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Feature: Newsiesversary

Newsies (1992)

I am afraid I might alienate a good number, if not all, readers by mentioning the “controversial” favorite movie of mine: Newsies. I say “controversial” because for those who are aware of the 1992 Disney live-action musical (the only one Disney made for theaters until High School Musical 3), they are surely shaking their heads in disappointment with my clearly lacking taste in movies (a very small sect might be cheering for the film’s mention, but I’m not holding my breath).

I feel the need to write — as briefly as I can manage — about Newsies because today happens to be my 10-year Newsiesversary, marking a decade since I became obsessed with the film. Dec. 15, 2000, was not my first viewing of the flick. I had watched it extensively as a kid after its TV premiere and subsequent recording by my parents. When re-watching it as a high schooler, I re-fell in love with it and thus began an extensive Internet-fueled hunt for all info Newsies. Although the obsession has certainly dwindled in recent years to the point of this once-a-year viewing, I still consider myself a fanatic, having relinquished my “NEWSIES” license plate only last August after a two-year stint (“I’m a reporter,” I would explain to unknowing pedestrians. Nice excuse, right?).

I was never one to deny that Newsies might be a terrible movie. It is loaded with continuity and historical errors that are fun to spot and sports a story line too complex for the child audience it targeted. When watching the movie with director’s commentary a year ago, however, I concluded that, no, in fact, Newsies is a bit of a masterpiece. When one considers how difficult it would have been to orchestrate a two-hour feature film using 20 primary teenage boy actors and hundreds of adolescent extras, it is a wonder Director Kenny Ortega accomplished anything, let alone getting them to sing and dance in sync. And one also cannot say the film is devoid of talent. Besides Ann-Margaret, Bill Pullman and Robert Duvall (who took the role because he was fascinated by the opportunity to play Pulitzer), the world has only recently come to appreciate the talent of Christian Bale. He might not have been able to sing well, but the newest face of Batman and his method-acting ways have made nothing but a splash in every picture he has done as an adult (The Machinist, Rescue Dawn, American Psycho).

The overwhelming cult fascination, albeit ignored by many digests of “cult classics”, also should give the movie some credence. Hundreds of teenage-made fan sites (including an extremely large one of my own that saw its demise with the death of Geocities) offer photos, bloopers, and trivia. At the time of my obsession’s start in 2000, the Yahoo! Newsies mailinglist had something like a thousand members who posted 300 emails per day. The appeal of the film lied almost exclusively in teenage girls and gay teenage boys because it was basically a bunch of cute boys singing and dancing on screen. The songs and the dances gave fans something to learn, and various inside jokes laid the way for a plethora of drinking games.

So in my attempts to keep this brief, I will conclude here, and look forward to my annual night with the movie. And for those who made it this far, I appreciate your attention.

Seize the Day

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