let me count the ways

A list of the ways West Side Story (2021) is better than West Side Story (1961):

  • Choreography is tight in the street scenes: spectacular with the larger number of dancers.
  • Rita Moreno; Rita Moreno again.
  • Casting actors with Latino heritage is far better than putting them in brownface.
  • Rachel Zegler speaking and singing is better than Natalie Wood speaking and not-singing.
  • Spanish! Spanish spoken between the Puerto Rican characters.
  • Bright clear voices in the “America” number.
  • A wider depiction of New York City, near the time of my birth there and where I have lived as an adult.
  • “Somewhere (There’s A Place for Us)”: having Valentina voice those lyrics.
  • “A Boy Like That / I Have A Love”: more natural blocking and vocal inflection.

A list of the ways where I can’t decide which version I prefer:

  • Staging. The original is claustrophobic, appropriately. (In the new version, going to the Cloisters implies Maria and Tony’s problems will dissolve if only they would leave the neighborhood, but the reality is racism exists everywhere.) On the other hand, the more realistic establishing shots in the new version take us beyond the occasionally distracting artifice of a movie set that looks like a Broadway stage.

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