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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery 2016: Thank you, New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries!

March 11, 2016

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It’s been a whirlwind of 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screenings! I’ve already blogged about our screenings in San Antonio, Chicago, Oakland and San Francisco; I haven’t yet recapped Tacoma, Portland, and Minneapolis, but I will soon!

In the meantime: on March 5 and 6 we did back-to-back screenings at the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library. At the NYPL I was lucky enough to get the hilarious Peter Lerangis as my co-host, the author of the Seven Wonders series—a series for which the concluding book just dropped (he’s on tour promoting it now)! At the Brooklyn Public Library my co-host was the wonderful Torrey Maldonado, author of Secret Saturdays. They were stellar hosts, and we had huge crowds at both events!

I didn’t manage to get a video of the opening of the Brooklyn show with Torrey, but we did get a video of the opening of the NYPL show with me and Peter, which you can see above. Since this is the fifth year of the 90-Second Newbery, in the opening I show a short movie about the first five years of the film festival—which is interrupted by a time-traveling Peter, who has come back from five years in the future, and has disturbing news of what the 90-Second Newbery is going to become. It all ends with multiple time-travel doublecrossing, a light saber battle, and of course a song! Check out our opening at the New York Public Library above.

And here are Torrey and I with some of the young audience and filmmakers at the Brooklyn Public Library:

x_me with torrey and young filmmakers

Aside from the movies I’m showing all over the country, what locally-made movies did we feature at the New York screenings? Check out Ossining Public Library’s adaptation of Patricia MacLachlan’s 1986 Medal Winner Sarah, Plain and Tall—but done with a twist: in science fiction style! Instead of Sarah being a mail-order bride, she’s a Vulcan! I give you Sarah, Plain and Logical:

What a brilliant idea to do Sarah, Plain and Tall with terraforming space frontiersmen instead of early American settlers! I loved the dialogue (“I mean, it HAS been six hours” and “You should try Spacebook”) and I love how deeply they committed to making the movie look good, with resourceful green screen, elaborate costumes, flying-spaceship scenes, original music, and even a “Spacebook” page made specifically for the movie! The idea of having Sarah be a Spock-like Vulcan was inspired, and I love that she has a literal PET ROCK. When they’re all singing along in Vulcan at the end, with a montage of fun activities, all of which have “Sprock” the pet rock floating weirdly in the background, I just about lost it. Brilliant work, Ossining Public Library! (And check it out—I myself have a cameo as Admiral Ackbar at the beginning!)

Next up, Lois Lowry’s 1990 Medal Winner Number the Stars, as made by Juliet and Leah:

What a breakneck ride through Number the Stars! Whoever was playing the Nazis really tore into their role with gusto. It hits all the major plot points in the book with brisk clarity, especially the trick with the funeral . . . and this probably the first mention of cocaine in 90-Second Newbery history. Great job, Juliet and Leah!

Every year we get a bunch of super 90-Second Newbery videos from Jim Adams’ class at the Foote School in New Haven, CT. Here’s the one I featured at the NYPL screening: Jasmine, Jillian, and Nick’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Medal Winner The Graveyard Book:

A really funny script! “Don’t tell the girl, but I’m actually gonna kill her friend!” and “I will never see you again. You should cry now” were ace lines. I like that the filmmakers took the time to get gravestones for the set. Fun Sleer scene too!

Last year and this year too we got submissions from the talented Parrino family who live outside New York. This first one, by Jillian Parrino, has a great twist: it’s Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted done in the style of Star Wars!

What a bonkers, inspired idea! I love how it nails all the details specific to Star Wars, from the John Williams music and opening crawl to the resourceful use of modified cut-outs of the characters like Captain Phasma, Princess Leia, the stormtroopers, Rey, Finn, Jabba the Hutt, etc. in various environments. Funny use of the Jedi mind trick on the ogres, I mean, Jabba! And we even got a light saber duel at the end, inside Ella’s mind, against Kylo Ren! Fantastic work!

But that’s not all we got from the Parrino family. Joseph Parrino did this elaborate stop-motion Lego version of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s 1968 Honor Book The Egypt Game:

A very thorough and complete retelling of the story! The sets were really well done (the inside of the junk shop! the junkyard in back!) The story was briskly and clearly told. The way Toby and Ken come down the fence head-first was kind of hilarious! And good background music throughout.

But wait! We have another stop-motion Lego movie! This one is by Violet and Ocean of the Brooklyn Public Library, Carroll Gardens branch, and it’s of Carl Hiaasen’s 2003 Honor Book Hoot:

The animation looks fantastic, so detailed and fluid. And the sound effects and voiceover acting really pulled it all together! I especially liked it when the owl comes zooming by in the construction site. And I thought it was funny how the alligator in the toilet was HUGE (and . . . mooed!). The protest was a great scene, so elaborate and well-done, with lots of jump cuts between the protestors giving an appropriately chaotic impression! (And I liked the chants of “We love owls! We hate pancakes!” and the picket sign that suggested she take the pancake house to Russia). It was clever the way they made the hero “swim” at the end. And I always enjoy a great homemade song over the closing credits.

Here I am with the makers of Hoot, Violet and Ocean, with their facilitator Jodi from the Carroll Gardens branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Check out their Hoot-themed T-shirts they wore especially for the event:

x_me with violet and ocean and jodi in brooklyn

We also featured Ruth Sawyer’s 1937 Medal Winner Roller Skates, as adapted by Mohana Buckley, a super-talented girl who has contributed a movie almost every year of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, and Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes as adapted by the folks at Camp Mel. However, both those videos are private or not shared online . . . so if you weren’t at the screening, I’m afraid you’re out of luck!

x_torrey and i onstage

Thanks to Peter Lerangis and Torrey Maldonado for co-hosting, Anna Taylor and everyone at the New York Public Library, Paquita Campoverde and Brandon Graham and everyone at the Brooklyn Public Library, and of course all the filmmakers and friends and family who made movies and came out to the screenings! Here’s the closing montage we used to end the NYPL show, of all the movies we showed in New York and Brooklyn:

Thanks again! See you next year!