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Saturday, 11 December 2021 23:14

Loving is enough – ‘West Side Story’

It takes a special kind of chutzpah to revisit a masterpiece.

Even today, in a world where every other big-ticket film project is either part of a franchise or a remake of some preexisting IP, there are certain movies that you might consider to be beyond reproach. The idea of trying to recreate legitimate movie magic, to somehow improve upon Pantheon-level greatness … let’s just say that few would dare and far fewer would succeed.

And yet, here we are with “West Side Story.”

The 1961 original – based on the 1957 Broadway musical of the same name – was directed by Jerome Robbins (who helped originate the stage musical) and Robert Wise, with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It would become one of the most acclaimed films in Hollywood history, winning 10 Oscars and becoming by all accounts the most successful movie musical of all time. So who would have the gall (and the balls) to remake such a consensus cinematic classic?

Steven Spielberg would. And I have to tell you – it’s really good.

Working from a screenplay adapted by the great Tony Kushner, Spielberg has somehow found a happy medium that I for one had doubts even existed. He has treated the original with the deep respect and adulation that such a masterful work warrants while also finding ways in which to place his own stamp on the proceedings. This is the filmmaker at his best, using every tool in his directorial belt to celebrate the brilliance of the original while also taking full advantage of the half-century of technological and aesthetic development since that first incredible film.

It doesn’t hurt that he is working with source material that is inarguably one of the greatest and most influential musicals ever, itself inspired by one of the greatest and most influential romances ever. This “West Side Story” is both subtle and spectacular, a film that takes full advantage of both the material and the medium to create that rarest of rarities – a new take on a classic that might well wind up considered a classic in its own right.

My guess is that most of the people reading this know “West Side Story” – or at least its inspiration “Romeo & Juliet” – so we won’t belabor the synopsizing.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 18 September 2019 09:14

Art for art’s sake – ‘The Goldfinch’

Adapting books to the big screen can be a tricky proposition. The truth is that while many times, a story is a story is a story, regardless of medium, there are some literary works – acclaimed, celebrated works – that resist that sort of translation. Sometimes, filmmakers are able to muscle through that resistance and present a great movie.

Other times, they make “The Goldfinch.”

The film, based on Donna Tartt’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, is an undeniably game effort. Everyone involved – director John Crowley, screenwriter Peter Straughan, the talented cast – is clearly giving their all to a project in which they clearly believe very strongly. Unfortunately, the layered, fractured nature of the source text works against them; the end result is a film that is technically well-crafted yet doesn’t cohere. It’s a series of good-looking scenes that never quite click together.

What we have in “The Goldfinch” is essentially an echo of a prestige film, an offering that bears many of the outer indicators of Oscar bait, but is largely devoid of substance once you move beyond those surface trappings. Again – a game and good faith effort, but one that falls short.

Published in Movies

Propulsive action movie easily the best of the summer so far

Published in Movies

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