West Side Story is an incredible film, with twists and turns, cries of laughter, and cries of joy. I highly enjoyed watching the film with a packed audience, and when I left, I noticed that at least half the theater was in tears (myself included). With that reaction, it’s not hard to imagine almost every theater having that exact same feeling at the end of the film, as the film strikes home with a family movie (I’m not gonna go as far as to say feel-good, though, it really isn’t). That being said, the film is directed by Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg, with Rachel Zegler (who obviously has a superstar career ahead of her) and Ansel Elgort starring. Spielberg’s taken home quite a few Oscars, and it looks like he might take home another few in March.
Analyzing West Side Story‘s Award Chances
Janusz Kaminski can’t seem to fail at what he does. He’s done many of Spielberg’s films, like Bridge of Spies, Saving Private Ryan, and The BFG, but has done some other directors’ films as well, though none of them are too well-known, which is a shame. The color grading on his films, especially West Side Story, is gorgeous, and as seen in the pictures above and below, Kaminski takes advantage of the natural surroundings, as well as artificial light, to position the camera correctly, and make the focus of the shot glow. Kaminski takes every film that he works on, and makes it better. He may not be the best in this category for this year (likely winner is Greig Fraser for Dune), but he’s up there.
Best Music (Original Song)
If I had to nominate songs for Best Original Song, 2 of my picks would be “Maria” (Ansel Elgort) & “America” (David Alvarez, Ariana DeBose). When I saw the film, I was immediately captured with the songs’ elegance, and I couldn’t stop listening to the tracks on my way home. Both pieces are composed and performed to perfection, and these songs have decent chances of winning this category, though it’s never a lock. “Maria” is arguably the better piece, but it’s “America” that had the more emotional effect on me.
Best Production Design
Adam Stockhausen and Rena DeAngelo should be given Oscars, but if there’s someone better in this category, at least give them an honorable mention. DeAngelo and Stockhausen both received an Oscar nomination in 2016 (88th Oscars) for best production design on Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, and it would be nice to see that part of history repeat itself. Stockhausen’s work is mainly Spielberg films, and Wes Anderson films (Stockhausen recently did The French Dispatch, and did 2018’s Isle of Dogs). With the sets that were built for West Side Story (Maria’s alley being by far my favorite), it’s not hard to see how these sets could attract awards attention. West Side Story may not have a chance in some categories, but in the some that they do, it’s a straight sweep so far.
Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Tony Kushner’s making a case to be one of the greatest screenwriters in history. Not only does this screenplay bring out the best of every cast member that’s listed in it, but also elevates this film to a masterpiece, rather than just great. With a basic screenplay, this film still would’ve been great, with the directing and acting levels, but the screenplay is an added bonus that reflects the best of what West Side Story has to offer. I will say, this category is quite crowded, as you have Dune in here, as well as Coda, Cyrano, and Nightmare Alley. I expect that Dune will win, but West Side Story will definitely garner a nomination.
Best Actress In A Supporting Role
Ariana DeBose has a strong case to be nominated in this category. First off, there aren’t too many strong contenders in the running, which might be the only category with no strong contenders, but DeBose certainly is coming in here with something to prove, and just like Zegler, an Oscar to start her career would be a pretty good check on her resume.
Rita Moreno also could campaign for this role, but I believe that DeBose is the stronger candidate, if not only because she has more screen time than Moreno, and that Moreno already has Oscars in her display room. DeBose is a strong candidate with a strong focus, and she should do just fine.
Best Actor In A Leading Role
I’m gonna be honest, Ansel Elgort doesn’t have that strong of a case here. Sure, he was good in West Side Story, but he wasn’t great. At first, I thought he was amazing, but the morning after my screening, I thought about it some more, and I realized that Tony’s brilliance wasn’t because of Elgort’s acting, it was because of Zegler’s. Their chemistry works so well together, but in the end, Elgort just can’t keep up. I think they might give him a nomination, but he’s incredibly unlikely to win. Heck, David Harbour’s more likely to win Best Actor for his work in Black Widow than Elgort is.
Best Actress In A Leading Role
Rachel Zegler might just start off her acting career with an Academy Award. Zegler’s performance in this film is just so emotional, that to me it feels real. I know that’s the point of films, but this just does. It feels like something out of real life, and I was kept awake the whole night, just thinking about Zegler’s performance, how radiant and stunning she was, and her chemistry with Ansel Elgort. If she was to win an Oscar on her first major film, let alone for Best Actress, well, that would be quite a resume.
Steven Spielberg‘s work is insane, by all definitions. There is only one factor that connects all of his projects. They are memorable. Films like Ready Player One, Jaws, or Schindler’s List have all been memorable, and rewatchable. All of those films have been nominated for awards, and it looks like Spielberg’s most recent outing will continue that trend.
The list of Best Director candidates this year is exceptionally strong, but Steven Spielberg is Steven Spielberg. He brings life to this film, more than was thought possible, and somehow made this film better than the 1961 version. Best Directing is crowded this year, but Spielberg’s work will stand out.
West Side Story is an intense film, there’s no question. The main concern going into this film, would it live up to the greatness of its predecessor from 1961? The answer: yes. Undeniably yes. And that film won multiple awards. The Best Picture ballot (like all other categories) is incredibly busy this year, with films like Don’t Look Up, Licorice Pizza, Belfast, and Eternals, but West Side Story at least deserves a nomination. The work that every single cast and crew member poured into this film is visible, and it makes the film all the more worth the 2 and a half hours that I was in the theater.
Overall, West Side Story is the kind of movie we don’t get enough of these days, and the film has VERY good awards chances. With all the odds seemingly stacked up against the film, it’ll garner nominations, but can Spielberg’s creation get wins? Find out when the 94th Oscar nominees are announced on February 8, 2022, and when the 94th Oscars take place at the Dolby Theatre on March 27, 2022. West Side Story is exclusively in theaters NOW.
What did you think of West Side Story? Did it also have you shedding tears? How many nominations do you think the film will get? Let us know what you think in the comments below and share your thoughts with us on Twitter.