kushner writing the adaptation??    I’m so scared!! 

That’s like Gus Van Sant remaking Psycho! 
 
Where’s Leonard Bernstein when you need him! 
 
Then I found this!:
 

 

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As I wrote here once before re this "WSS" redeux: Some directors egos are so huge they think they can remake a classic s-o- o-o-o well and s-o-o-o-o uniquely, it almost behooves them to tackle it.  Also, not to knock Spielberg's obvious talents, but lately, original ideas aren't quite his strong suit. Isn't he pretty much phoning it in and cashing in w/sequels? 

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I would have to say no to that. Ready Player One, The Post, Lincoln, I wouldn’t call those phoning it in. Or sequels.

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Personally I have always thought of the WSS movie as a slight miss. Almost great. Some beautiful photography and dancing and vivid supporting players. But the near sleepwalking of the two disconnected leads leaves a beautiful film with the central drama missing. Great opportunity for remake with a couple of great wide-awake actors as Tony and Maria.

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3 hours ago, MarkH said:

Personally I have always thought of the WSS movie as a slight miss. Almost great. Some beautiful photography and dancing and vivid supporting players. But the near sleepwalking of the two disconnected leads leaves a beautiful film with the central drama missing. Great opportunity for remake with a couple of great wide-awake actors as Tony and Maria.

Amen, MarkH.  WSS is one of my all-time favorite movies, and the choreography in particular is superb, but Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer were just wrong for their roles.  I've seen the show on stage a number of times, and having a Tony and Maria who actually have chemistry makes all the difference. 

At the same time, I am not at all a fan of Steven Spielberg.  His approach to films is a bit too glossy for me, and I'm concerned that the result will be mediocre as a result.

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I usually shudder at remakes of classics. Although this is nowhere near a musical, look at Cheaper by the Dozen. I love the original and its sequel, Belles on Their Toes...but the only things the Steve Martin remake had in common with the original was the title and the fact that the family had 12 kids. The names were changed, the location was changed, the parents' careers were changed. "Loosely based on..."? Give me a break. 

I'll keep an open mind is all I can say at this point.

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7 hours ago, MarkH said:

I would have to say no to that. Ready Player One, The Post, Lincoln, I wouldn’t call those phoning it in. Or sequels.

I stand amended on those pics you mentioned.  Nor would I consider "Schindler's List" a failed attempt at originality and excellence. I think it's his quintessential masterpiece, personally. I suppose I was mostly referring to the endless "Jurassic Park"s. I know the kids love them (which equals $$$$) and Universal Theme Parks salivate at each new incarnation. But, enough w/the dinosaurs already.

Methinks I painted him w/too broad a brush on that 'phoning it in' reference.  HOWEVER....."West Side Story"? Sorry, no.

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As much as the message of WSS is still pertinent, today, it will be an outright DISASTER to remake it. It won TEN Oscars! How do you top THAT?

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3 hours ago, Zea said:

I was mostly referring to the endless "Jurassic Park"s. I know the kids love them (which equals $$$$) and Universal Theme Parks salivate at each new incarnation. But, enough w/the dinosaurs already.

 

Ah! Those are pictures he produced or co-produced, not ones he directed. Cheers!

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I love the West Side Story film, and I also welcome a remake.  There are a few things about the 60's film that make it a little difficult for me to see today.  On the plus side are the exciting Jerome Robbins choreography, the Leonard Bernstein score, and the marvelous Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn.  On the minus side are the color unconscious casting (this was not so important to me in the 60's, but is really difficult for me today), the dubbed voices, the dated slang that is quaint now, and the colorful costumes that do not look anything like what a street gang would wear.  And I really do dislike turning "A Place for Us" into a love song.  In the stage play it was a fantasy moment when all the jets and sharks dreamed of a world without hate -- a much stronger and resonant moment.  Hopefully Spielberg will make this musical classic appealing to a younger audience and keep the rest of us on board too.  West Side Story has been successfully restaged for the stage over the years.  Why not in the movies too?

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This casting notice for a WSS remake is terrible. They say, dance experience is "a plus". Are they kidding?! Guess they didn't notice how much and how great Bernardo and Anita had to dance in the stage production and in the original film - on the NYC streets, at the Gym (Mambo and other styles) and on the rooftop (America). It sounds like this is another case of moviemaking fools who think they can get by without hiring trained dancers for their leads. La La Land had good music and had good potential but didn't live up to it. The leads Ryan and Emma were terribly miscast. They could sing ok but they weren't proficient enough as dancers to pull it off.  Their dance technique was so limited and their performing personalities were so lackluster that the backup dancers and even the scenery pulled focus from them. You can auto-tune singers but ya simply can't "fake" excellent quality dancing. And if it's supposed to be a musical, people will naturally compare your cast to the best dancers from the past. The waiters in Hello Dolly and Mary Poppins roof top chimney sweeps were better and more exciting than the lead couple in La La Land. I'd much rather have seen Derek Hough and his sister Julianne (or any of so many other dancers on DWTS or SYTYCD) in those roles as they can actually SING AND DANCE and have performed onstage in New York and London. And when Ryan and Emma Stone got to the finale with the black mirrored flooring and the starry background - obviously meant as an homage to Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire in Broadway Melody of 1938 (or was it 39 or 40?) - that only made me MISS Eleanor and Fred even More. If ya can't improve on or even hold a candle to an original dance number then don't put it in your film as people WILL compare it and your remake's finale will leave the audience disappointed and nostalgic for the real STARS from the classic film. After seeing La La Land, I immediately turned on TCM to remind myself of what real TALENT looks like! The quality of dancing by trained dancers has improved so much in the last 80 years that there ARE lots of people out there who can perform fabulous choreography for movie musicals but it's up to the filmmakers to raise their standards and hire the most talented, best TRAINED and experienced people for the roles.

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19 hours ago, MarkH said:

Ah! Those are pictures he produced or co-produced, not ones he directed. Cheers!

Thanks for correcting me on that. I appreciate it.

In that case, I wish him luck directing this needless remake of West Side Story. I'm sure it'll make lots of money simply because his name is on it and because there's a couple of generations that have never seen the original and will think this remake is the cat's meow. 

I don't think Mr. Spielberg or the movie company making it will miss my $$. :lol::lol::lol:

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20 hours ago, StarstruckKidTurnedPro said:

They say, dance experience is "a plus".

This was changed to “Strong dance background required” in subsequent notices.

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22 hours ago, Jim K said:

I love the West Side Story film, and I also welcome a remake.  There are a few things about the 60's film that make it a little difficult for me to see today.  On the plus side are the exciting Jerome Robbins choreography, the Leonard Bernstein score, and the marvelous Rita Moreno and Russ Tamblyn.  On the minus side are the color unconscious casting (this was not so important to me in the 60's, but is really difficult for me today), the dubbed voices, the dated slang that is quaint now, and the colorful costumes that do not look anything like what a street gang would wear.  And I really do dislike turning "A Place for Us" into a love song.  In the stage play it was a fantasy moment when all the jets and sharks dreamed of a world without hate -- a much stronger and resonant moment.  Hopefully Spielberg will make this musical classic appealing to a younger audience and keep the rest of us on board too.  West Side Story has been successfully restaged for the stage over the years.  Why not in the movies too?

Why not remake Casablanca with modern language set against refugees from Syria or immigrants to our southern border with Coyotes? 🙄 The love song was set against a background of prejudice and hatred. WSS is essentially a modern Romeo And Juliet. Btw, it’s shown in high schools with gangs and STILL elicits emotional responses. If they were to remake it, perhaps include the ostracized LGBTQ 🏳🌈 community, constantly bullied, especially, those of us who are Transgender. Honestly, Spielberg would make this into a flop worse than his disastrous 1941.

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On 6/30/2018 at 10:36 AM, MarkH said:

Personally I have always thought of the WSS movie as a slight miss. Almost great. Some beautiful photography and dancing and vivid supporting players. But the near sleepwalking of the two disconnected leads leaves a beautiful film with the central drama missing. Great opportunity for remake with a couple of great wide-awake actors as Tony and Maria.

I agree. Not a Richard Beymer or Natalie Wood (in this role) fan. Especially after reading she had kept a list while filming of those who had "wronged" her in some way.  Supposedly, this is why she refused to speak to Beymer between takes. 

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On June 30, 2018 at 10:10 PM, Jim K said:

  West Side Story has been successfully restaged for the stage over the years.  Why not in the movies too?

"Restaging" and "Reinventing" aren't the same thing as I'm sure you'll agree.

If Spielberg's intentions are a mere 'restaging',  I don't think it would be worth his time or talent. I'd imagine any studio would be reluctant to fork over big bucks to what would amount to a sort of Roadshow movie of this classic.    

Ah...but a 'reinventing'....that's a classic of a different color. This is what I assume Spielberg is planning. It'll be more like an "original adaptation"....making it no longer "West Side Story",  but more like "Son of West Side Story" or "West Side Story Part Deux". 

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15 hours ago, Zea said:

"Restaging" and "Reinventing" aren't the same thing as I'm sure you'll agree.

If Spielberg's intentions are a mere 'restaging',  I don't think it would be worth his time or talent. I'd imagine any studio would be reluctant to fork over big bucks to what would amount to a sort of Roadshow movie of this classic.    

Ah...but a 'reinventing'....that's a classic of a different color. This is what I assume Spielberg is planning. It'll be more like an "original adaptation"....making it no longer "West Side Story",  but more like "Son of West Side Story" or "West Side Story Part Deux". 

That's all true, except that I disagree about the value of restaging.  But I don't see anything in the Vanity Fair article that indicates that he is either restaging it or reinventing it.  The only hint to his intentions is that "he's dreamt of adapting this material 'for decades'."  And the 60's movie is already an adaptation of the 50's play.  It is impossible to tell from this article what Spielberg has in mind.  I would love to see the glorious "Somewhere" ballet restored.  And recent revivals have successfully addressed racially-inauthentic casting that marred the original cast and the movie.  As long as Spielberg is doing it, I prefer to hope that he will do it well.

Then there was that odd casting in the 80's CD where Maria was played by a New Zealander (Kiri Te Kanawa) and Tony was played by a Spaniard (Jose Carreras). 🙂 

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Even though that deluxe recording of WSS’s complete score was Bernstein’s dream project, it was very expensive to make and for commercial reasons those very unfortunate casting decisions were forced on him by Deutsche Gramophon (for global sales). This is what I’ve read, anyway. I believe Bernstein wanted Jerry Hadley for Tony, who would have been perfect. It still has a lot to offer, that record, but it really is a sadly lost opportunity to have done something much greater.

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8 hours ago, Jim K said:

  But I don't see anything in the Vanity Fair article that indicates that he is either restaging it or reinventing it.  The only hint to his intentions is that "he's dreamt of adapting this material 'for decades'."  And the 60's movie is already an adaptation of the 50's play. 

Perhaps I was wrong in thinking 'restaging' and 'reinventing' are so different. I was basing that conclusion in thinking of a restaging as an exact duplicate of the former production, which, of course, is physically impossible. I apologize for that comparison. 

But isn't adapting just a euphemism for when a new director puts their own spin or nuance on an existing or past production?

I suppose the ultimate adaptation of "WSS" would be from the true original of "Romeo & Juliet". 

Ultimately, 'restaging', 'reinventing', 'adapting', 'spinning', 'nuancing.....' can all mean the same thing.

You say tomato.....:) 

 

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10 hours ago, Zea said:

But isn't adapting just a euphemism for when a new director puts their own spin or nuance on an existing or past production?

I think adapting is a loose term too.  When Ernest Lehman wrote the screenplay for WSS, he adapted the stage play for what he thought would work on the screen.  He moved songs around, assigned one song to someone else to sing, and made adjustments to the script.  But though his adaptation was not identical to the stage script, it was close enough to it that we did not feel that he had distorted his material.  His adaptation of Sound of Music goes even farther in reassigning songs, moving songs around to different uses in the film, reducing the roles of some of the supporting characters, and opening up the stage play for the screen.  We recognize that he did all this, and we enjoy the film just as much as the play.

On the other end of the spectrum are the musicals that take on a different score than the stage production when they move to screen (Anything Goes), replace all or most of the original songs with songs of another composer (Babes in Arms), or simply remove the songs altogether (Irma La Douce).  And these really are so far from their original source that we think of them as new compositions.  The movie of Cabaret is quite different in many ways from its original stage version -- we can probably agree that Cabaret is an example of a reinvention that worked.

One adaptation that I have never quite liked is the movie of South Pacific.  The play opens with Emile and Nelly and introduces their romance in an extended scene that includes "A Cockeyed Optimist", "Twin Soliloquies", and "Some Enchanted Evening".  The first scene focuses on the romance and plants the seeds of bigotry -- Nellie thinks the children are the children of the Polynesian butler.  All this comes later in the film, and the film opens with Lt. Cable arriving on the island and another extended scene that includes "Bloody Mary".  In the film, our introduction to the story stresses the wartime conflict over the romance.  I much prefer the stage version.

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On 7/1/2018 at 5:06 PM, Zea said:

Thanks for correcting me on that. I appreciate it.

In that case, I wish him luck directing this needless remake of West Side Story. I'm sure it'll make lots of money simply because his name is on it and because there's a couple of generations that have never seen the original and will think this remake is the cat's meow. 

I don't think Mr. Spielberg or the movie company making it will miss my $$. :lol::lol::lol:

Mr. Spielberg won't get any of my money for his re-make of the film West Side Story, because I do not plan to go and see it.  These last two generations, if they get their way, will probably see to it that the old, original 1961 film version of West Side Story goes down into the dustbin of history, never to be available again except on TV, DVD, Blu-Ray, or video.  

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