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90-Second Newbery 2017: Thanks, Rochester!

March 26, 2017

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

I love doing the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in Rochester, New York!

From our beginning, Rochester has been one of the most active participants in the film festival, with lots of excellent entries every year. That’s due to the tireless work of some fantastic Rochesterians: Deb Ross (of KidsOutAndAbout.com), Carol White Llewellyn (of Rochester Community Media) and many others. Beginning last year, we have worked to bring annual screenings to Rochester too, at the Dryden Theater at the George Eastman Museum.

Last year’s screening was a blast! I co-hosted it with Newbery-winning author Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard). Linda Sue was a fantastic co-host (and boy could she sing!) but our schedules didn’t mesh this year. Never fear! Rochester is chockablock with fantastic children’s authors (maybe that’s why their annual Teen Book Festival does so well), and I was lucky enough to score YA author Charles Benoit (Snow Job, Cold Calls) as my co-host this year.

Charles is a saxophone player in a band and a natural showman, so I knew he’d slay the opening skit. He did! Check out the video, above! And our young volunteer Jacyn did a great job too with her role. Thanks, Jacyn and Charles! Here we are after the show:

For the second year in a row, we also got to hear the dulcet tones of Rochester’s own children’s troubadour Mr. Loops, who beguiled the audience with his guitar as they filed in to the theater, and did a great Newbery-themed song in the middle of the show. Thanks, Mr. Loops!

I have many more people to thank, but before we get to that, let’s check out some of the great movies I got from Rochester this year. (Oh, and let me also acknowledge that I was in Rochester during a record-breaking snowstorm that stranded me in a hotel next to the airport for two-and-a-half days, living on takeout pizza and coffee, kind of like a really low-stakes version of The Shining.)

On to Rochester’s videos! Here is Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Newbery Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street, as adapted by Roberto Clemente School #8 with The Animation Workshop at Animatus Studio and Children’s Film Festival:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery blog, this was some “elaborate, accomplished, and assured animation . . . I love the choice to combine the drawn figures and photographic heads . . . Masterful!”

Here’s another take on Last Stop on Market Street, this time by Eian Sinclair (who last year did an amazing Claymation of Firefly Hollow):

So says the 90-Second Newbery blog: “The clay figures were impressive, full of intimate character and detail, and animated with lifelike subtlety (the toe-tapping during the music, the wriggling of the dog, the little smile on the guitar player when people clap for him)!”

Next up is Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl by Dr. Martin Luther King School No. 9:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “Even though it’s a bit longer than 90 seconds, this movie made every second count . . . I like how the movie showed every step of how Astrid and Nicole first become friends, all the way from its beginning with the squirrel-touch and the nightmare-fantasy of foaming at the mouth from rabies! I also appreciated how this movie mixes up its shots: closeups, mid-shots, and insert shots–that variety makes it much more of a pleasure to watch . . . Great movie!”

We got a bunch of great movies from a moviemaking summer camp run by Rochester Community Media TV and Writers and Books. This first one is of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One And Only Ivan—but instead of a silverback gorilla, with a dinosaur:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery blog, “Great movie! I liked the switcheroo of having Ivan not be a gorilla, but rather a dinosaur. The costumes were all fun and resourceful–I liked the dinosaur costume of Ivan, but I liked the elephant costumes even better (complete with long trunks)! I like the goofy-corny wordplay (“Leonardo di-no-Vinci”!) . . . Well done!”

Next up by Rochester Community TV and Writers and Books summer camp is Richard & Florence Atwater 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins . . . here, done SPY STYLE:

The 90-Second Newbery blog judges say, “A brilliant concept—that the penguins of Mr. Popper’s Penguins are not regular penguins, but rather expert spies with a mission of their own! The goofy premise was set up swiftly and expertly in the first few seconds—you clearly set up the correct expectations for the movie right away. The acting was engaging and fun, especially Mr. Popper’s (I like the look of mild panic on his face when he insists to his wife, “I did not order this!”).”

The camp also adapted Lois Lowry’s 1990 Medal Winner Number the Stars:

The judges at the 90-Second Newbery blog wrote, “Spooky, goofy idea to reinvent Number the Stars in a Ghostbusters style. Impressive Ghostbusters uniforms—I like how the Ghostbusters are reframed as the villains in this movie (indeed, Nazis!), and the ghosts are the protagonists!”

Next up is an adaptation of Katherine Paterson’s 1979 Honor Book Great Gilly Hopkins:

The judges at the 90-Second Newbery blog said, “I like the twist in this movie: instead of being sent to a foster home, Gilly Hopkins is sent to live in a black-leather-jacket-wearing gang . . . Lots of fun weird energy in this one, the use of green screen and establishing shots was resourceful and not overdone.”

Thank you for all those great entries, Rochester!

And thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped make this Rochester trip happen: once again to super-organizers Deb Ross and Carol White Llewellyn, my co-host Charles Benoit and guest troubadour Mr. Loops and volunteer Jacyn. I want to thank our official partners at the George Eastman Museum, KidsOutAndAbout.Com, Writers and Books, and Rochester Community TV. And thanks also to our Platinum sponsor, Delta Airlines; our Gold sponsor, the Friends & Foundation of the Rochester Public Library; and our Silver sponsors, Animatus Studio / Animation Workshop, and Cheshire Audio/Visual.

Thanks also to Beth Puckett, who hosted me for an author visit at Johanna Perrin Middle School, and Kim Rouleau, who hosted me for an author visit at Our Lady of Mercy School for Young Women. Thanks to Stephanie Squicciarini for letting me and Charles present at the Teen Book Festival fundraiser, thanks to Xandi DiMatteo and Kathy Wolf for inviting me to speak at the Rochester Central Library, and thanks to Xandi for taking me out to eat, and thanks to Deb Ross and her family for not only feeding me, but putting me up at her house for a few days, and paying for the hotel! I will not forget your generosity!

But thanks especially to all the young movie-makers who made this film festival possible, and also their parents, teachers, and facilitators who helped them out!

Also thanks to Arthur Bond and Amy Holland! I hung out with them (and their friends Jonathan and Matt) and I sat in on Arthur Bond’s radio show “Show of Prague,” in which he plays mostly prog rock and acts like he’s from Prague. I pretend to be his estranged cousin, Volgak Prazak. Afterward I sat in on their friend Lauren’s SE/EA Beats show. It made me nostalgic for when I was a DJ…

OK, this post has gone on long enough! Here’s the closing montage of the 2017 Rochester 90-Second Newbery…

UPDATE: Want to watch the whole Rochester 90-Second Newbery show, from the opening bit to the end, including all the movies? You can do so here.

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival relies on your donations! Want to support what we’re doing? Please donate the 90-Second Newbery here! We are a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.