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Thoughts I Had... while staring at the first promotional image from West Side Story (2020)

by Nathaniel R

Click on the image to embiggen

Toto, we're definitely not in Kansas Oz anymore. We've gone from incredibly expressive color to desaturated earth tones. Whose idea was it to base the color palette on a Nancy Meyers interior rather than from the incredible cinematography and design of the 1961 classic...

We're not the only ones worried about this very drab color palette. Consider...

Note to filmmakers: the last movie musical you want to be compared with is Clint Eastwood's take on Jersey Boys

Remember when we shared the Instagram images of the Sharks and the Jets? Those photos were a lot more droolworthy than this one. But perhaps it's just one of those needlessly "SERIOUS" promo images and the film will be more colorful.

If the new West Side Story is terrible, as karmic revenge we demand announcements of remakes of E.T., The Color Purple, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Close Encounters, and Schindler's List by uninspired but famous filmmakers to f*** with Spielberg's legacy. 

Judging by the cut of the jackets and the high waists of the pants, they've opted to stay in period (late 1950s) rather than to modernize the story. 

Here's a few closeups, in case you didn't click the image to supersize it...

To the left that's "Anybodys" played by Ezra Menas (film debut) a non-binary or trans actor/singer (not sure which, as they hashtag both on their instagram. Or can you be both? Pardon my ignorance). We figured they might update the character this way, since we were discussing Anybodys obvious queerness and subtextual WSS queerness in our recent retrospective). That's Broadway regular Ben Cook to the right as "Mouthpiece"

Sean Harrison Jones (film debut) to your left as "Action" and Tony nominated Mike Faist (Dear Evan Hansen) to your right as "Riff," the two most defined characters from the original musical/film outside of the lead on the Jets side of things. Behind them almost entirely obscured is Patrick Higgins (film debut) as "Babyjohn" 

Ansel Elgort (already a star of course) and Rachel Zegler (film debut) as Tony & Maria... so they're keeping the crazy height difference from the 1961 original, wherein Natalie Wood had to totally crane up to kiss her forbidden lover Richard Beymer.

To your left that's Tony winner David Alvarez (Billy Elliott) as "Bernardo" (film debut). We're excited to see him dance onscreen. The guy behind him that you can barely see is Julius Rubio as Quique (2nd film, he was in the dancing ensemble of The Greatest Showman) and Ricardo Zayas (film debut) to the right as "Chago"

To your left that's Josh Andrés Rivera (film debut) who is playing "Chino," Maria's would-be boyfriend. Up front  that's Sebastian Serra (film debut) who is playing "Braulio" and in back... we believe that's Carlos Sanchez Falú (film debut) as "Pipo"

That leaves several of the Jets and Sharks previously announced not-pictured so we assume they're the ones who are only featured as dancers or might get an errant line here or there in group sequences? Well the male dancers plus most of the women who wouldn't be in this picture given that it's the gangleaders plus the romantic leads we're looking at. 

P.S. We thank costume designer Paul Tazewell (Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert and the forthcoming Harriet, his narrative feature debut) for putting that colorful wristband on Braulio because this image definitely needed any spot of color it could get. 


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Reader Comments (30)

I can already tell I’m going to fast forward to Anita’s scenes and she’s not even pictured.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBushwick

I can't wait to watch the fiery, energetic America song and dance sequence filmed in sepia tones. What are they thinking?

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCash

For a film featuring so many people of color, the filmmakers sure seem to have drained it of such. Yikes.

P.S. David Alvarez and Ezra Menas are super cute.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Me Thinks it is not looking very special.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

Is it gonna be one of those things where the non-musical scenes are all drab, but then the screen burst into color once the music kicks in? So many questions, one not the least of which I can never stop asking - Why?

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I vote for The Color Purple. Let’s donthe Broadway musical on screen.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Oh, good. If this is any indication, we're getting War of the Worlds Spielberg remaking West Side Story. Way to screw over something I, admittedly, only mildly liked. Yeah, outside of the America number (a great scene), most of West Side Story, personally, is just okay at best. But I get the appeal, especially if you're way more into Broadway musicals.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

So if Ezra Menas does a great job and there’s award talk… as a non binary actor, do they have to choose between the two binary categories for awards consideration? I sense controversy coming.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCris

Mmmmm…..someone please remind me again why they are bothering to do this? When you get it right the first time leave the damn thing alone!!

There are plenty of films with the germ of a good idea that didn't turn out quite right. Go to work on them and leave the classics be.

That picture is about as underwhelming as you can get.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

All I can say is... No... this will not work. Sorry Spielberg but... I'm out.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Guys - seriously ? From one pic ? ... - give em a break ... is this now ? Every year countless stage versions are out there... again & again - I agree it doesn't look very special - but I really don't believe Spielberg is doing dull & sepia. Calm down, wait and seeeee ;-)

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

We deserve nothing. We should be creating a guerrilla and boycotting the shooting instead of chatting here.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Re: the trans/non-binary question. Yes, you can identify as both!

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

Why is Kushner doing this? and why is Mark Harris bragging about it on Twitter like a teenager?

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

Andrew: If that happens, I'd argue, to simplify the issue if he doesn't want to commit to a single gender, to just hand a Special Award out. Lazy? Maybe. But not disrespectful.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

They're both so smart! I don't get why the don't see the upcoming catastrophe either.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMaría

Seems a bit harsh to bail out on a movie after only one still. There's not even a trailer to go on yet!

I'm excited to see a cast that's mostly new to me and hear new versions of some pretty amazing songs.

Though I do like the idea of assigning someone - how about Peter Farrelly? - to remake a notable Spielberg movie if this turns out to suck.

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSteve G

"I want what happened in the movie last week to happen this week; otherwise, what's life all about anyway?"

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJP

Jerome Robbins would never let them walk down the street in such a haphazard non-dancer way. Attitude!

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Will they also switch Cool and Officer Krupke like in the original movie? I hope so!

June 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterWimsey

If you're going to be remaking a film that is basically perfect, you better have damn good reason. You have to prove not only that the film needs to be remade at this point in time, but that YOU are the person to do so. I can be convinced that it is time for another West Side Story, but nothing about this still inspires ANY confidence this team is the team to do so.

I've seen people defend this by saying "It's just a publicity still," but consider that this is them putting their best foot forward. THIS is what they choose as the first image used to promote the film. Hopefully they see how people are reacting and make some changes to the look, but I don't have the confidence that they will.

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

I am kind of with Dancin' Dan. I know it's still early but I'm finding such things as having Ansel Elgort play Tony to be pretty uninspiring. I'll be watching and hoping but not so sure this is such a great idea. Maybe we're all wrong and it'll be great.

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Pedro: The Color Purple has already been announced. It's going to be produced by Spielberg, Oprah. and Quinicy Jones. BTW, Wicked is also being made into a movie.

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Wish these were gang-banger Jets & Sharks that I’d be Terrified of encountering.
Almost resembles the good-time T-Birds of Grease and their rival gang...

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterTOM

I’m not against remakes in general, but when the predecessor is as essential as this, why bother? It’s akin to redoing THE GODFATHER. You may make a good version, but what’s stopping it from being forgotten about soon after its release?

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEli

@joel6 I agree with you.
It would be better if they do a remake from Nine

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCésar Gaytán

Spielberg is our Robert Wise a good studio director- the missing ingredient here is Jerome Robbin who really made that movie dance- they will never top the original's classic opening number. The only good thing is that they are giving a lot of Latino kids a chance to be movie stars

June 18, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

There are now more TFE posts on Spielberg's West Side Story than there were on Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born pre-release... and we have 18 months until this thing is released. I'm just saying.

June 19, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Why would you want the new adaptation to slavishly mimic the aesthetic of the previous one? If you're going to do another, make it distinctive.

June 20, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSean C.

The original approach to the storyline made the story incredibly interesting. The choice of the color palette of this kind was also optimal for the project.

July 26, 2019 | Unregistered Commentercheck Learning Service

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