Sixty years ago, West Side Story emerged triumphant at the Oscars. The musical romance (adapted from the Broadway show by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and the recently departed Stephen Sondheim) won an astonishing 10 Academy Awards including Picture, Director, and both supporting races for George Chakiris and Rita Moreno.
On December 10th comes the long awaited remake from Steven Spielberg starring Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, Ariana DeBose, David Alvarez, and Ms. Moreno returning to the project that put the O in her EGOT. While the review embargo is still intact, screenings this evening have lifted the social media one. Early word indicates the new Story could be headed for numerous nods as well.
I’ve had this pegged in my ten Best Picture contenders for quite some time and the buzz gives me no pause to change that. Whether Spielberg makes the cut for his eighth directing nod (he’s won twice for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan) is a bit more uncertain though it’s certainly possible. Like the 1961 original, its best shot at acting inclusion lies not with the leads. The studio isn’t even campaigning Elgort (this is likely due to some personal issues that surfaced last year). I wouldn’t completely count out Zegler (and she’s getting raves for her cinematic debut), but the Actress derby is packed with hopefuls. In Supporting Actor, David Alvarez could contend for the role that got Chakiris a statue. So might Mike Faist. The Supporting Actor competition appears wide open and if voters truly fall for the project as a whole, either could be swept in. DeBose in Supporting Actress is the most feasible performer that could make the final five in Supporting Actress (though that race has its share of legit contenders too). If so, she’d be up for the same part that nabbed Moreno her hardware. And it’s also possible that Moreno herself could make a play. Adapted Screenplay is also a question mark as screenplays for musicals sometimes face an uphill battle.
Down the line possibilities are plentiful: Cinematography, Costume Design, Film Editing, Production Design, and Sound. It could be up for any and all and it’s hard to imagine the last three not being close to shoo-in nominations. If all goes right – Story could match the 10 nominations from six decades ago. The most optimistic projection could put it at more. I’m most comfortable proclaiming Picture and at least three tech nods (and probably DeBose) get in. We’ll see if the chatter (and box office) in the coming days elevates this even more. My Oscar Prediction posts for the films of 2021 will continue…