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The Order of Oddfish

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Countdown to Chicago 90-Second Newbery, Part 2: Wunderkind Solo Auteurs Edition

January 29, 2016

A big thanks to the San Francisco Awesome Foundation for supporting 2016’s 90-Second Newbery screenings on February 13 in San Francisco and Oakland with a generous grant. (Wait . . . you want to make a tax-deductible donation to the 90-Second Newbery too? You can do it here!)

The Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming up this Sunday, January 31, 2016! It’s sold out, and there’s a wait list, but seats are always opening up, so you can get on that wait list here.

What can you expect to see at Sunday’s screening? Today I want to concentrate on three wunderkind auteurs who project a go-it-alone persona. They make videos that seem to be like one-person shows. Two of them we’ve met in previous years, so let’s lead off with the newcomer: 8-year-old Corbin Stanchfield of Lafayette, Indiana! He makes his 90-Second Newbery debut with an adaptation of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s 1992 Newbery Medal Winner Shiloh. Check it out above.

Shiloh is, of course, your standard boy-and-his-dog story, set in West Virginia. The premise of Corbin’s video: what if there are certain budget cuts in the video’s production, such that the video can’t actually be filmed in the rolling hills of West Virginia where the book is set, but rather must make do with the flat fields of Indiana? And furthermore . . . maybe the budget can’t afford, er, a dog either . . . but, well, how about a bagel? A bagel makes an acceptable substitute for a dog, right? Don’t judge too hastily! Watch the movie, this bagel is a very expressive and frisky and emotional bagel! Corbin does great work throughout too, from selling the premise to nailing the visual gags to his rural accent to the impromptu beard! You can check out more of Corbin Stanchfield’s videos at his website Corbin Films.

Another up-and-comer: Ada Grey of Chicago, who every year submits a super-elaborate 90-Second Newbery done entirely with PlayMobil figures. This year, Ada adapted Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Newbery Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

I love the super-complicated, meticulously-composed scenes that Ada puts together. And in terms of storytelling, Ada always lays everything out logically and clearly, which is hard to do in 90 seconds! The voiceover is brisk and witty and I love Ada’s performance as Ivan the silverback. I look forward to her submission every year, she always raises the bar every year with another great video!

Finally for today, Ava Levine of Chicago does Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winning chestnut The Giver:

Ava came to my attention last year with a 90-Second Newbery in the style of the opening monologue of “Saturday Night Live,” but comes into her own here with this one-woman show. Like the other movies, it was fun to see Ava play multiple roles, and I liked how she resourcefully used her hair as the Giver’s “beard.” I particularly liked the lines “I will touch you and you will be put into a kind of montage thing” and “I must run away and cause a huge problem for the society!” The montage itself was well done, with the spinning around in color. The movie definitely hit the sweet spot for me at the end, where the narrator says “But personally, I like to think he died”—THAT IS EXACTLY MY OPINION ABOUT THE END OF THE BOOK TOO, but nobody seems to agree with me on that! Thanks, Ava, for saying what must be said! Jonas totally dies at the end of that book, there’s no doubt in my mind!

Whether or not you believe Jonas died at the end of The Giver (and he did die, he’s totally dead, don’t even delude yourselves), I’m looking forward to seeing you all on Sunday!

Countdown to Chicago 90-Second Newbery, Part 1

January 28, 2016

I was on the “Write Of Your Life” Podcast a few weeks ago! Stacy Curtis interviews me about the creative process and I reveal was a “vomelette” is.

The Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming to the Vittum Theater (1012 N. Noble) this Sunday, January 31, 2016, from 3-5 pm! It’s technically sold out, but seats always open up, so if you want to come I recommend you get on the wait list here.

Here are some movies we’ve received from the Chicago area this year! Eti Berland is the superstar librarian who handles all the social media for the 90-Second Newbery (she has also, ahem, been on the Newbery committee). This year, she and Ashley Hamernik of the Evanston Public Library worked with the EPL Homeschool Group to make this great adaptation of Ingrid Law’s 2009 Honor Book Savvy in the video above!

I liked the stylish way this movie efficiently introduces the premise of the book, with the voiceover and subtitles over the intriguing images (loved that cute turtle!). And whoever played the owner of the cafe brought real energy into that firing scene. (And that was a nice waitress costume)! The electrical sound-effects paired with the lights turning on and off was a resourceful way to represent the brother’s “savvy” of having control over electricity. Everyone did a great job acting and the green-screen work was very well done! We’ll be showing this at the screening on Sunday, see you there!

And next up is Shannon Hale’s 2006 Honor Book Princess Academy by Muskaan, Suzan, Liza, Valentina, Amani, and Pia of the Niles Public Library:

Fun and ambitious! The extensive green-screen made it feel like a movie with authentic locations. That’s hard to pull off! Good cinematography, good use of music, and great acting from the star and everyone else (with a breakout performance for Tutor Olana!) The cruel girls were wonderfully nasty, the angry mob of miners was appropriately menacing, and the prince was pretty adorable. We’ll be screening this on Sunday too!

And finally we have Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 1938 Honor Book On the Banks of Plum Creek by Nora, Hazel, and Violet:

I like how this focused just on the daughters’ experience in the story—that went a long way to winnowing down the story to a manageable size. And it was a good idea to give each sister her own introduction right at the top, to make all the characters clear. The subtitles help kept the plot understandable. I liked the running joke about how small the house is, with a cool use of that little door in the side of the house! And the three sisters’ freaking-out “Home Alone” hands-on-the-face reaction to the tininess of the house was fantastic. When grasshopper storm comes, I love how hard the girls sold it, with insane panic and crying, and the camerawork felt appropriately frenetic. It’s the enthusiastic acting that put this one over the top! (And great prairie dresses too!) We’ll be showing this one on Sunday too!

By the way, Violet in this movie went to preschool with my daughter Lucy Momo! Here’s a picture from a few years ago, of them outside the school, when we all spelled out their names with dandelions:

Looking forward to the screening this Sunday!

2016 90-Second Newbery: Thanks, San Antonio!

January 17, 2016

The 90-Second Newbery relies on your donations to keep going. Make your tax-deductible donation here! We are under the fiscal sponsorship of the Northwestern Settlement nonprofit.

Last week we did the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in San Antonio, Texas! This was one of the best screenings we’ve had yet, sponsored in grand style by BiblioTech, San Antonio’s digital library, and H-E-B Read 3, HEB Texas Grocery’s literacy program. Thanks to the kids for the fantastic movies they made—and the audience who came out in full force, packing the Tobin Center for Performing Arts with 300+ people! (Indeed, we got a nice write-up in the San Antonio Express-News.)

And special thanks to my co-host, author Nikki Loftin (The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, Wish Girl and Nightingale’s Nest), who knocked it out of the park as a co-host. She sang! She danced! She cracked wise! (And she saved the show when I almost skipped a movie and she gracefully got me back on track.)

Here Nikki and I introduce the show and perform the opening song, which I cribbed from the 2014 90-Second Newbery screenings . . . it’s “What Would John Newbery Do?” (apologies to South Park’s “What Would Brian Boitano Do?”) in which we reveal the superheroic, terrifying exploits of the man for whom the Newbery Medal is named:

Thanks to Irene Kistler for taking the video!

And a HUGE thanks to Laura Cole of BiblioTech and Christa Aldrich of HEB, who did all the hard work of bringing the 90-Second Newbery to town: landing a venue, spreading the word, making the screening into a red-carpet gala event with snacks and a photographer, all kinds of logistics—Laura and Christa and the Bibliotech staff worked overtime to build the 90-Second Newbery up in San Antonio. And thanks to Judge Nelson Wolff for supporting this project from the very beginning.

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Usually at these 90-Second Newbery screenings, I show a mix of movies: local entries side-by-side with ringers from around the country. But we had so many entries from Texas this year, we had enough to make the entire screening 100% Texas-made! We also decided to award prizes for the best videos. The first prize went to the Texas Underdogs’ impressive adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, which I’ve already featured on my blog here. The second prize went to Ryan and Rudy’s stop-motion Lego adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Holes, which I’ve previously featured here. Third place went to this adaptation of Margi Preus’ 2011 Honor Book Heart of a Samurai, as adapted by Camryn L. and Eugene V., which I present to you now:

Good visual storytelling all the way through, with great use of sound effects and music (especially for the “‘MURICA!” part). I like the way this movie shows the boat and the whale in the pool, and intercut that with the three boys in the actual boat (resourceful, getting that!) Spraying the crew of the boat with a hose seemed fun—also jumping into the pool too! The story is told effectively with nothing but images and subtitles. I like the anachronism that Manjiro can read “The Fault in Our Stars” back in the 1800s . . . and that when Manjiro finally becomes a samurai, he is fighting EVIL TREES. Thanks, Camryn and Eugene!

And thanks to everyone who came out for the film festival in San Antonio! Here are a few more pictures to give you an idea of what it was like:

And now, the final montage of all the movies we showed in the San Antonio 2015 screening. Enjoy! And it’s never too early to get cracking on movies for next year! And remember you can keep up with all things 90-Second Newbery by following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook.

And now, time to take the 90-Second Newbery to Chicago! And San Francisco, Oakland, New York, Portland, Tacoma, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Rochester NY . . .

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