West Side Story ★★★★★

The exhilaration I get from watching a song and dance number like "In America" is matched only by the same sense from a scene like the initial T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park. It's movie magic, a combination of skill and artistry that takes my breath away. And if "In America" was the only good song in this movie I'd probably give it a 9/10 and call it a major success. But it's not. There's barely a bad sequence here, and the only time I wasn't sitting in awe of it was when it took necessary breaks so as to allow the audience a chance to catch their breath. If there's music in a scene, that scene is universally amazing. If it's just talking, it's still really good.

It's hard to talk about such a well-loved movie, so I'll focus a bit on an element that really impressed me and then wrap it up. This is, of course, an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I've basically come around to the idea that R+J is a play about how dumb young love is and what kind of stupidity it can inspire in people too young to know what they're doing. The strength of West Side Story, then, maybe its crowning achievement outside of the actual singing and dancing, is that it made me care about the central romance and didn't make Tony or Maria out to be total idiots. The ending is tragic, of course, and for the first time, I was actually moved by the ending of a Romeo and Juliet story. Even though it does deviate from the source material, it does so for the better and the last scene is beautifully sad. The whole movie uses impressionistic lighting and camera effects to its advantage, heightening the drama and bringing the techniques available only in film to bear upon what must have been a great stage production. One of the best movies of all time.