‘In the Heights’: Why ‘96,000’ Was the ‘Hardest Sequence’ in the Film

You’ve heard of the Oscars, but have you heard of the Isaacs? The Isaac Awards, in honor of the great Oscar Isaac, are Showbiz Cheat Sheet’s unique spin on the Academy Awards. However, the Isaac Awards are different from the Oscars in that they celebrate the best movies of 2021 that deserve recognition but will not receive that recognition through Oscar nods. The 2022 Isaac Awards feature five categories: Best Performance, Best Scene-Stealer, Best Crowd-Pleasing Moment, Best Action Sequence, and Fan-Favorite Movie. Voting will be open via this form from March 7-20. Winners will be announced on March 24.

The 2022 Academy Awards has films like West Side Story, Encanto, and Tick, Tick… Boom! nominated in multiple categories. The latter two, of course, boast the involvement of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. But another of Miranda’s critically acclaimed 2021 movies, In the Heights, failed to secure any Oscar nods. Showbiz Cheat Sheet’s 2022 Isaac Awards, however, has the movie’s “96,000” sequence nominated for Best Crowd-Pleasing Moment. As it turns out, that musical number was the most challenging in the entire movie.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes speak onstage in front of the poster for ‘In the Heights’
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes | Gary Gershoff

2021’s ‘In the Heights’ is a celebration of culture and community

Directed by Jon M. Chu (Crazy Rich Asians), In the Heights is a film adaptation of one of Miranda’s own stage musicals. In addition to playing lead character Usnavi onstage, Miranda has concept, music, and lyrics credits on the Broadway musical. Quiara Alegría Hudes wrote the book and returned to write the film version’s screenplay.

The story follows a group of residents in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan in New York City. With a predominantly Latinx cast of characters, In the Heights serves as a celebration of not only the community but also the culture. And it raises a lot of worthy conversations about being a present-day immigrant.

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‘96,000’ proved to be the film’s most challenging musical sequence

Like its Broadway counterpart, In the Heights also taps into the hopes and dreams of its characters. Though thematically similar, Chu’s film version needed to find a way to make its music cinematic. And so, one key number, “96,000” was reimagined as taking place at Highbridge Pool, where it was shot on location. Choreographer Christopher Scott told the Motion Picture Association why this sequence presented such a unique challenge.

“That was the hardest sequence in the film because these are dancers. They’re not swimmers. We’d talked about hiring a synchronized swimming group but looking for one that represented the Latinx community? We just couldn’t find it. We weren’t going to sacrifice the representation over the skill of synchronized swimmers. So we decided to do our own version. Our dancers stepped up and made it happen to the best of their abilities. I love the version we came up with because it’s a bit of an homage to Busby Berkeley but it also has this element of representation.”

Indeed, representation is so integral to In the Heights. And Scott’s approach makes a difference. After all, this scene features 90 dancers, more than any other in the movie. That scope goes a long way toward the emotional impact of the movie. As Scott said, “Having such a large group of people makes it feel powerful as a way of representing a community with all these different stories. I know it’s expensive to hire dancers, but it’s worth the money.

‘In the Heights’ failed to score Oscar nods but boosted its cast

Despite the efforts of Scott and everyone involved, In the Heights might not have received the Oscar attention it deserved. But it did mark a step forward for its cast. Anthony Ramos’ performance as Usnavi did earn him a Golden Globe nomination. And he’s set to star in 2023’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts.

Meanwhile, Melissa Barrera recently played the lead role in 2022’s Scream, which has a sequel in the works. Leslie Grace is currently shooting Batgirl, in which she’ll play the title role opposite Michael Keaton’s Batman. And Olga Merediz recently reunited with Miranda as the singing voice of Abuela Alma Madrigal in Encanto. Meanwhile, will In the Heights win the 2022 Isaac Award for Best Crowd-Pleasing Moment? We’ll know soon enough.

Vote for the 2022 Isaac Awards here now through Sunday, March 20. Winners will be announced on March 24.

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