“West Side Story”: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Anita and Bernardo

West Side Story!

Ariana DeBose steps into Rita Moreno’s shoes and dashes away with them as the new Anita.

It’s extremely rare nowadays for me to watch films I’ve already seen, but last week on a staycation whim I revisited the original West Side Story, which I have on DVD and my wife remembers me liking when we watched it together sixteen years ago. Maybe it gave me the impression this was the essence of Real Broadway. At the time we had little frame of reference, years before we had the opportunities to see actual Broadway shows in 2011 and in 2016. I’d forgotten much of it till I cued it up. The lyrical verve and the intricate dance numbers certainly struck old chords, as did Rita Moreno’s performance, far and away the best among the cast. Beyond that, the enchantments from my first time seemed a little faded. The Happy Days hoodlums and their 1960s color schemes held my attention for a bit, and some songs drew me back in when my eyes wandered to other gadgets (“America” and “Officer Krupke” are each satirical exemplars), but…I dunno. It was still fine? It’s creaky compared unfairly to a 21st-century stage production, but I guess I still get it? Setting aside the problematic aspects a thousand better websites have already covered?

I was not among the front lines of any protests insisting a remake was unnecessary or pointless. Every classic Broadway show has its revivals, often with revisions and updates for later generations with differing sensibilities. Why not this one? And why not let lifelong fan Steven Spielberg take a crack at it? Especially teamed up with his Oscar-winning Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, the main behind the acclaimed Angels in America? Again, setting aside the problematic aspects a thousand better websites have already covered? And which Kushner acknowledged in a fascinating New York Times interview with film critic A.O. Scott? Why not? If nothing else, it diverted his attention away from potentially worse project choices like Ready Player Two.

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Oscar Quest 2018: “The Post”

The Post!

“By all means,. do go on with your precious newsplaining.”

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This time of year is my annual Oscar Quest, during which I venture out to see all Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, regardless of whether I think I’ll like them or not, whether their politics and beliefs agree with mine or not, whether they’re good or bad for me, and whether or not my friends and family have ever heard of them. I’ve seen every Best Picture nominee from 1997 to the present. As of February 21st I’ve officially seen all nine of this year’s Best Picture nominees. I’m not sure I’ll be able to cover the other seven in full before the Oscars telecast on March 4th, but let’s see how far I can get before I burn out.

Onward to nominee #4, Steven Spielberg’s The Post. With multiple Oscar honorees Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in the marquee, this based-on-a-true-story salute to American journalism in the face of government malfeasance is one of the more old-fashioned films in the race, wielding a confluence of history and star power in the name of attempted topical relevance.

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“Lincoln”: a Multi-Purpose Crossover of History, Morality, and All-Star House Party

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"Despite a few dissidents who wished for something more, Stephen Spielberg’s new film Lincoln has received a host of rave reviews and much name-checking in articles about Academy Award predictions. The film aims to operate numerous levels, which may or may not work depending on what set of preconceptions and expectations you hope to see fulfilled:

* Historical drama: Based on the nonfiction book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin, the script by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner (Angels in America) is a meticulous chronology of January-April 1865, when our beleaguered sixteenth President sought to end the Civil War and legislate abolition, but struggled through his negotiations with Congress to ensure that each occurred in the correct order, lest one set of dominoes send the other sprawling into chaos. Dozens of historical figures vie for screen time and take turns having their shared moment with either Lincoln or his henchmen. The result is a lot of nineteenth-century trivia compacted into a series of staged conversations, some of which are drier than others. Chances are, though, very few viewers will be able to say they’ve heard all of this before.

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