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Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story

The 1961 film version of West Side Story garnered widespread acclaim, 10 Academy Awards (including best picture), and ticket sales equaling $385 million today.

It wasn’t a perfect film, however, especially when it came to depicting Hispanic characters; many of the roles were cast with white performers and all were saddled with exaggerated accents and brownface makeup — even on the Hispanic actors — that looked like stucco smoothed with a trowel.

Director Steven Spielberg’s just-released version of the storied creation by Leonard Bernstein (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics), and Jerome Robbins (direction and choreography) corrects those flaws and, to judge from early reviews, has many other virtues as well.

The Los Angeles Times called it “Spielberg’s most exhilarating movie in years,” and Vanity Fair agreed, saying it was “a real game-changer in this year’s Oscars race” and a best-picture possibility.

In a brilliant bit of casting, ageless wonder Rita Moreno (who won an Academy Award for her role as Anita in the 1961 film) returns six decades later as Valentina, the widow of Doc, now running his corner drugstore, in an expanded role.

Musical/romance/drama, rated PG-13, 156 minutes, Violet Crown

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