Last evening we went to see the new West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg. It was an interesting experience.

The choreography was outstanding. This movie was able to work with larger available “real estate” that a stage play (and an almost-direct adaptation of the stage play to the 1961 movie) just doesn’t have. That allowed for some beautiful outdoor sequences.

The vocals of “Maria” (Rachel Zegler) were outstanding. All the vocals were pleasant. No complaints there as far as quality. What was lacking in most of the other vocals was strength. “Anita” (Ariana DeBose) was strong. But most of the rest lacked the enthusiasm.

Technically, just a couple shortcomings. There were a couple of times when street lights and lights reflected off water were, while very creative, very distracting from the songs.

It is said that movies, media in general both dictate our times as educational material and reflect our times as a mirror. This movie did both.  It dealt with the liberal problem of gentrification but was unwilling to confront the problem. But at least it noted the problem. It dealt with racism and tribalism (“’Stupid pollock’ says the spic!”) that is a part of our culture, as it is every culture. That honest was good to see.

But in the 1961 movie I sense hope. That was the decade of hope. People were still believing that they could build a better world, a more just world. In that sense. West Side Story (1961) paralleled Star Trek (TOS). And just as subsequent Star Trek series became pessimistic about what could be accomplished, so, too, this West Side Story left without hope. Yes, despite the tragedy of Tony’s death there was hope for unity in the old version. The body move in the last scene was but a hint of what might have been done throughout.

The song “America” was hopeful in the original. The line (forgive any misquote) “remember I’m here in America” was very notable in the original but in this one, though heard, was not given due emphasis. Couple that with the “Anita” and her return to tribalism after the rape attempt and you have a complete loss of hope. That despite the challenge from “Valentina” (Rita Moreno).

One other thing that’s a bother. We recently saw Free Guy as well. In both of these the main male character was presented as beardless and of soft features where as the (using current terminology) toxic males were muscular and bearded. This is a problem, not with the actor. Ansel Elgort did a fine job. (I can’t act and have great respect for the skill). It’s a problem with the theme and casting. Ever since the almost-effeminate vampire stuff a few years ago we’re being presented frequently with men who are almost emasculated. Not quite, but hardly manly. There is no more Shane. Quiet strength is missing. And while Tony stood up it was in failure that he did so. That’s a poor role model. That’s not manhood.

I rate this a big yawn. 2 of 5 stars. *sigh* No excitement. No visible love for the audience. Spielberg has done better. But maybe it’s just our times. We live in a culture that is without hope. This falls on the church to bring a message of hope. Hollywood can’t be expected to do this, nor should it be.