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90-Second Newbery: Musical Edition!

April 7, 2014

Whoops! I got to the end of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival season and realized there were some really good videos that were submitted that I somehow neglected to put on the blog. They’re quality, though, so let’s check them out!

Full disclosure: those kids in that dead-on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” parody version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler above are my niece Amalia and my nephew Domingo. Guitar and singing by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Chris and Alice. But it’s great, I swear! No nepotism here! If it was terrible, I’d kick them to the curb! I have no loyalty to family, only slavering devotion to the quality of the 90-Second Newbery! The movie sums up the book quickly and wittily, the Dylan impression is pretty good, and c’mon, my niece and nephew are adorable.

I admit it, I do love it when folks do their 90-Second Newberys in musical form. Katie Stringwell’s kids at the Eola Road Branch of the Aurora Public Library in Aurora, Illinois got into the musical spirit of it too, with this version of Louis Sachar’s Holes, in the style of a Charlie Daniels-esque country song:

The Aurora Public Library has submitted great movies in the past, and this one is no exception. According to Katie, the kids filmed this during one of the hottest part of the summer, and you can really tell! I love the decision to tell the story as a ballad. What a great device to convey a lot of narrative information quickly! Not only was the song ace, but I loved the acting: Stanley’s look of trepidation in the first shot, and Kissin’ Kate’s no-nonsense, tough-lookin’ ways. And I liked how they’re freaking out in the background while the treasure chest is being opened. Good lizards, and it’s a nice detail how Stanley and Zero are reading “Diggers”!

Thanks for these musical 90-Second Newberys, guys! Looking forward to seeing what you all make next year! (A Disney musical version of something? A Gregorian chant? A Captain Beefheart-style freakout? A Gilbert-and-Sullivan patter song? An avant-garde droning while a tiny German man sweatily and frantically recites a series of zeroes and ones? ALL OF THE ABOVE?!)

90-Second Newbery Wrap-Up: Thanks, New York!

April 1, 2014

UPDATE! The School Library Journal just ran a smashing article about the 90-Second Newbery. Read it here!

Thanks all the folks who packed the house last week for the culminating screening of the 2014 90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the New York Public Library! Hundreds showed up at the NYPL’s fancypants Bartos Forum, including many of the young filmmakers—not only locals but also from as far away as Rochester, NY and Wayne, PA!

Thanks to the New York Public Library, the Awesome Foundation NYC for funding, NYPL’s Gretchen Kolderup for setting it all up, Rashida Washington for filming it, and last but not least my co-host Libba Bray, who was everything I could wish for in a co-host, a real pro and a hilarious improviser.

Here’s our show intro, in which Libba and I banter about John Newbery, followed by a song-and-dance about the man himself:

(The song is a takeoff of South Park’s “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” with lyrics rewritten by me and Keir Graff, co-host for the 90-Second Newbery Chicago screening.)

We also had some of the filmmakers even come up onstage for short interviews, which was a lot of fun. Here’s the montage we played at the end of the show, showing highlights from all the movies we screened:

Afterwards, conversation, champagne and complicated cocktails at the Peacock with Libba, my wife Heather, and New York friends old and new. What a way to close out this year’s 90-Second Newbery season! Thanks, everyone!

The deadline for the FOURTH 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is December 20, 2014. Never too early to get cracking on it! Complete rules and details here. NOW FLY, MY BEAUTIFUL PRETTIES! MAKE ME MOVIES!

90-Second Newbery Film Festival in NEW YORK CITY this Saturday!

March 21, 2014

Chicago, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, Tacoma . . . and now at last we come to the final screening, in New York City, of the third annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It will be this Saturday, March 22 at the New York Public Library, 3-5 pm (details). I’m co-hosting it with the stupendous author Libba Bray! It’s sold out, but there are always no-shows, so even if you don’t have a ticket . . . you might want to take your chances and come on down anyway?

The screenings change from city to city, as I try to emphasize local entries. Let’s check out some entries I’ve received from the New York area.

That first movie above? Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal winner Holes . . . but reimagined as a zombie apocalypse by the Write Stuff Writing Class of Metuchen, New Jersey! From the opening titles I knew this would be a goodie. It was a clever idea to replace the poisonous lizards of Holes with zombies. Sam’s repeated “I can fix that” followed by “I can’t fix that” was funny. And I love how passionately Kissin’ Kate yelled “goddang it, Timmy, ya brat!” The “Thriller” reference at the end was just icing on the cake. Thanks, Write Stuff!

Next up, Crunchable Sheep of Spencerport, NY is back with their adaptation of Arthur Bowie Chrisman’s 1926 Medal winner Shen of the Sea:

I really appreciate that they made a movie of an older, more obscure Newbery winner this year. I liked the touches of Chinese, and chuckled at the “Bye, Daddy!” “Yeah, just go” and the way she says “We are at war” and the four generals sagely nod. A fleetfooted adaptation! Good job!

Next, Patricia Reilly Giff’s 1998 Honor Book Lily’s Crossing as adapted by Nina and Celia of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York:

Nina and Celia wrote and sang the song in the opening and closing credits! The script really efficiently sums up the story, and the shots are clearly well-planned. Albert’s accent is hilarious (“Rrrrruth got the measles!”) and I love the occasional asides to the camera from Lily. It’s a challenge to convincingly simulate water but they make it believable with the sound effects and the resourcefully-deployed sheet. And I laughed when Albert falls off the boat/sled . . .

Next, also from Hastings-on-Hudson, but this time by Luisa, Kate, and Ella, we have Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie:

Energetic and delightfully bonkers! I enjoyed the Southern accents and admired the brave choice to do the whole thing in one shot, without moving the camera, in the bedroom, with just three people playing all the parts.

And finally, speaking of Newbery winners about animals, here’s another adaptation of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, this time from Tredyffrin Public Library in Wayne, PA:

Great puppets and masks, a tight script, and I liked the creative camera work! Thanks, Tredyffrin Public Library!

Looking forward to seeing the filmmakers, and everyone else, this Saturday at the library! (And it’s never too early to get working on your 90-Second Newbery for next year’s FOURTH 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. The deadline is December 20, 2014!)

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