Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Here Come the Newsies, Pt. 1

This here marks the beginning of another adventure
or at the very least, of an experiment:

I'm about to watch Newsies
(not The Newsies, though for whatever reason that title sounds right-er to me)
a 1992 Disney classic.

Okay, it might not be "a classic" - but it was a good try.
In the early 90s, Disney was on a roll, making films like Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). I mean, those. they're indisputably classics.

Wanting to branch out from animation, Disney was trying to make live-action blockbusters too, along the lines of Pretty Woman (1990) - a gritty story at its core. but it's got such a polished appearance and such a fairy-tale-like plot, no one with suburban, middle-class sensibilities could object.
(This is in clear contrast to the TV shows playing these days on Showtime and HBO - shows like Weeds, True Blood, and Secret Diary of a Call Girl - that're no holds barred, in-your-face-"real"-gritty satire / dramas that appeal more to an audience that values "authentic experience" over "happy endings.")

I've recently been reading a book called Monster: Living Off the Big Screen (1998) about what it was like making the film Up Close and Personal (1996), a film commissioned by Disney in 1988 but not completed until mid-1990s because of a million and one script re-writes. [Sidenote: The book's written by John Gregory Dunne who's now dead, sadly, but whose wife Joan Didion is very much alive.] The film was originally supposed to be a biography of the sordidly sparkling rise and fall of news anchor Jessica Savitch [who as it happens grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia]. But it ended up being an inspiring, family-friendly film à la A Star is Born (1956) featuring Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer. But more on that some other day.

ANYWAYS, point is: when Newsies debuted, it was a box-office flop. But when it came out on video cassette, it gained a cult following and is now generally received positively.

I'm watching it because it's been twice (maybe even thrice) recommended to me by friends, and I figure it's time.
I've been told it diverges quite a bit from the actual history of the late 1890s, and that (though I LOVE history) I would do best to just watch it to enjoy it.

So that is what I am going to try to do.

I plan to capture my immediate reaction to the film and post it sometime late tonight or tomorrow. and then to write a more thoughtful response 7-10 days from now.
So you can be looking for that.

Meantime, already from just the opening credits, I'm feeling simultaneously nostalgic (the familiar Disney theme music and shooting star flying like an arch over the Disney castle) and skeptical (the vague opening description, "This story is based on actual events"). This is bound to be good.

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