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Newsletter: Can streaming save ‘West Side Story?’

In today's 'Internet Insider' newsletter, we also take a look at a pretty big NFT blunder.


Andrew Wyrich

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 2, 2022   Updated on Mar 7, 2022, 9:27 am CST

Hey everyone! Andrew here. Welcome to the Wednesday edition of Internet Insider

As you probably would expect, the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to make waves online. We’ve got the latest on it. Meanwhile, the Associated Press had a pretty public NFT blunder that they are being called out for. 

If you scroll down a bit, our Culture Reporter Michelle wonders whether West Side Story streaming on Disney+ will give the film a second life.  

Let’s dive right into the news.


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Digital Fog Of War: A Ukrainian media outlet claimed to leak a list that contained the personal information of more than 100,000 Russian soldiers. Examination of the data shows that names, registration numbers, and place of service for Russian servicemen were in the data. However, our tech reporter Mikael notes that the public should wait for further verification of the data. 

NFTs: The Associated Press was quick to retract its plans to release an NFT after it was harshly criticized online and called it out-of-touch. The AP’s NFT was a five-second video of migrants in an overstuffed boat in the Mediterranean. One user called the NFT a “grotesque way to earn a profit.” 

Batman: Amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, Warner Bros. announced that it was canceling the theatrical release of The Batman in Russia. As Gavia, one of our culture reporters explains: “Just a few days ago, the idea of a ‘Batman sanction’ was derided on social media as both frivolous and unlikely … But these cancelations are more complicated than Hollywood brands making a PR statement in support of Ukraine. They send a message of disapproval to the Russian people.” 


ariana debose (center) surrounded by a group of performers in west side story
Niko Tavernise/20th Century Studios

Can ‘West Side Story’ get a robust second life on streaming?

Over the weekend, Twitter seemed to lose its collective mind over a tracking shot.

The shot in question, which was shared by filmmaker Shane Anderson (and has been viewed more than 3.3 million times and counting since he posted it on Twitter on Friday night), only included the caption: “This shot from WEST SIDE STORY is fucking insane.” 

The clip is just 64 seconds long and has the appearance of being one seamless shot, although A camera operator Mitch Dubin, SOC, told Camera Operator magazine that it was “two or three different shots that they stitched together.” (It’s apparently one of director Steven Spielberg’s go-to shots). 

But it doesn’t matter if it’s one shot, two, or three. The effect is immediate and almost magical: You might try to logic how it came about before telling your brain to shut up and enjoy the show.

That clip sparked people to showcase other stellar shots from Spielberg’s filmography alongside other astounding feats of cinema. There was even an impassioned thread from beloved director Guillermo del Toro about the art of filmmaking and how much of it is a collaborative process that also managed to serve as an argument to restore all 23 Oscar categories to the live broadcast.

The 2021 reimagining of West Side Story from Spielberg and playwright Tony Kushner, is full of shots like that scene (via cinematographer Janusz Kamiński) at the school gym. I didn’t have any kind of nostalgic attachment to the 1961 version—after vaguely knowing some of the songs for more than a decade, I only saw the original right before seeing the new one back in December—and while I wasn’t the biggest fan of Spielberg’s last endeavor, this one just absolutely floored me.

I’m still thinking about certain shots from “Maria,” the entire vibrancy of “America”  (and color in the film as a whole when so much of modern cinema is devoid of color), and especially the choreography of “Cool” that turned one of the songs people wrote off in other iterations into one of its best sequences

West Side Story isn’t perfect and trying to course-correct some of the original’s more egregious issues didn’t fix everything (and there is the elephant in the room that is Ansel Elgort, the film’s weakest link), but it packs several powerful performances and is a technical marvel to behold

Despite everything it had going for it, West Side Story bombed at the box office.

The reasons as for why that was varied and were very understandable—Omicron variant cases rising and possibly leading older theatergoers to stay home, people not interested in a musical or a remake of a musical, people who haven’t returned to theaters at all during the pandemic, those who didn’t see West Side Story as a must-see in theaters being among them—but it was still frustrating to see play out.

But, between the film’s seven Oscar nominations (including best picture) and the absolute virality of that gym clip over the weekend, perhaps it’s a good sign of West Side Story’s second life on streaming: Starting today, it’s available to stream on Disney+ and HBO Max.

Streaming access gave del Toro’s Nightmare Alley—a film that on top of the issues plaguing West Side Story, had to directly compete against Spider-Man: No Way Home—newfound love and helped turn Encanto into a massive hit for Disney+ and TikTok after landing there on Christmas Eve.

It’s not purely coincidental that “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” reached the top of the Billboard charts for seven weeks and counting after more people had the opportunity to see Encanto.

Just a few years ago Spielberg was among those more critical of the rise of streaming platforms competing for Oscars and in favor of a lengthy exclusive theatrical window.

Although those proposed changes didn’t happen and the pandemic helped to shorten that window for good, it’s also entirely possible that streaming might help make Spielberg’s latest movie, a lifelong dream of his to finally make a musical, into the massive hit that many wish it could’ve been.

Michelle Jaworski


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A video gaining popularity online shows Chechen fighters warning Ukraine they are preparing to invade. Claims were then made that the fighters were killed one hour later. But are those claims true

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Enter the Oculus Quest 2 Giveaway today for a chance to win the advanced, all-in-one VR bundle, plus other prizes worth $550!

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A Subway worker on TikTok went viral after roasting impatient customers who don’t understand Subway’s ordering process. The TikTok, which currently sits at 2.7 million views, a Subway employee hearing a customer’s order for a 6-inch sub. When she pulls out a foot-long sub’s bread, the customer complains, saying they just wanted a 6-inch sub.

subway worker making sandwich (l & r) subway sandwich wrap (c)

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*First Published: Mar 2, 2022, 12:00 pm CST