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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery 2018: SAN FRANCISCO and OAKLAND!

March 21, 2018

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.

On March 17 and 18, we brought the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to San Francisco and Oakland! I’m always delighted to make this trip because I get to stay with my friends Alisha and Sharon Ardiana. Sharon runs three restaurants in San Francisco: Gialina, Ragazza, and the brand-new Ardiana. Some of the best food I’ve ever had. And every time I come to town, Sharon and Alisha always take me out to some new restaurant they’ve discovered, and throw a big party after the screening for everyone. I’m lucky to have them as friends.

They also took me to see a drag show of Star Trek, which I loved. The Captain Kirk of the show was particularly amazing. Here’s an article about it.

My co-host for the 90-Second Newbery was my good friend Marcus Ewert, who has co-hosted with me in the Bay Area in years past! He is the author of the picture books Mummy Cat, 10,000 Dresses, and the upcoming Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That. But to my shock and chagrin, I realized that we didn’t video our opening skit, nor did Marcus and I take any pictures together! Such a shame, because Marcus really nailed the opening skit and song, and he cut quite a dashing figure. Since I don’t have those images, I’ll put up pictures of him and his books instead:

So let’s look at some of the movies we received from San Francisco this year! The first is Felix and Taytum’s action-movie adaptation of Kelly Barnhill’s 2016 Medal Winner The Girl Who Drank The Moon. Felix and Taytum reliably submit a boundary-pushing, visionary movie for the 90-Second Newbery every year. This one was no different! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The camera work is blazingly kinetic, with lots of great angles and movement. The editing is propulsive when it needs to be, but also lets the scenes breathe when they need to. I like the special effects: the purple smoke, the gunfire, the fireball, the ‘teleporting’ effect. The fight scenes were brilliantly choreographed and really felt exciting and high-stakes, with so many great weapons: guns, swords, even a whip!”

Omara, Karina, and Lilah have also made fantastic 90-Second Newbery movies in the past, and I was thrilled with thei entry this year: an adaptation of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl, done entirely with animated paper cut-outs! As the 90-Second Newbery judges said on the website (full review here), “Impressively detailed . . . I loved how the separately articulated arms and legs of the characters were always in motion, making the movie feel lively and energetic. It was especially funny when Nicole does her ballet moves and when the girls roller skate for the first time (to the tune of ‘Twist and Shout,’ no less!). There was great voice acting throughout, pushing forward the narrative clearly and engagingly — concentrating not just on the roller-skating, but also the ups and downs of the friendships.”

San Franciscan Atom Glover is also in the stop-motion business. Last year he submitted a great stop-motion Lego version of The Westing Game, and this year he’s back with a similarly animated Flora and Ulysses . . . with the twist being, instead of Flora taking in a superhero squirrel, the story is set in the future and Flora befriends an alien who thinks it’s a squirrel. As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I like the twist of retelling the story in the new setting of space. The bouncy old-time piano music kept the energy up throughout . . . Good voiceover acting, and the sound effects were resourcefully deployed. I liked how the giant vacuum cleaner and phone dwarfed all the characters. My favorite line might have been the deadpan ‘They do not teaching spelling in alien kindergarten.’ I especially like the fight between Ulysses and the cat!”

San Francisco’s Glen Park Elementary submitted this version of Katherine Paterson’s 1978 Medal Winner Bridge to Terabithia, which has a political and humanitarian twist. As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A timely and relevant take on the book: Leslie doesn’t die, but is deported. The script was tight and moved the story along swiftly and engagingly. The shots were well-framed and the editing was brisk, with hardly a second wasted! . . . I appreciated how the movie used so many good locations: the rainbow-mural background for Terabithia, the pedestrian overpass acting as the bridge to Terabithia, the watercolors on the wall for the art show, etc.”

Thanks to Erica Siskind and Nina Lindsay at the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library, and thanks to Christy Estrovitz and Carla Kozak at the San Francisco Public Library, for helping me to make this film festival happen again in the Bay Area. Thanks to Kenny Avila for running the tech booth at the San Francisco show, and thanks to Summer Dawn Laurie and Ingrid Nylund of Books Inc. for selling books at the Rockridge show.

And thanks to all the folks who came out to the shows, and most of all thanks to the filmmakers and the parents and teachers and librarians who encouraged them! It’s not too early to start working on movies for next year’s show. They’re due on January 11, 2019, but they can be turned in at any time!

Here was the final montage that wrapped up the San Francisco show:

Do you want the 90-Second Newbery to continue next year? Please make a tax-deductible donation here to keep us going. Every little bit helps! We’re under the nonprofit fiscal sponsorship of Fractured Atlas.