April 28, 2016
OK, I admit it, I’m definitely really too late blogging about this. But better late than never! On Sunday, February 21st we had a great 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening in Portland, OR! We did it at the studios of Portland Community Media TV, and it was a perfect fit because every year PCMTV submits some fantastic movies. I was thrilled to do the screening at their space!
The screening was co-hosted by me and my longtime Portland partner-in-crime, the young Jacob von Borg. The first few years I did the 90-Second Newbery in Portland, fantastic local authors co-hosted it with me, such as Laini Taylor and Dale Basye. They were great! But Jacob has submitted a bunch of 90-Second Newberys every year, plus he’s a fan of The Order of Odd-Fish and he and siblings have done incredible fan art of it, so I thought, why not have Jacob be the co-host? It turned out to be a smart move: he’s fantastic! Here we are in the opening skit:
Let’s check out some of the great movies from Portland that were featured at the screening! Here’s Ruth Gannett’s 1949 Honor Book My Father’s Dragon—done entirely in Claymation by Anya Schooler:
Amazing! The level of craft in this is through the roof—the claymation is so fluid and expressive! The style looked like it was made by the Wallace and Gromit people. I love how Anya is able to signal so much subtle emotion and storytelling power out of the smallest twitch of clay: the quirk or scrunch of an eyebrow, an upraised finger or a waving of arms. The set was beautiful and resourceful (that flowing water!) and the sound design was so precise and perfect. And when the dragon licked the man and the man hugged the dragon, it was truly an earned emotional moment. (And oh, that awesome determined look in the dragon’s eyes before he took off!)
Here’s another movie made in cooperation with Portland Community Media TV, an adaptation of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web:
Another winner! That was clever how the scenes were interspersed by the flipping pages of the book itself. The stop-motion animals in the background of the puppet narrator was exactly the kind of detail that gives a movie great texture. I love the way Fern’s uncle delivers the line “Wilbur, you’re gonna die tonight!” with those clouds scooting around in the background, and then licking his lips grotesquely, as the bass tones underline the gravity of Wilbur’s situation. “Wilbur” was so cute, Charlotte’s death was somehow hilarious, and the crowd’s emotional reactions were great (and that one kid’s fake mustache!). Great wrap-up with the spider babies, and while everyone is saying “goodbye!” I like how one kid says it in a threatening tone, and another just blurts “how you doing?”
Next up is an adaptation of William Steig’s 1983 Honor Book Doctor DeSoto, also by the folks at Portland Community Media TV:
I loved the busy long shot at the beginning, with the stop-motion animals all scurrying around in the daily work of Dr. Desoto’s office. And then it launched straight into a charming, assured, beautifully-done sock puppet show, complete with funny voices and great lines (“Yeah, but you’re not the one who has to go in his mouth!” “Mmm, I love raw mice with salt!”) I like how the passage of time is shown by making the moon sail across the sky and the sun rise while Dr. DeSoto and his wife discuss the problem. The fast-forward way that the puppets twitch and dance was was a nice touch. Great work!
Here’s Grace Lin’s 2010 Honor Book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon as adapted by local Portland homeschooler’s Anneke, Naomi, and Ilse:
What an elaborate, beautiful, well-told adaptation of “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” this is! I’m in awe of the wonderfully elaborately made puppets! (That dragon! The king! So many details!) And I love the way the filmmakers use perspective to make the bridge look like it’s really trailing off to the moon. I like how they took the time and care to make the backgrounds look good too, especially when Minli meets the old man in the moon . . . it has a real outer-space feel. And the music sounds great too!
My co-host Jacob von Borg and his family make a 90-Second Newbery every year (sometimes even a few of them!) and this year was no exception. Here’s their take on Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Medal winner Bridge to Terabithia:
I love the ridiculous bizarre voices and the breezy way they handled the story. (Good lines too: “fight evil monsters—like my mother?”) I particularly liked the drinkin’ mother’s heartless way of announcing that Leslie was dead—and how she thought Jesse was dead too, and didn’t seem to care too much! Jesse’s back-and-forth sprint of grief was funny too. And the tag with the wig at the end was perfect!
Thanks so much, everyone at Portland Community Media TV and Jacob von Borg and all the filmmakers and audience who came! Portland is always a high point of the 90-Second Newbery tour for me every year. Here’s the final montage we used at the end of the night, that brought together clips of every movie we featured that night: