Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday Thirteen #156


As we wait to see which picture wins the Oscar for 2011, let's look back at the one that won 50 years ago -- The Best Picture of 1961: West Side Story

I personally like this movie well enough but I don't love it. Still, many people do. Recently, when we were gossiping about Natalie Wood's death, one of my coworkers sighed and confessed how much he loved her as Maria. Now 32 years old, he was only a toddler when she died. But West Side Story is still shown in high schools every year as an introduction to Romeo and Juliet. So I guess boys not yet born will see it and fall a little in love with Natalie Wood, too.

1) Director Robert Wise originally wanted Audrey Hepburn as Maria. Ms. Hepburn, then 31, didn't think she could credibly play a Puerto Rican teen and besides, she was pregnant.

2) Marni Nixon did all Natalie Wood's singing. Coincidentally, you can also hear her as Eliza Doolittle, singing for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

3) Like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Natalie didn't know she wasn't doing her own singing during filming. On set, both women sang their hearts out. It wasn't until later that producers decided to bring Marni Nixon, who had to synch her vocals with their lips. 

4) Director Robert Wise wanted Elvis Presley to play Tony. I would have loved that. As it is, Richard Beymer kinda sucks.

5) At least Elvis could have done his own singing. Beymer's vocals were done by a singer named Jimmy Bryant.

6) Rita Moreno won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Maria's friend and Bernanrdo's lover, Anita. A usually strong singer, her voice was dubbed for one song, "A Boy like That," because she had a cold and was struggling with the deeper notes.

7) The "slum" where the movie opens is really the west side of Manhattan, where Lincoln Center stands today. In 1960, buildings were demolished to make room for Lincoln Center and the film makers decided to use the rubble and chaos to lend authenticity to the scene.

8) In the stage play, the Jets' oath was brotherhood that lasts "Womb to tomb, sperm to worm." Hollywood censors changed it to, "Womb to tomb, birth to earth" for more sensitive movie audiences.

9) Shooting lasted 6 months. Most movies in 1960 were filmed in 6 weeks.

10) The cast went through 200 pairs of shoes.

11) Once it opened in Paris, it played for 249 consecutive weeks, making it the most popular Hollywood movie in French history.

12) 50 years ago, it was nominated for 11 Oscars and won 10. The one it didn't win? Best adapted screenplay.

13) Natalie Wood went to the Oscars that night as a Best Actress nominee but not for West Side Story. Instead she was nominated for Splendor in the Grass. She's shown here in the audience with her date and Splendor costar, Warren Beatty. She lost to Sophia Loren, the first and (I think) only actress to win in a foreign language role (Two Women).

For more information about the Thursday Thirteen,
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"How can you not be romantic about baseball?"

I really enjoyed Moneyball. It's a baseball movie, but it depicts very little action on the field. I'm not a big Brad Pitt fan, but he's very good in the role of Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A's, who successfully introduced an approach to the game that has been adopted to a great extent by the Cubs' new GM, Theo Epstein.

When you play the Moneyball way, there's less emphasis on stars and more on stats, less on the glitz and glam of homeruns and more on grinding it out and getting on base, any way possible. It's about hating to lose even more than you want to win.

Most of all, it's about looking at familiar things in a new way. "Adapt or die." 

Through it all, baseball remains the eternal, mysterious, infectious metaphor for life. When one player gets an unlikely second chance to stay in the game after every other team else has written him off, you smile. When another is told his career is over and sent packing, your heart breaks. As Billy asks at one point, "How can you not be romantic about baseball?"

What is the universe trying to tell me?

It's only Wednesday, and so far this week I have ridden to and from work with more physically challenged people than I think I saw all autumn. People in wheelchairs or using crutches, some in casts while others are amputees, they are in my car on my train every morning.

Is this a coincidence? Have they always been there, but I haven't been sensitive to them before? Or is someone trying to tell me something? And if so, what's the message?

WWW Wednesdays

To play along, just answer the following three questions… • What are you currently reading? • What did you recently finish reading? • What do you think you’ll read next? My answers:

1) I'm currently reading A Royal Duty, Paul Burrell's decade-old memoir about his time with Princess Diana. I can't believe that I'm just getting to it now!

2) Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell was much, much better than I expected. One of the best Scarpetta books I've read in years! The beginning is rather slow, with a lot of exposition, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

3) Mmmmm .... maybe the very popular 11/22/63 is next. I also have a Meg Cabot/chick lit mystery (Size 14 Is Not Fat) that appears interesting, as well as a thriller (L.A. Mental). I just don't know. So many books, so little time!

Go here to play along and check out other answers.

I Want Wednesday

I want to watch movies and not see Robin Wright. First I'm stuck with her in the The Girl with Dragon Tattoo, now I find her in Moneyball. She has small parts in both and I have no idea why I hate her so much. She's aging gracefully, delivers her lines competently. I've never liked her, though. Not since she was Buttercup in The Princess Bride.