WEST SIDE STORY
It's not very often that I comment on the films I watch - this is just a journal. But ... Jesus Fucking Christ. What a mess.
The good: Rita Moreno's Valentina was one of the few positive changes (or additions, whatever) and her performance is really nice, though I can't fathom why she would have touched the film. Another that plays well is Graziella's attempt to defend and rescue Anita in the drugstore. And the repeated visuals of the Upper West Side being torn down - displacing thousands and thousands of poor people - to build Lincoln Center and fancy apartments are stark and effective.
Speaking of Anita ... Ariana DeBose's performance is terrific but I have no clue how anyone could have noticed her for the Oscar let alone awarded her with it since Spielberg cut away from her face every other time she opened her mouth. Disrespectful in the extreme, as if he was ashamed of her.
Having scenes in locations far from the setting? A slap in the face to the book and story. The editing throughout the film is horrific. I would love to have seen the dancing - Jerome Robbins was one of the best film choreographers ever - but Spielberg cuts every three seconds deliberately downplaying every number
Building from there, I think Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, and Arthur Laurents knew who was supposed to sing each song and what order they are supposed to be sung. The decisions by Tony Kushner and Spielberg to royally fuck that up are inexcusable. (Yes, I know Robert Wise swapped "Officer Krupke" and "Cool" in the first film, but he didn't change their goddamned meanings.)
And finally, the performance by Ansel Elgort is abysmal. Dead on arrival. He's been terrific in other films, but here .... The least Spielberg could have done is have him revived from his coma and display an IQ over 50.
If I gave review scores, I'd be hard pressed to say 3.5/10. It really is that bad.
Bottom line: It's no wonder Sondheim died just days after seeing the premiere.