Continuing the countdown of my favorite 2021 movies…
Best Films of 2021
#3 – West Side Story
I’m not a fan of the original West Side Story, something I discovered when watching it as part of my AFI Movie Musicals series in 2020. I don’t know if that made me a harder or easier target for this new take on the source material, but I came out of it convinced I’d seen a new classic.
This movie is such a visual and audio treat from the first bravura shot to the last. Nobody knows how to position and move a camera like Steven Spielberg, and it’s a treat to see him finally try his hand at an epic musical.
Continuing my personal 2021 Oscar rundown, today I’m focusing on the women I would recognize for Best Supporting Actress.
But first, as I’ve done all week, I’ll give a nod to five actresses who had a great shot of making the cut: Zazie Beetz (Nine Days), Caitriona Balfe (Belfast), Jessie Buckley (The Lost Daughter), Gaby Hoffman (C’mon, C’mon), and Martha Plimpton (Mass).
I initially had an even longer list of runners-up in what was a great year for this category.
Continuing my recap of the 2021 movie year, this week I will present my personal nominees and winners for Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress. I have now caught up with almost every movie on my watchlist, so I’m pretty confident these lists won’t change.
Before I start, I’d like to shout out a couple of additional musical movie moments that I hadn’t yet seen when writing last week’s posts.
One is the ‘Wherever I Fall‘ sequence in Cyrano, which depicts doomed soldiers singing their final letters home. It’s the film’s best song and best scene, a powerful use of music to plumb the depths of despair.
The 2021 movie year was chock full of musicals, and today’s memorable music moment comes from my favorite of them — Steven Spielberg’s take on the classic stage show West Side Story.
I watched Robert Wise’s 1961 version a couple of years ago, during my quest to see the 25 musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute. The film placed at #2 on that list, but I wasn’t a fan. I did, however, love Rita Moreno’s Oscar-winning portrayal of Anita, easily the highlight of that film.
With one epic musical directed by Robert Wise under my belt, I turned my attention to another.
West Side Story, with songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, adapted for the screen from a classic stage musical, inspired by William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, winner of ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director, #2 of AFI’s list of the greatest musicals of all time… and, sadly, a major disappointment.
This is a case of a movie that simply hasn’t aged very well.