Saturday, June 16, 2018

My World Cup History, a quiz, and two articles of mine

The World Cup is here! I am not a year-round soccer watcher (sidenote: Does the AP style guide have any advice on soccer vs football if writing for an audience that is predominantly American?) but I have such a humongous history with this sporting event.

When I was in elementary school in 1994, my Nicaraguan housekeeper (a mother figure that I still keep in touch with to this day) first lived in our house when she came over because we sponsored her Visa. I used to go to her room to use her TV because I never had one and we would watch the World Cup on her bed. One of the first things I learned in Spanish was the names of the 24 countries that were playing that year as well as terms like "tierra de esquina" (corner kick). And of course, Andreas Cantor's famous "Gooooooooolll!."

In 1998, as I was approaching high school, my parents sent me down to live with my grandparents for the summer in the Florida Keys and we would watch the World Cup every day. There was a language barrier between us because my grandparents were born in Iran which was ironic because the US and Iran played that year. My grandparents also lived in Germany for several years and Germany was in the US-Iran group. I still remember nearly every score and group drawing of that year twenty years later.

In 2002 when the World Cup was in South Korea and Japan, I studied abroad in Mexico which took sports spectatorship to a new level. I would be awakened on days that Mexico played at either 2 or 5 AM with pots and pans clanking and bells ringing as well as people running down the street. The results of every game from the second round on went the exact opposite of the way I wanted them to go. When US upset Mexico to make the quarterfinals, what might have been nice if I was in the US at the time suddenly became tragic. I also hated South Korea, Turkey, England and Brazil and those were the teams that won everything.
In 2010, I was inspired by the World Cup to start playing pickup soccer which became a hobby of sorts for at least a couple years.

I recently wrote two articles previewing the World Cup for the Weekly Standard and have been invited to pitch at Slate and probably can pitch again for the Weekly Standard so let's see if I can write some more.

In the interim, enjoy this quiz I made of players who have scored four or more goals since 1998. It's a good way to catch up on recent World Cup history

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Crashing Seaon Finale Review: Roast Battle

Oh, my arodably na├»ve Pete Holmes. You thought that stand-up comedy was all hearts and bunnies and you’d never face the fact that your potential success would often equate to someone else’s failure, didn’t you? And even worse, you were gullible enough to believe you’d never have to face those consequences with your girlfriend in the same field?

If Crashing is a late-in-life coming-of-age story, this week’s lesson is that for all its wonderful camaraderie, there’s an inescapable dog-eat-dog element of comedy. All of capitalism for that matter. And hey, if you want to minimize that kind of stuff, sure, but don’t go into a roast battle expecting to keep that blissful ignorance intact.
But while it’s bad for Pete’s romantic life and moral compass, it plays to one of the show’s main strengths which is give us a rose-tinted inside look into the world of comedy. The roast battle (where people insult one another for comic points) can seems like a mean-spirited exercise to outsiders, and it can seem like lazy comedy (if you see the same jokes being used regardless of the opponent). There is a faction, mostly led by Jeff Ross (who cameos in this episode as one of the judges), who sees it as a unique art and niche format within stand-up that’s worthy of expansion.

To give us the full roast experience, the show features snippets of people we don't know (I'm suspecting d-list friends of Holmes who enjoyed the free exposure here) doing their thing alongside Pete and Ally. Pete's first match first comes off as a pleasant-looking man who we soon learn is playing for blood. As soon as Leif and Jess show up, he barges into their conversation in an effort to get ammuunition to use against Pete. It's a funny moment that provides a world-building detail in a flash.

One can understand the roast’s appeal for an episode of this show. The nastiness of the process contrasts so well to Pete’s self-image as a nice guy with a firm set of principles. Or at least that’s the Pete we used to know. His willingness to sell out in the last episode and the increasing proliferation  of cursing in his language have suggested a slight erosion.


One of the weaknesses of this episode is that we desperately needed to see the aftermath of Pete selling out. Is he now starting all his routines with “Gas it Up”? Granted, those leftover plot threads didn’t fit in the framework of a “rap battle” but this is the second show this Spring season (the other being Silicon Valley) that made the mistake of placing its most pivotal development marker in the season’s penultimate episode.

Instead, the season finale offers another major plot development, because, well, that's the law governing season finales. In this case, we have the break-up of Pete and Ally which, while sufficiently big news, is entirely unfulfilling. For one, what's not to like about Ally (both in terms of being a great character and what her relationship does to Pete)? For another, it seems inorganic and shoehorned in to give the finale oomph. More importantly, it's thematically muddled. If Pete's evolution is toward becoming less of a goody two-shoes, how is dumping Ally because she was a meany head in an entirely appropriate setting consistent with that? If Pete's attempting to take control of his life and independence had to do with being on his own, why not state that rather than dump someone for reasons that made no sense?
I can understand Pete being wrong and the show acknowleding that, but season finales in which the character makes a crucial decision in the closing minutes have a way of portraying a character avoiding reflection for the foolishness of their decision. The end result is making him more dislikeable. Sure, maybe he'll redeem himself months from now when this show returns but it's a sour note to go out on.
In the face of such a wonderful season, one sour note is a minor quibble, because Pete is one of the sweetest characters on TV. Here's hoping there's more of him


Thursday, May 03, 2018

Jessica Jones Review: First Three Episodes of Season 2

When I was a kid, my dad’s family lived on Long Island and our trips to visit his older sister and mother also included detours to visit my mom’s cousins in the Oriental rug business in Manhattan. Whereas other people think of New York as a glamorous concrete jungle, I always intuited a sense of urban excess. It could have been the that the rug warehouse district of New York didn’t have the most glamorous facades, or that in the 90s so Times Square looked a lot smuttier, or that the city and the people I most often visited in it (my rapidly aging aunt, my extremely old grandmother) were old. Maybe, it was that construction never ceased. I always was hearing the unpleasant noises of construction drills and jack hammers and not in a “this is inspiring me to write Rhapsody in Blue” kind of way.

Jessica Jones takes place in that version of New York with grimy buildings and a constant state of hazards. The skylines are framed not to show the gorgeous views but the teetering ledges.
Like many noir detectives, Jones is guided by reaction to her dark past and when you’re not thinking of the future, you fall under the definition of a pessimistic outlook.

I have a pet theory that noir makes for great viewing because people can experience the dark side of human nature from a safe distance since viewers embrace the stylized conventions. The show (full disclosure: I’m starting from Season 2 with the aid of a couple cheat sheets to bring me up to speed) features cleverly laden contrasts between grungy detective Jessica Jones and her more pro-active foster sister Trish (Rachel Taylor). Trish seeks recompense with her family in a healthy way, she goes after leads, and she is in a relationship that even downer Jessica begrudgingly admits is with a respectable guy.

Jessica Jones exists in an expanded world with various baddies with shades of between good and bad, and Jones herself commits a bit of assault and a tad of breaking and entering in the first three episodes. While this show is being championed by feminists as their new jam, it’s admirable that the show has an even-handed portrayal of her character’s bad deeds in terms of consequences.

So where does that leave us? The show features a well-rounded portrayal of an ass-kicking female hero. to bring in the feminist critics. Check. The show has well-rounded characters and potential for an expanding world. Check. The show doesn’t go overboard with celebrating the person as a woman and explores her flaws. Check. [Edit: Since writing this review, I have seen the fourth episode and I'm no longer entirely sure of this]

So what’s missing? Jessica Jones is defined by inaction and it starts to wear. She turns down most cases and barely seems committed to doing the things she commits to. It’s perhaps a case of the most slothful superhero on the planet.  Granted, I’m only three episodes in so this either amounts to a slow burn of a second season or a show that’s overly focused on mood without plot. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Barry Episode 5 Review: Do Your Job

My first thought when I heard Bill Hader was doing a tragicomic take on the gangster genre was “seen it a thousand times.” Off the top of my head: There’s "The Whole Nine Yards" "The Mexican", the first season of "Breaking Bad", "Analyze This", "Mickey Blue Eyes", "Big Time in Hollywood, Florida", "Lilihammer"---it would be easier at this point to just think of TV shows and movies that involve illegality WITHOUT veering into mob humor.

But that just means this is a high bar to clear. To stick out in a saturated genre, “Barry” has to show me something I haven’t seen before. I don’t know about anyone else, but “Do Your Job” did the trick for me. One of the stalwart conventions of the genre is the numbing of the protagonist to murder after murders.  The act of a gangster’s crisis of conscience leading him to decide “so what happens if I don’t kill him?” Now that’s something new. The ramifications of letting a marked man live? Now that’s intereresting.

A lot of great TV at the moment ("Good Place" and "Last Man on Earth" are prime examples in the half-hour comedy space) leaves you with no idea what’s coming next and Barry has this in spades. Taylor's survival is (at least for me) the show's saving grace but it's not an isolated incident. 

The Sally-Barry relationship is another great example. Sally’s somewhat of a fast mover for Barry in every sense. She pushes him into Gene’s class, into a friendship, into a sexual relationship, and now she pushes him away with equal style. Her “toxic masculinity” label of Barry might have been appropriate if Sally had actually taken time away from her own needs to actually see Barry for who he was and treat him with the necessary gentleness (in this case: kid gloves at every stage of their relationship). In this sense, it’s somewhat refreshing to see Sally get called out by her classmates.  D'Arcy Carden's character (I want to call her Janet?) came into their after-rehearsal chill sessions with fighting words that nicely ratchets up some of the in-group dynamics which reminds of how much more development these guys could use. 

The fact that this universe is acknowledging Sally has some growing up to do also leads for a possibility of Sally-Barry ship to recur considering they both have roughly an equal amount of work to do. Besides, they’re scene partners which seems like a cruel exercise for both of them.
For now, “toxic masculinity” isn’t a particularly appropriate description for Barry considering how well he’s handling his line of work. Nonetheless, Barry’s a pretty troubled guy and “Do Your Job” is the first time Barry starts to express this out loud. The channeling of his anger about his classmates’ ignorance of killing is a good start for Barry, both as an actor and a man dealing with his demons. In a sense, one serves the other which is why Barry was likely drawn to acting in the first place. 

In other plot lines, Gene's and the lady detective finally consummate their relationship. To call this unexpected is an understatement particularly with the incongruity of how Gene sees himself verses how smooth he actually is. Gene is the comedic high point of the episode which is a much-needed introspection of Barry.

The show's fluidity between action, comedy, and serious self-introspection is striking the right notes at this point in the season.

Rise Episode 3 Review: What Flowers May Bloom

Credit: Vulture

In the melodramatic version of high school presented by Rise, there are two polar archetypes of “Manhood” with a capital “M”: football and theater. 

Theater guys tend to talk about their feelings whereas football players tend to bury it away because it supposedly gets in the way of glorious character-building manly labor.  Theater guys are comfortable with all manners of non-straightness and might even be somewhere on the LGBQT spectrum, whereas football guys are too busy dealing with their magnetic allure to the opposite sex to notice such things.

Granted, "Rise" didn’t invent these stereotypes, but the show seems too lazy at times to portray its world any other way. This thematic axis guides the development of nearly everything in the world. The show’s alpha male characters, Mr. Mazzou and Robbie discover their self-actualization in the world of theater which refines their more masculine edges. It’s here that they both get in touch with their feminine sides (primarily being empathetic) needed to navigate all the challenges in their lives that require feelings and all that gooey stuff.

Mr. Mazzou needs to recognize Mrs. Wolfe as an asset and find the words needed to communicate with Simon's about why their son should stay in Staunton. One might call his two encounters with Mr. and Mrs. Saunders an arc of sorts: In the first encounter, he tries to us his masculinity to stake out his territory and puts his foot in the door when Simon’s mom tries to close it. But he lacks the words to follow through. Later, he’s miraculously granted the words (supposedly by being humbled by Mrs. Wolfe). Similarly, Robbie doesn’t yet have the words to put his crush at ease that he would be faithful to her but he’s getting there.

For the show’s reductive dichotomy of manhood, it at least gets credit for not villainizing the school of Strickland completely. Gordy, who’s been overly feminized in the world of theater, finds the lack of conversation with Strickland therapeutic in dealing with his punishment. Of course, there’s a separate conversation to be had over whether the punishment fits the crime in terms of drug offenses, but we’ll save that for another day. Interestingly enough, Strickland lacks the words to express what he needs to say to Vanessa so he has the same problems as Robbie and Mr. Mazzou. But Strickland has presumably gotten as far as he has in connecting with Vanessa because he’s capable of showing what he means through gestures. A cell phone cover doesn’t really fall under the category of Valentine’s gifts, but whatever floats your boat, Vanessa.

Beyond the character arcs themselves, there’s a lot to appreciate about the way Rise as a whole shows without words. Consider how well the interactions between Robbie and Lilliean encapsulate the sweetness of being out with your crush and the visceral awkwardness of feeling out your potential partner.  This is also a week where (as far as we know), Simon might be saying goodbye to the theater program that has given him so much. The sadness behind Simon’s eyes as he announces his departure to the group and that tear-swelling hug with Mrs. Wolfe are both well-deserved moments. True, the music’s a little sappy but it’s hard to understate the emotional impact of these moments. One might call it a masculine touch on a traditionally feminime genre, but if you throw the dichotomy away, it’s a visually poetic and effective way of storytelling.

Friday, April 20, 2018

AP Bio Season One Review

Knowing that his days on dark sitcom behemoth ”It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” are numbered, Glenn Howerton takes a cue from co-star Kaitlin Olsen and makes a lateral move by transferring the same comi-sociopathic screen persona into a new sitcom arena.

“AP Bio” is a fun show with a premise that doesn’t hold up to any level of scrutiny. If you can get past the latter, you’ll be able to enjoy the former. It’s one thing to con your way into a teaching job and not care about doing it once you get there (the most notable example being “Bad Teacher”). It’s another to actively want to prevent your students from learning when it’s so much easier just to let them open their text books and read on their own.

The deal Howerton’s character, Jack, makes with his students is that he’ll give them an automatic A if they don’t rat out his anti-learning methods to the well-intentioned-but-aloof Principal Durbin. What about the AP exam or whatever 200-level biology class they might take in college? What about the fact that Jack regularly threatens Fs when he’s upset?  Watching Jack be so casually erratic and cruel is surely funny, but the show falls apart when the reasons his students don’t rat him out are so paper-thin.

For all of its celebration of Jack’s cruelty, the episodes have followed a bit of a TGIF-template wherein Jack softens at the end of the episode. He generally realizes his mistake and makes up for it somehow. This is all well and good, but the cycle of unfeeling task master to atoner and back to monster at the start of each new episode starts to wear thin by episode’s end. It's clear that the show is trying to have its cake and eat it too after a certain point, by making Jack evil with a capital E (in the latest episode, it's revealed that he is a highly competent at teaching biology after all) but also having him learn and grow. "AP Bio" desperately needs to split the difference.

The best that the show does on this front is to show that Jack's not as completely devoid of feelings as his alter-ego Dennis Reynolds at times. In the episode where he dates a single mom, he does discover within himself that he's enamored (or "freakin' enamored" as the episode is titled) and he's slightly more up front with his own parental issues and psychological baggage then Dennis. Still, it's not always entirely convincing that Jack exists other than as an ersatz for Dennis. 
It’s also worth noting, the show has some amazing features in the background. The multi-racial Greek chorus of teachers (Mary Sohn, Lyric Lewis, Jean Villepique) who have not yet caught on to the fact that Jack is a con-artist but provide him with sufficient enough foils, have a great chemistry and dialogue. If this show is any bit of a downer, they add  a level of upbeat energy. Additionally, the show could just as easily be about the kids since there are so many different shades  of color (Heather needs an upgrade to full cast member, spin-off, and so much more) and humor from the rapidly developing group of students.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Why Three Billboards Sends a Better Thematic Message for our Times than Get Out

When we champion films for nominations and wins during awards season, especially in this day and age where critics see less distinction between cultural commentary and ascetic judgement, what we're often talking about is the predominant societal message we want to see Hollywood express in the wake of whatever we feel are the primary cultural obstacle of the present day. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Get Out are twoof the nine films that have been nominated for Oscar outside of the nine films that have both been discussed as contenders for Best Picture and they’re to consider in tandem because they have contrasting ways of dealing with the same problem.

Get Out is a classic horror film created by Jordan Peele who I have a lot of respect for as an actor (standing out on a show that is spiraling downward as he did with Mad TV deserves a special kind of praise) and as the co-creative mastermind behind Key and Peele which mined the same thematic territory-- the awkwardness of racial tension -- as Get Out.

One of the main tenets of comedic effect is the release of tension (further academic study has also added recognition as a comic trigger so the more societally relevant) so Key and Peele's sketches already have a head start on our funny bones because they center on the tension we all recognize.

Like the 2016 film  Keanu in the action genre last year (not a particularly notable film depending on which film critic you ask), tailoring Peele's thematic message to a different genre comes with challenges. In the case of Get Out, the metaphor for racial awkwardness is presented not within the benign confines of comedic sketch but a more aggressive genre. More so, this is a genre with a protagonist and antagonists in the form of a well-meaning couple (a Guardian article, uses the term Liberal Racists ) who profess themselves Obama supporters but are decidedly less comfortable with their daughter dating a black person.

The film has been said by its creator to embody truth and Peele's achievement of authenticity is worthy of applause. HOWEVER, the question with regard to the film in terms of award season is if this thematic message is THE thematic message of the year. Such things are apples and oranges but Get Out is essentially microaggression: All the metaphor boils down to well-meaning people unintentionally making the black experience worse than they thought. Moreso, it's a celebration of anger (at least when seen through critical lens) at racial inequality.

The sheer number of articles in the culture sphere coming out on a daily or weekly basis
expressing anger at Hollywood (a known ally for liberalism) for not being inclusive enough, isn't so far removed from the anger that the Get Out audience is encouraged to feel (through literary means of
amplification) against an ally for not being inclusive enough.
On top of that, there's increased references I see in articles and, particularly on twitter, to the idea of anger being not just a valid response to hatred but a productive emotion. Amber Tamblyn (an actress I admire, to be clear), for instance, has labelled her political stance in several interviews as pro-anger.

Suffice it to say, I'm not sure that meeting microaggression with anger or defining yourself by that emotion is what we want to be THE message of the year.

In contrast, Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing Missouri is about a society that's consumed by anger. How entirely prescient. Most of the film’s characters live in a state of down-trodden weariness that characterizes much of the American rust belt. The film is ugly and bold enough to know that people aren't going to have an easy time processing it (from the critics of various factions to someone like myself who walked out of the theater feeling a sense of intense confusion before eventually loving it) but it's ultimately a film about the extremely difficult journey two people make in dealing with an unfair and yes, angry world and that journey begins with finding a semblance of inner peace.

In this sense, Three Billboards is the inverse of Get Out: The former desires to show us anger beneath the surface while the latter tells us what we already have known for a while: We live in an angry place and time.

More importantly: The former encourages us to take awareness we might not have previously had, convert it to anger, externalize it, and direct it towards a villain. The latter encourages us to look at the anger within ourselves before we engage with the outside world.

Personally, I think society could use more of the latter message.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Round-Up of Non-Current Films I've Seen: Admission, The World's End, 9 to 5, Amadeus, Wish I Was Here, West Side Story

Admission (2013): Tina Fey and Paul Rudd star in a rom-com about an admissions officer at Princeton who discovers that the son she gave up for adoption a long time ago is now college age and his untraditional teacher/mentor/ready-made love interest is pushing hard for him to get into Princeton for reasons that only exist to drive the plot forward. The lack of rhyme and reason behind an admissions officer throwing her integrity down the drain by giving preferential treatment to a son she never knew existed becomes a pretty distractable plot hole considering the opening voice over talks about how seriously Tina Fey takes her job. 

While we're on the subject, I'm getting tired at this point of Tina Fey playing the same character over and over: Intelligent late-30s women who are often the only sane person in the room, and filled with worries of being a childless spinster as age creeps up on them.

Additionally, the courtship between the two lead characters tips too early in the first act. 

So why did I see it? It had a killer trailer. Those will get you:

Amadeus (1984)-My favorite old film I saw in the past year. The best picture winner from 1984 was included on AFI’s initial list of 100 Greatest Films of All-Time for good reason. The film is essentially a tone poem exploring the concept of jealousy which is quite novel. Even more clever is the idea to use a lesser-known historic figure to tell the story of the movie's main subject. Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham were largely unknowns when they took on the respective roles of famed composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and rival Salieri. The film is based on a a myth that Salieri poisoned Mozart out of jealousy for his genius and while the version of Salieri seen here is a heavily bastardized version to fit the plot, it does help illuminate the life of Mozart and the context in which he lived. 

I wrote an article for TopTenz about classical music icons who lived like rock stars and found the similarities between the two pretty eye-opening: The reality is that Mozart could generously be described as a foul-mouthed prankster and a brat at worst. "Amadeus" treads in that territory and carefully layers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's wardrobe and mannerisms with subtleties indicating the parallels between Mozart (the pink wig, the unchecked embracing of weird, the love of attention) and modern-day rock idolatry. 

Whatever Mozart's cause of death, there was a tragedy to his life that was universal to any artist and while the film brilliantly allots audience sympathy between both central figures, there's something endearing about Mozart and the fact that sales of Mozart spiked by 30%  in 1985 is indicative that Hulce's Amadeus did something right. 

9 to 5 (1980)-A good meditation on the #MeToo movement. I watched this mostly because I loved the song and found the movie serviceable. It was one of the highest grossing films of 1980 and deserves to be mentioned among landmark films of that time period. The film's pairing of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton (in her acting debut) and the dream sequences in which the three fantasize about killing their bosses, are also among the most notable things about the film. The best thing about the film is the natural camaraderie between the leads and just how impressively villanous Dabny Coleman's character was.

World's End (2013)-After seeing Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim, and Baby Driver and admiring Edgar Wright's work in all three of those films, I thought the time was right to approach this ode to the apocalypse. 
The film was a dueling film with Seth Rogen's This is the End and coming into this film having watched the Seth Rogen film throws the viewer for a curve because it's not apparent until about an hour in that this is an apocalyptic zombie film of sorts. The film takes the facade of a stunted middle-aged man who recruits his more well-adjusted adult friends for one last attempt at some sort of epic monumental pub crawl. The idea of a pub crawl might not be as epic as it seems, but the film sells us that this is a substantial deal to the protagonist. It also sells us on his delusion by showing how little of a deal it is to the other guys. The adult-friends-coming-to-terms-with-their-youths genre here provides quite a bit of narrative thrust and the film nicely adds the attacking zombies when the former needs some pick-me-up. The film lacks the comic depth or the game-changing gimmickry of the other three films I saw but those films set the bar quite high, so I'm quite pleased with the film's more moderate resolution. The film also has a lot of Easter Egg symbolism (look at the royal connection in the character's last names) that I didn't pick up until I saw the IMDB section so that might have affected my opinion. 

Wish I Was Here (2014)-Confession: I didn't care for "Garden State." The plot felt by-the-numbers, uneventful, and I spent most of that film scratching my head over why Zach's character would be into a disabled girl. The story attempted to be more than a romance and embody several facets of his life, but the protagonist's relationship with his dad and friends seemed easily solvable (or, again, uneventful) and considering the big ending was him getting together with Natalie Portman, was it really that much more than a romcom masquerading as a holistic indie film?
In contrast, "Wish I Was Here" has a lot of non-romantic plotlines that aren't treatest as afterthoughts. Mandy Patinkin's father character is a genuinely tough obstacle to the protagonist's well-being and he even has some valid points underneath his crusty facade about the protagonist being financially unwise by pursuing acting full-time. The film deals with money, spirituality, maintaining a marriage, death, fatherhood, and being a good son and treats each of these plots with a good deal of weight. 

In contrast to how "Garden State" meanders slowly without significant actions, the world of this film's protagonist is one of near-constant chaos as he juggles an array of responsibilities and desires.
The remarkable thing about how much this film won me over is that I retroactively like "Garden State" a little more because I now have a sense of the guy's style.
West Side Story (1961)-I've seen this before, but it's even better on second or third viewing. For instance, like a John Hughes film, "West Side Story" really captures youth and what the world looks like through the lens of those with immature life experiences: Yes, it's not particularly rational that the Jets would embracee sloth in Officer Krupkee or exxagerate their feud with the Sharks, or that Maria and Tony would sleep with each other after their brother and foster brother were killed, but these are teenagers whether they try to deny their rebellious nature (as Tony does) or not (the rest of the Jets). 

The inherent problems of racism and othering also caught me here. I didn't catch in any previous viewing that Tony was short for Anton and isn't considered a true Caucasian by Bernardo, that "America" has such prescient foreshadowing to the 2010s (references to hurricanes, debt and many people not being aware Puerto Rico is part of America) and that Lt. Shrank is racist as a matter of practicality: He detests gang violence because it makes his job harder, but he assumes that the Sharks are a bigger problem than the Jets. And the choreography! Jerome Robbins got fired before the completion of the movie and his main contribution were the four dance numbers (Mambo, The Prologue, America, and Cool).