Tag Archives: West Side Story

Top Ten: Roger Ebert’s Great Movies

Today would have been Roger Ebert’s 71st birthday had he not recently passed away. What better way to celebrate his life than to remember the films that he singled out for particular praise in his Great Movies series? Ebert did not rank these films; in fact, he added them only after he had a chance to reevaluate them and write about them, so there’s no hierarchy here at all. The ones he identified as Great Movies are likely only a fraction of what he would consider the Greatest Movies of All Time, and possibly not even the top fraction. But because the list of Great Movies is unranked by Ebert, it’s a perfect filter for Flickchart, letting us see how I personally and Flickchart users globally rank the conglomerate.

Flickchart is a movie ranking website that pits two random films against each other and asks you to choose which one is better, meanwhile building a list of your favorite films. I rank according to what I like the best, prioritizing personal preferences and emotional connections, so my Flickchart is in no way meant to be objective.

10 – The Thin Man (1934)

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it many more times in the future – Nick and Nora Charles are my favorite on-screen married couple. They flirt and joke with each other, get through disagreements and have friendly competitions, are totally secure in each others’ love, and each is ready to take a bullet for the other if it becomes necessary. And oh, it does, because this is a murder mystery that crosses the Hammett-style detective story (Hammett actually wrote the novel the film is based on) with a touch of Agatha Christie, and a whole lot of ’30s-style witty comedy. The balance is perfect, and this is a film I can watch over and over and never get tired of.

9 – Vertigo (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock is my favorite director, and a whole bunch of his movies are in my Top 100, so it’s not surprising to find two on this list. First up, Vertigo, which is one of the first Hitchcock films I remember watching, when my cousin decided we should watch it when I was probably much too young for it. I liked it anyway, and I’ve only liked it better with every (frequent) rewatch. I love everything about this movie – the dark side of Jimmy Stewart, the lush and unrealistic colors, the slow burn, and perhaps especially the tragic Midge, who gave Scottie everything she had knowing he’d give her nothing in return. The fact that Midge’s story exists alongside and underneath the Scottie/Madeline/Judy story simply shows the breadth and nuance of Vertigo.

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50DMC #35: Favorite Adaptation

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What’s your favorite book-to-screen adaptation?

Like the “favorite remake” question, this one has a number of ways to approach it. Favorite movie that happens to be an adaptation? Favorite movie AS an adaptation (that is, something about the transition from book to screen is particularly loveable)? The first approach would be way too broad, so I tried to find one that does something interesting with the adaptation itself, which meant I had to have read the book. That knocked off a bunch of possibilities right there. Heh.

For a long while, West Side Story was one of my top five favorite films. It’s not quite that high anymore, but I do still love it a lot, and a good portion of that love is due to the way it takes the story of Romeo and Juliet and plops it into a modern and more relatable milieu. This is, in fact, a thing I like in most any Shakespeare adaptations, and something that’s quite common in stage versions of his shows, albeit they usually keep the language and West Side Story does not. The film version of West Side Story is a double adaptation; directly an adaptation of the 1950s Broadway musical by Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sondheim, which is adapted from Shakespeare’s tragedy. And even though the majority of the adaptation is between Shakespeare and Sondheim, the film has a few changes up its sleeve as well, most notably in the performance of a couple of the songs – the film swaps “Cool” and “Hey Officer Krupke”, which makes a lot more sense in the flow of the story (the ordering in the play is largely due to needing an upbeat song at a particular point for the peculiar pacing purposes of stage productions), and it also has both male and female members of the Sharks performing “America” instead of just female, as it was in the play. I prefer “America” as it is in the play, but swapping the other two songs for the movie as a great choice, and shows that the were really thinking about how this is going to play AS A MOVIE – a key consideration in adaptation that not every filmmaker takes into account as much as they should. Not to mention it looks incredibly cinematic, transcending its roots on the stage.

Both as a movie, then, and as an adaptation, West Side Story hits my sweet spots. Here’s the opening: