1961 • West Side Story

I think the live performance is better.

4.12.09
Watched with Lauren

Sunday evening, Lauren and I returned home from a weekend at the Glanzer farm in South Dakota.  Since the Twins played a day game, we had ample time at night to watch the next Best Picture available to us from Netflix, 1961’s West Side Story. As I may have mentioned, 1960’s The Apartment was not available.  Once we see all the DVDs available from Netflix, we’ll go back and find the other movies in some other medium.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the plot of West Side Story. New York, 1960s, Sharks, Jets, gangs, dancing, singing, fighting, Americans, Peurto Ricans…  It’s well-known.

I at first thought it was funny.  Street-toughs prancing down the street, stealing basketballs from kids, all while dancing and snapping their fingers.  But I got used to it pretty quickly.

The movie obviously has lots of singing and dancing.  Only one song from the entire movie, “Tonight, Tonight,” stuck out to me.  And the reprises throughout.  The choreography of almost every scene must have been quite the project.  Whether the characters were dancing or not, they were still moving in some sort of choreographed patterns.  That was probably the movie’s strongest point.

The cinematography was very good.  The movie was very colorful and the sets were very authentic looking, considering it was a movie about New York being filmed in Los Angeles.

Other than that, I wasn’t that impressed.  I thought the movie was way too long (2 hours, 32 minutes).  The acting wasn’t anything special.  I think some of the supposed Peurto Ricans were really white Americans in makeup.    I found it hard to concentrate on the movie.  I never was very interested right from the get-go, probably because I knew the story and was never really enthralled with it to begin with.

I had seen the stage version at least once.  I saw it at the Chanhassen Dinner Theater in the last couple years.  I can’t remember if it was a company Christmas party one of the other times I’d been there, but I remember liking the stage version much better.  It’s the type of movie with limited sets and lavish costumes and stuff that is perfect for the stage and a little underwhelming on screen.

Overall, I appreciate the music of Lenny Bernstein and the look of the film, but it was one of the weakest movies on the list so far.

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