Posts Tagged ‘Ansel Elgort’

Gangs Without Territory

West Side Story

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Rachel Zegler, Ansel Elgort, Corey Stoll, Rita Moreno, David Alvarez, Ariana Debose, Brian d’Arcy James, Mike Faist

Film Rating 9.5 out of 10

Running time: 2 hours and 36 minutes

Oscar winning director Steven Spielberg’s cinematic adaptation of West Side Story is truly phenomenal.

A vibrant, beautifully filmed remake of the 1961 film which won 10 Oscars back then and is going to sweep the board at Oscar season in 2022. With a beautiful script by Tony Kushner, the multi award winning playwright who penned the 1990 AIDS drama Angels in America, West Side Story tells the story of two rival teenage street gangs in New York City in 1957, as their neighbourhoods are going to be torn down, to make way for the building of the now impressive Lincoln Theatre on the edge of Manhattan and Harlem.

More significantly West Side Story is a contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet with all the themes of forbidden love, the individual versus society and the inevitability of fate, violence and sexual desire. Impressively, director Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story is beautifully shot, with vibrant colour saturation, authentic production design and choreography and dance numbers that will dazzle the audiences and then pull them into the fate of the two star crossed lovers: Tony superbly played by Ansel Elgort (The Goldfinch, Baby Driver, The Fault in Our Stars) and Broadway star turned film actress Rachel Zegler who plays the beautiful Puerto Rican girl Maria.

In a genius stroke of casting, Rita Moreno who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the 1961 version of West Side Story is cast as Tony’s Puerto Rican boss Valentina, who also steals the show.

West Side Story sensitively addresses the contemporary issues facing most industrialized cities today: gentrification, turf warfare, gang violence, xenophobia and systemic racism with a flamboyance and a style which is both insightful and entertaining.

As Tony and Maria meet at a dance off in a beautiful colour saturated scene highly representative of the opulent Capulet Ball scene in director Baz Luhrmann’s 1997 William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, their fate is sealed forever, as Tony, a Polish ex-con falls helplessly in love with the gorgeous Maria a young Puerto Rican teenager who makes a living cleaning plush department stores by night .

From the beautiful balcony scene, with washing flying in the moonlit night, Tony climbs up to Maria’s apartment and professes undying love for her despite their opposing cultural backgrounds and that they both come from rival gangs which are fighting over a territory which will soon be demolished.

Representative of Tybalt, Maria’s hot headed brother Bernardo is played with all the machismo and bravado of a young gang leader by David Alvarez. Mercutio is represented on the other end by Riff played by another Broadway star Mike Faist, a dynamic fast talking hothead and best friend of Tony who refuses to back down against the threat of violence.

Ariana DeBose (The Prom, Hamilton) also shines in a riveting performance as Bernando’s girlfriend Anita and mentor to Maria and deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

As a film, West Side Story is truly remarkable, from the beautifully choreographed dance numbers to the stunning costumes, to the authenticity of recreating New York City in 1957, as this magical city was transforming into a new modern metropolis of the 1960’s. The film is shot with luminescent cinematography by Polish director of photography Janusz Kaminski who won Oscars for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan.

Once again Oscar winning director of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg directs a flawless film, from the way that the dance numbers are set up, to the editing and production design as he effortlessly recaptures all the vibrancy and violence of a forbidden love torn apart by rival gangs, gentrification and systemic racism.

West Side Story gets a film rating of 9.5 out of 10 and is real cinematic gem, a truly brilliant film with a superb script by Tony Kushner and a cast that is as authentic as they are talented.

This 21st century retelling of a classic musical is highly recommended viewing and remains as relevant today as it did back in 1961.

The Cunning Art of Thievery

The Goldfinch

Director: John Crowley

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Willa Fitzgerald, Anuerin Barnard, Finn Wolfhard, Luke Kleintank, Denis O’Hare

Irish director John Crowley (Brooklyn) brings to cinematic life Donna Tart’s immersive and poignant Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Goldfinch in a sprawling and beautifully acted film version featuring an international cast including Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) as Mrs Barbour, a wealthy Park Avenue woman who graciously takes in the young Theo Decker brilliantly played by Oakes Fegley, after his mother is killed in a terrorist attack at New York’s famous Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Theo having survived a thoroughly traumatic event, is introduced to the extremely wealthy Barbour family who he stays with while he awaits to hear from his wayward con-artist father Larry played by Luke Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Concussion, 3:10 to Yuma). Larry eventually swoops in with his hard as nails girlfriend Xandra expertly played by Golden Globe winner Sarah Paulson (American Crime Story) to whisk Theo off to the brilliant shiny desert of Nevada away from the old world charm of New York City.

As The Goldfinch expertly weaves multiple story lines into a dazzling picaresque tale, it is more essentially about Theo’s friendship with the mysterious antique dealer Hobie beautifully played by Jeffrey Wright (Skyfall).

The Goldfinch is gorgeously photographed in all its blinding contrasts by Oscar winning cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner: 2049) who adds lustre to a fascinating tale of a boy who inadvertently steals a priceless Dutch painting by 17th century portrait painter Carel Fabritius a budding young student of Rembrandt.

As the actions flits between, New York, Las Vegas and Amsterdam, The Goldfinch is a gripping, fascinating tale of art theft, addiction and loss as the film examines the effects of parental loss on a young boy. Utterly superb viewing. Audiences should watch out for a rather energetic performance by Dunkirk star Anuerin Barnard as the older version of Ukrainian Gothic friend Boris who plays an integral part in achieving his destiny which is inevitably entwined with a rare painting by an early Dutch master. The older version of Theo Decker is adequately played by rising star Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver, Billionaire Boys Club).

Elegant and absorbing, with stunning performances, The Goldfinch is a sophisticated drama about the conflicts between the old and new world and the shadows that lie in between. Those that have read Donna Tartt’s brilliant novel will appreciate this gorgeous film adaptation.

Highly recommended viewing, The Goldfinch gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10.

For the Young and The Fast

Baby Driver

Director: Edgar Wright

Cast: Lily James, Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

While the trailer is cool and the cast is hip, Baby Driver delivers some cool stunts as a sequential car chase film with its sweet looking leads Baby played by Ansel Elgort and Debora played by rising British star Lily James.

With a fabulous soundtrack, Edgar Wright’s crime caper Baby Driver, clearly inspired by Pulp Fiction is thrilling to watch, with a great fast-paced narrative, transplanting the action from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia it does get weigh down by its own super-cool importance and could have been edited by at least 20 minutes.

Oscar winner Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects, American Beauty) plays crime boss Doc who hires Baby played by Ansel Elgort as a bank robbery get a way driver because of his fast skills behind the wheel. That and the fact that Baby doesn’t get fazed by the traffic, the cops or his fellow henchman. Baby starts re-evaluating his crime driving does when he meets the sweet Southern diner waitress Debora played by Lily James (Cinderella, Wrath of the Titans).

Soon Baby wants out but has to contend with a new and vicious crew headed by the psychopathic Bats wonderfully played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (Ray) and equally threatened by the crazy gun-wielding Buddy played by Mad Men star Jon Hamm (The Town, Million Dollar Arm).

Audiences should expect lots of car chases, a really cool soundtrack and a crime caper with as many twists and turns as a Southern freeway. Despite the hype surrounding Baby Driver and its ode to all things Americana – The Cars, The Diner, the Freeway, director Edgar Wright places too much emphasis on trying to encode the narrative with a moral undertone which doesn’t quite work especially towards the end of the film.

Basically, despite all the violence, money grabbing and loads of action, the end result is crime doesn’t pay – which is ultimately a bizarre sentiment to portray in a film such as Baby Driver which glorifies crime, violence and greed, making all three look hip, cool and attainable especially in a fast car.

Baby Driver is a stylish and entertaining ride, but don’t expect the cinematic journey to live up to the hype. Nevertheless its still a fun way to spend an afternoon at the movies.

For the young and the fast, Baby Driver gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and recommended for audiences that enjoyed Pulp Fiction and all sorts of sleazy, pulpy crime thrillers which the Americans are so fond of making. The irony is that director Edgar Wright is British…

The music is the best thing in this action flick!

 

 

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