AFI Top 100: No. 51 West Side Story

Tim and I saw West Side Story at Gammage Auditorium this past September. It was to both my delight and to my dismay that I was watching virtually the exact same show as part of the top 100. I say to my delight because I truly enjoyed the show at Gammage. The songs were catchy. The dancing was amazing. The story was timeless. The reason I say it was to my dismay is a personal philosophy of mine… Some are disappointed when the movie (or in the case, play) does not exactly follow the book. I have the opposite belief, I prefer the film to become its own creative work of art. It can use the original story but in order for it to be a unique work, it needs to take on its own characteristics…

Nevertheless, I did enjoy this film. The dance/fight scene at the beginning is beautiful. In fact the dancing throughout the movie was spectacular, as were the classic songs. I especially chuckled at “Gee Officer Kuprke” and “I Feel Pretty.” I personally find the Romeo and Juliet love story to be dangerous and farfetched but it does a brilliant job of showing how destructive hatred solely due to race, name, religion, class, etc., is. I was happy, as I was while watching the play, to see a slightly different tone at the end. The final scene where Maria points the gun at every one of the Sharks and the Jets and blames them for the death of the three young men is chilling and each character hopefully realized they need to take some accountability and stop blaming others.

The film does not fully focus on just the star-crossed lovers of Tony and Maria… Instead more of the focus appears to be on the characters who their love affects. One these characters is Anita, Maria’s friend and her brother’s lover. Rita Moreno, who played Anita, stole the show multiple times. Her emotions throughout the movie showed through and she deserved that Oscar she received. The scene where she attempts to help Maria and Tony is especially disturbing.

All in all, West Side Story is an enjoyable movie. My only two wishes for the film is that the actors performing were the ones actually singing (all of Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer’s songs were dubbed in from other vocalists) and that they had taken a few more artistic liberties.

Next up: No. 50 (halfway done!!!) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

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