West Side Story (2021)


🎙️ EPISODE 431: 03.28.22

Did you know it's been 17 years since I've watched a Steven Spielberg movie? Of course you don't, unless you have been stalking me for the better part of the last two decades: seeing what I've had to eat, watching me poop, and taking meticulous notes on all the content I've consumed. Then you would know. Then you would know the last 'Berg Man Movie I seen was (probably via Blockbuster DVD) 2005's Munich, which — if my almost legal age gap between self's memory is to be trusted — I enjoyed quite a bit. So what the hell happened?
I suppose one could say Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) happened, but it's probably not THAT simple. I'm not sure how I missed watching Lincoln these last ten years. And, just looking at The Spiel's filmography overall, his run of movies in the 90s to the middle 00s, the timeframe when I was going to movies in theaters sans parents, seems almost underrated. There are a few duds in there, but also some total classics which probably don't get there due (he freaking made Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can in the same year! — 2002 — clearly someone was NOT bothered by 9/11... hmmm jus saying).

This is all the very long way of saying that allowing 17 years to slip by between seeing a Steven Spielberg movie, yeah, that one's on me, folks. Mea culpa. Because this is pretty great. I'm not a "musicals guy" by any stretch of the imagination. I think i can probably count the amount of musical films I've seen on one hand, and proper live-on-Broadway performances, on significantly fewer hands (?), but I've always had a soft spot for these songs, so much as they've infiltrated popular culture since their inception in 1957, making the jump into the realm of pop music from that of strictly show tunes.

I also thought this benefited immensely from its cast of mostly unknowns. (I realize Ansel Elgort is the new It Boy in Town (IBIT?) and has been for awhile now, but he was new(ish) to me.) This allowed for the two other main elements to be the star of the show: the songs — obviously — and the genius of Stevie Movies himself. Shot on 35mm on immense and wonderful sets, each perfectly choreographed set-piece felt like its own mini-movie. The color palette was a fascinated mix of muted hues, with just enough subtle flashes to catch the eyes; the constructed 1950s never felt real, it felt better than that: magical and alive. (I don't know exactly how much or how many flourishes were added in post-production (re the colors, backgrounds and some lighting effects) but I've landed on the opinion that I don't really care. I thought this looked amazing. And I was reminded once again what a master Spielberg is at moving the camera, picking and choosing how to frame a shot, and when to show restraint. It turns out, he makes pretty good movies. I'm gonna tell my friends about this guy.


West Side Story is a 2021 American musical romantic drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg from a screenplay by Tony Kushner. It is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 stage musical of the same name. It stars Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in her film debut with Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, Mike Faist, and Rita Moreno in supporting roles. The latter, who starred in the 1961 film adaptation, also served as an executive producer alongside Kushner. The film features music composed by Leonard Bernstein with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It was released on November 29, 2021.


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