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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery, Lancaster Country Day Edition: The Giver and The Westing Game

January 16, 2013

It’s almost here! February 10 is the Chicago screening of the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, co-hosted by me and Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer). That’s Sunday, 2/10/2013, from 2-3:30 pm at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. Reserve your free seat here. Quick! It’s selling out!

Today I want to highlight two films I received from Lancaster Country Day School, who thanks to their librarian Sarah Julsonnet, has been part of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival from the beginning. Above, check out their first video, which was featured in the first annual film festival, of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver. For that one, I like how they went the enigmatic route—with so little dialogue, it feels like a weird art movie from the late 1970s. Good acting, clever musical cues, and I liked the occasional switch from black and white to color. The helicopter “special effect” was particularly choice!

But that’s not all we got from Lancaster Country Day! There’s also this adaptation of Ellen Raskin’s 1979 Medal winner The Westing Game:

This book is the mother of all challenges for the 90-Second Newbery—it has such a labyrinthine plot, with so many characters and mysteries and occurrences, that it defies the 90-second limitations. That’s why I’m always happy to see 90-Second Newbery versions of The Westing Game—they always become glorious barrage of what seems like hilarious nonsense. The true test isn’t whether or not the plot is conveyed, which is impossible, but how much fun the filmmakers seem to be having, and whether they do it with panache. And in this case, clearly everyone is having a ball, and I really enjoyed watching it! I particularly liked the nice explosion effect in the kitchen! And the aftermath of people dropping to their knees and shrieking in terror and despair is great. The last scene, in which everything is explained, is done with such aggressive understatement it’s like a Wes Anderson movie. In a good way! (I like the offhand way he dies, too.)

Great job with both of these, Lancaster Country Day—and I’m looking forward to what you might do for the third annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival for 2013!