2. The cast could win many nominations.
The 1961 edition of “West Side Story” won both second prize – in addition to Moreno, George Tsakiris won for his role as leader of the Sharks Bernardo – and star Natalie Wood would almost certainly be in controversy over whether she was nominated for Best Actress in the same year for “Splendor in the Grass,” as well as an Oscar rule forbidding an actor from appearing twice in the same category.
Spielberg’s version should be on the hunt for even more actor nominations than her predecessor. Rachel Zegler as Maria is an attractive debutant and wonderful singer, and Oscar voters love to push a new interpretation into the Best Actress race. In the supporting categories, Mike Faist as the leader of the Jets, Riff, makes a strong impression, while the Broadway veteran (and the alum of “So You Think You Can Dance”) Ariana DeBose receives tons of ostentatious material as Anita, including a new version of “America” that hit the streets and stands out as the central part of the film.
But even though DeBose plays the role that won Moreno the Oscar in the original film, I still believe that it is Moreno’s new interpretation that could surpass all those coming in the category of the second female role. Here, she plays Valentina, a kind widow who advises Tony while he has shelves in her pharmacy. She only wants the best for her young class and works desperately to keep him straight and close, so when things start to fall apart, it has a double impact because you know how ruined Valentina is.
Moreno moves into the role, which is based on the pharmacy owner Doc from the original film, but has been radically redesigned and expanded by Spielberg and Kushner. (She even has to sing “Somewhere”, a romantic duet that has turned into a solo lament.) The still glamorous Moreno will celebrate her 90th birthday later this month and an Oscar nod will make her the oldest Oscar nominee never. Can you imagine how the room would jump to its feet if it won? Voters will definitely envision it.
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3. May be the nominee leader.
Robert Wise’s “West Side Story” received 11 Oscar nominations and won all but one of these trophies, surpassing only “Ben-Hur”, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “Titanic”. I’m not sure Spielberg’s version can win so many Oscars, but the good news is that it will receive as many or more nominations, which is almost certain that the film will be the first of its kind this year.
The nod in the photography and director categories is almost certain, and if Zegler, Faist, DeBose and Moreno all come in, these are six nominations before we even get to the categories below. There, wait for recognition for Kushner’s custom script, photo by Spielberg vet Janusz Kaminski, large-scale production plan and period costumes, as well as film editing and sound.
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