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West Side Story, a beautiful musical, both on screen and on stage, has a long history of taking the public by storm, both as a wonderful Broadway stage hit (although I admittedly found the more up-to-date Broadway stage revival of West Side Story somewhat mediocre in many ways.), and as a beautifully spectacular, well-created and well-done movie, to boot.

While I see the merits of re-creating West Side Story in many different ways for stage productions of this musical, I feel that, regarding a re-make of the film version of West Side Story (and, with rare exceptions), the remaking of films, generally, that Hollywood has clearly run out of creative ideas, which is why so many films are being re-made and/or are having sequel after sequel added to them.

Having said the above, I am totally against the idea of a re-make of the film version of West Side Story for the following reasons:

A) The beauty of the film version of West Side Story is not only the fact that it was kept as a larger-than-lifesized piece of theatre, but was proof that films (at least back then) could be, and were made without too much explicit sex,as well as a minimum amount of graphic-ness. With the exception of afew racial and ethnic epitats during the pre-Rumble war council between the Jets and the Sharks, the film West Side Story is without the constant "blue" language that're all too prevalent in many, if not most films that're coming out nowadays. As a person who's no stranger to "blue" language,and therefore not bothered by it, however, I say that "blue" language would be totally inappropriate for something such as West Side Story, either on stage or on screen.

B) A re-make of the film West Side Story would more than likely include a rendition of the musical score that's much more hip-hop and rap-like, which would be totally inappropriate for such a musical.

C) The romance scenes with Bernardo and Anita, as well as with Tony and Maria, would be way steamier and much more explicitly sexual.

D) The playground fighting scenes between the Jets and Sharks would be even more violent and graphic. Much more "blue" language would be expressed, and the prejudices between the Jets and Sharks, as well as the cops' attitudes towards both gangs would be much more overtly hostile.

E) Given the fact that, in many parts of the United States, police departments have become so militarized, and police actions and behaviors have been so totally out of control, especially in poorer communities and non-white communities, efforts on the part of the cops to break up the playground fighting scenes between the Jets and Sharks would be far more violent, and deadly.

F) The Rumble scene would've been much, much bloodier and more graphic, because the Jets and Sharks would be using Glock 21's and AK-47's, or other automatic assault rifles, or handguns, rather than fisticuffs and switchblade knives, and more gang members on either side would be seriously injured or killed.

G) The deaths of Riff, Tony and Bernardo would've been much, much bloodier, as well.

F) The hints of reconciliation would've been totally taken out of this great film, as well, which would defeat the whole purpose of a musical/movie such as West Side Story, giving it a whole different message.

G) A re-make of the film West Side Story would undoubtedly be a piece of junk that would go over like a lead balloon; inotherwords, not very well.

Having said all of the above, as with most classics, and especially movie musicals, and West Side Story, in particular, there's absolutely nothing that beats the original. This is particularly true of West Side Story because this venerable old movie/musical is a classic that's in a special class by itself, if one gets the drift. All told, I believe that the film version of West Side Story has a special magic all of its own, it is what it is, and should absolutely be left alone!

Mr. Spielberg, if you're out there listening in, please do not mess with a classic! The fact that the film West Side Story won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, is highly indicative of its success as a classic film. I realize that, like tons of other people (myself included, of course. West Side Story is my all time favorite movie, hands down!), you've got great affection for this classic film, but if your affection for the film West Side Story is that great, why not just leave it alone and gravitate to something else? That, imho, would be the best way for you to show your affection for this great classic.

All of the above having been said, a re-make of the film version of West Side Story, by anybody, including Steve Spielberg, would be a disaster, because it would just cut the heart and soul right out of this great, venerable old classic.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
petzipellepingo
Aug. 17th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC)
Of course, we don't know if he would update the material or leave it set in the 1950s as Jerry, Lenny, Arthur and Stephen originally created.

I guess we'll just have to see what happens. If anything.
mapol
Aug. 17th, 2014 08:06 pm (UTC)
That's the chance people take if they advocate a re-make of any given movie.
It's difficult for me, however, to envision a re-make of the film West Side Story that doesn't cut the heart and soul right out of a great classic, on the part of anybody. One also has to bear in mind that West Side Story was a famous late-1950's Broadway stage musical, and the film version came out soon enough afterwards, when there was still quite a bit of hold-over from the late-1950's, and the early 1960's was just barely the beginning of a new era, if one gets the drift.

All too often, however, especially nowadays, when movies are either made, or re-made that are set in a certain era that has long passed by, the results are often not that great.

Thanks for your input, Petzi.

Edited at 2014-08-17 08:10 pm (UTC)
insaneladybug
Aug. 18th, 2014 01:25 pm (UTC)
I mostly don't want to see a remake either ... but mostly because I'm so in love with Simon Oakland in general that I'm heartbroken to think of someone else playing his role!

I suppose updating the time period could have the problems you describe, but I think it's all in the presentation. It could alternately be a sort of ageless time period, where it's not quite clear when it's set. Or it could be like the treatment I give to things in my stories: present day, but a different present day where the morals are more like in the past!
mapol
Aug. 18th, 2014 02:26 pm (UTC)
Hi, insaneladybug! Thanks for your input!
Not only do I agree with you about Simon Oakland having been the perfect actor for the role of Lt. Schrank in the film version of West Side Story, and not being able to see anybody else playing Lt. Schrank, but I feel the exact same way about ALL of the characters in the film version of West Side Story--including (believe it or not!) Richard Beymer as the part of Tony, as weak and lacklustre as he was, not really through any fault of his own.

Because the late 1950's and early 1960's are now so far behind us, re-making a film that's set way back in that particular era would be more difficult, plus West Side Story, being in a special class by itself, would be far, far too difficult to re-make as a good film, anyway.
insaneladybug
Aug. 19th, 2014 12:33 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, insaneladybug! Thanks for your input!
I always felt Richard Beymer was fine as Tony, but then again, I've never seen a stage version of the show, so he's the only one I've ever seen in the role.

I'm more of the opinion that changing the time period alone wouldn't be enough to ruin the magic, if done right, but I do agree that most people taking on the project would probably do all the worst things to it and ruin it. It's difficult to think of a successful remake of much of anything since most people seem to approach remakes so badly. I think of all the remakes that flopped at the box office or were cancelled on television after only a handful of episodes. If they had been handled better, they might have worked.

Of course, for any remake, there will always be those who insist that nothing tops the original, and even on those rare occasions when I find a remake I like, it's even rarer that I will like the remake better! (It has happened once or twice; I far prefer the fifties Man Who Knew Too Much over the 1930s one, for instance, but that's another story.)
mapol
Aug. 19th, 2014 04:39 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, insaneladybug! Thanks for your input!
Again, you've made some very good points that're well taken, insaneladybug. Regarding Richard Beymer's role as Tony in the film version of West Side Story; Not that long ago, I learned afew things that made me more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt:

A) Richard Beymer had mentioned that he would've preferred to play the role of a Tony with a little more of an "edge", if one gets the drift, but that was stymied due to directorial constraints from Robert Wise.

B) Richard Beymer was said to be so upset by it that he actually walked out of a Premiere showing of the film West Side Story.

C) Natalie Wood was incredibly hostile towards Richard Beymer, a fact that she made no secret of, which also pained him.

While there are rare exceptions in which remakes and/or sequels have been successful, those are very few and far between. Most re-makes of films aren't that successful, but re-makes are being approached especially badly nowadays, due to Hollywood's having run out of creative ideas, which is why more re-makes and sequels are occurring in the first place. I also might add that there are some films that really should NOT be re-made, and West Side Story is one of them. I think that a re-make of the film West Side Story, by anybody, would be way too updated, but that's just my opinion.

I personally think, however, that, in the case of the film West Side Story, absolutely nothing DOES beat the original. I also prefer the original movie of True Grit that came out back in 1969 and starred Glen Campbell to the re-make of True Grit that came out just four years ago, starring Jeff Bridges and afew other newer actors, but that's me.

Edited at 2014-08-19 04:42 am (UTC)
insaneladybug
Aug. 19th, 2014 06:42 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, insaneladybug! Thanks for your input!
I knew about point C, but A and B are new ones on me. Interesting.

Yeah, it's bizarre how remakes are especially filling the screens these days! Hollywood seriously can't be that dry on ideas. If they'd think a little bit, they could surely come up with some more good stuff and not have to tap into the remake pool.

I haven't seen either version of True Grit, although I'm interested. The newer version actually follows the source material (the book) more closely, but it's definitely more depressing. So I can't say which one I'd be more likely to gravitate towards. Sometimes I'm okay with depressing, and sometimes I'm not.
mapol
Aug. 19th, 2014 10:25 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, insaneladybug! Thanks for your input!
Points A and B about Richard Beymer's role as Tony in the film version of West Side Story are even newer to me, as well, insaneladybug, and kind of sad, to boot.

To digress a little bit, Elvis Presley was the first person that Robert Wise had initially approached for the choice of Tony in West Side Story. Due to an overly controlling manager, however, Elvis was compelled to turn it down, and was said to have regretted turning down the opportunity to play the part of Tony when the film version of West Side Story became a hit.

Nowadays, Hollywood has come up with stuff that's way more graphic, and full of special affects that are created through computer, which is a far cry from how Hollywood came to its creativity back in the days when West Side Story was first a hit. Because much of what passes for talent these days is very corporate-oriented, there's much more concern about making money hand over fist, hence productivity often takes precedence over any creativity.

So, with occasional exceptions, when I go to movies, I go to the Coolidge Corner Theatre in Brookline, MA and the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA (both of which I hold annual memberships to, thus enabling me to see movies at a considerable discount.), where they show better-quality movies, including older classic films, including West Side Story.

All of the above having been said, however, I stand by my position that, when it comes to a film like West Side Story, absolutely nothing DOES beat the original!

Much of today's movie music also sounds very much like "canned" music, meaning that it's often very cheap and tinny-sounding, not to mention rather derivative. Inotherwords, there's a lot of junk being put out, which is almost mass-produced. This is not to say that there weren't lots of bad films back in the day, and that every era doesn't have its good and bad movies, but there seems to be much, much more junky stuff out there, as well.

Hollywood, it seems, has become somewhat drier on ideas, at least in part due to the cutting of funding for the Arts that began during the Reagan years, and has continued, pretty much unabated. As with live theatre, many young actors/actresses of today are not unionized, and are therefore not paid very well, and have had little chance to really hone their craft. All of that, imho, has contributed greatly to Hollywood's present lack of creativity these days during the making of many films.

You've made a very good point about Hollywood's not thinking deeply or hard enough to avoid tapping into the "re-make" pool.



Edited at 2014-08-19 10:28 am (UTC)
insaneladybug
Aug. 19th, 2014 11:06 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, insaneladybug! Thanks for your input!
Indeed, they are sad.

Yeah, I remember hearing that about Elvis. It would have been interesting if he had taken part, but then it might have been over-hyped with the idea of Elvis out-shadowing everything else.

It's exasperating how often movies fall on computer graphics these days. They're necessary sometimes, but not every time they're used lately. Hollywood was definitely more creative about special effects back in the day. And oh yes, there's a lot more bad movies these days than back then. Sometimes (re: a lot of the time) it's hard to even know what to go see when one is looking for a good recent movie!

That's awesome that you have two theatres near you that show classics!
mapol
Aug. 19th, 2014 02:13 pm (UTC)
Your points are excellent, and make great, good sense, insaneladybug. Thank you again!
Elvis Presley playing the part of Tony in the film version of West Side Story would've been interesting. He could really sing, and he actually had the "tough-but-tender" look of an ex-gang member, to boot. One has to wonder how well Elvis Presley's heavy southern accent would've gone over in the New York atmosphere, however.

You're right, however, about the possibility of Elvis totally over-shadowing the rest of the cast/characters of the film West Side Story, thus rendering this film into yet another ordinary Elvis Presley movie.

Computer-made graphics are much easier to create, and, yes, they are sometimes necessary, but they are way-overused these days. Another thing about the 1961 film version of West Side Story was the amazing ability that they had to create special affects through the use of a camera, without computers, and without the expensive gadgetry that's often used these days for special affects.

It's way tougher to find good newer films these days, because one has to be much more careful about what they look for.

Also, many of the newer films today are long on style (if one can really keep a straight face when calling it that!), and rather short on substance. Having said that, I believe that there has begun to be more of a demand for some of the great, venerable older classic films such as West Side Story and many others to be re-shown in movie theatres.



Edited at 2014-08-19 02:14 pm (UTC)
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