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The Order of Oddfish


More Portland 2014 90-Second Newberys: Holes, Frankweiler, and Sarah Plain and Tall

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival is coming to the Pacific Northwest this weekend! We’re doing a screening in Portland on Sunday, March 2 with co-host Amber Keyser, and in Tacoma on Saturday, March 1 with a mystery co-host. Check out the events page for details on places, times, and reservations. All screenings free.

In honor of the upcoming 90-Second Newbery in Portland this Sunday, I’d like to share a few more standout movies I’ve received from there (I’ll do a similar post for Tacoma later this week).

For instance, check out Kieran’s great adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal winner Holes, above! There’s a lot to like here, and one thing I particularly appreciated, although it seems small, is how everything was clearly explained at the beginning. So often these short movies are so abbreviated and chaotic it’s hard to tell what’s going on. But I was able to follow everything quite clearly. That’s hard to pull off!

And Kieran pulled it off with style! I especially liked the two great fight scenes: when they attack Mr. Sir in order to escape, and the lizard attack. Everyone was acting with such confidence and humor. It was ingenious to tilt the camera for the mountain-climbing scene, and it made it all the more funny when they said the line “Oh so we’re about halfway there? oh look, we’re there.” And I love how Stanley’s natural first reaction, upon finding lots of money, is to fling it away into the wind as quickly as possible. The bit at the end where they’re “making it rain” by fluttering down the dollar bills was quite amusing. Well done, Kieran and friends!

The next selection from Portland is by the Gresham Teen Council, a group of 15 middle- and high-school students who volunteer at the Gresham library. They adapted E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Medal winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

Very entertaining! I especially enjoyed all the careful little touches and details, like how at the beginning, Claudia is holding the book of the very story they’re experiencing. Postmodern! The music was effective and well-chosen. The eating-the-gum-out-of-the-fountain was funny and gross. The script zipped quite effectively and amusingly through the story. Solid work!

And finally from Portland, Claire, Dalya, Kayra and Will return to the 90-Second Newbery, after their triumph last year, with a new adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan’s 1986 Medal winner Sarah, Plain and Tall:

Looks great! Again, a nice tight script that hits all the necessary plot points with swiftness and verve. It’s harder than it looks! The singing at the beginning was an engaging way to introduce the movie, and the “beard” that the Dad was wearing at the start was pretty awesome too (and the prememptory way Pa says “I didn’t like it much anyway, it itched” after he shaves it off had just the right gruff bashfulness). I liked how the “beach” scene was shot in the bathroom, too. Resourceful! Overall, a great job (And of course I laughed at the WHAT’S THIS, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE?! tag at the end, followed by a pratfall . . . )

I’ll proudly screen these movies, and many other spectacular entries, at the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland this Sunday, March 2, from 3-5 pm at the Da Vinci Arts Middle School. Admission is free, but I encourage you to reserve your seat anyway. See you there!

Next post: Tacoma . . .

Thanks, Bay Area! And: Portland and Tacoma, here comes the 90-Second Newbery

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival season is in full swing! A few weeks ago we packed the house in San Francisco and Oakland for screenings, and it was a great time. Thanks to Newbery-winning authors Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan), who co-hosted the San Francisco screening with me, and Jenni Holm (Our Only May Amelia, Penny From Heaven, Turtle in Paradise) who co-hosted the Oakland screening with me. Not only were both of them game for our goofy singing-and-dancing shtick at the beginning, but both also brought their own sparkling wit to the proceedings. I’m lucky to have such generous and talented co-conspirators for this film festival!

This upcoming weekend we’ll be doing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Portland (with co-host Amber Keyser) and Tacoma (with a mystery co-host!). Details in the events sidebar. I’m looking forward to it!

To whet your appetite, I’ll be featuring 90-Second Newberys I’ve received from Tacoma and Portland all week. Let’s start today with these two completely different versions of Wanda Gag’s bizarre 1929 Newbery Honor Book, Millions of Cats. Why bizarre? Perhaps because the climax of the book involves “hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions of cats” literally murdering each other in order to determine who is the “prettiest.” It is by far the bloodiest Newbery book with the highest body count (top “trillions”). Even better, it’s a picture book aimed at 4-year-olds! Everyone wins?

So check out Elliott and Jen’s (of Tacoma) version of Millions of Cats above. It’s a crowd-pleaser, from the old-tymey-film style in which they did it, to the hilarious performances of the old man and the old woman, to the tons of kids dressed as actual cats. And it really underscores the bloody absurdity of the story. Good Lord, how did this nightmare ever get published?! Who reads this to their children?

Here’s another entry from Tacoma, by the Tacoma Public Library Action Faction (Young Adult Volunteer Group) and the Tacoma Public Library Digital Media StoryLab users. It also puts its finger squarely on what makes this children’s story so disturbing—and even better, does it in Minecraft:

It’s especially appropriate to use Minecraft to adapt a book like this, because how else are you going to wrangle that many cats for your movie, especially when they’re called upon to accomplish large-scale shenanigans like drinking up a pond or devouring the countryside? Funny script too: “I know how to solve this. We’ll have a kitty thunderdome!” And when the cat-beast rose up with a sword, shouting “there can be only one” and going on a murderous rampage—I love it! And all the guts out in the field in the end, blech! And that final hideous laugh from the demon cat, as everything turns red, and the camera goes cockeyed—a nice horror-movie final touch, which really brings the sadism of this “children’s” story home.

I’m looking forward to screening these movies, and more, at the Portland and Tacoma screenings this weekend! Check out the events sidebar for more details, and to make your free reservation for the Portland show.

2014 90-Second Newberys from the Bay Area

San Francisco and Oakland! Our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screenings this Saturday, 2/8 are featured in articles in the San Francisco Chronicle (read here) and Inside Bay Area (read here). Check out my events page for details and reservations.

As the San Francisco and Oakland screenings of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival draw near, I thought I’d highlight some excellent movies I’ve received from the Bay Area!

The first batch is from St. Andrews Episcopal School in Saratoga, California. Check out their adaptation of Megan Whalen Turner’s 1997 Honor Book The Thief, above. Hilarious and clever! The kid who played the Magus in particular was so flamboyantly funny. “And this is your majestic steed!” and “You’re holding the wrong end of the sword” made me crack up, as well as every time I saw that little riding mower. Good beards. Good delivery of the idol joke. Good everything! (And that deliciously ridiculous freeze-frame at the end!)

I received six great movies in all from St. Andrews Episcopal School, in a variety of styles—a version of House of the Scorpion done in Minecraft, another version of House of the Scorpion done as an surreal one-man show, a version of Breaking Stalin’s Nose that is replete with lovely Russian accents, and a very good Graveyard Book. You can watch them all here.

We also received, from Isabella of Foster City (with help from her friend Briana of Round Rock, TX) this cool puppet show of Janet Taylor Lisle’s 1990 Honor Book Afternoon of the Elves:

A confession: I haven’t yet read Afternoon of the Elves, but this adaptation makes me want to. That’s a sign of a good movie! (Seriously, what was all that stuff about the mother going to the insane asylum, and the Ferris wheel that is a water wheel for elves, and making an elf village in the garage . . . I’m very intrigued.)

Thanks, everyone in the Bay Area, for your great movies this year! (And I’m not forgetting about Bennett of San Mateo’s great Sign of the Beaver, either!)

See you on Saturday for the screenings at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library (make your free reservations here), and the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library! Complete info on my events page.