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The Order of Oddfish

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90-Second Newbery 2018: PORTLAND!

May 11, 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 April 14, we brought the seventh annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to Portland, Oregon! We’ve been doing screenings in Portland ever since the film festival’s beginning, seven years ago, when we were in only three cities (the others being Chicago and New York). Our annual tour has grown to fourteen cities—but creative, beautiful Portland always remains a highlight.

Our hosts and collaborators are the fine folks at Open Signal, a venerable media arts center in Portland (it used to be called Portland Community Media). Elisa Barrios, Katmeow Garcia, Yousef Hatlani, and so many others at Open Signal worked hard to make the screening happen. I’m very grateful to them.

I’m also grateful to my cohost Dale Basye (author of the Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go middle-grade series). He’s been my Portland co-host for the past few years, and he’s fantastic onstage every time. He can sing! He can dance! He can crack wise! Unfortunately, the audio of my video of our opening skit is sketchy, so I won’t be posting it, but here are some pictures of me and him and our young filmmakers:

Let’s check out the local movies that were shown at the screening! For instance, Vivienne, Aika, Jaydyn, Henry, and Abigail of Cedar Park Elementary Library came all the way down from Seattle, Washington to showcase their stellar version of Thanhha Lai’s 2012 Honor Book Inside Out and Back Again:

As our judges wrote, “What a work of art! All the characters and the backdrops were so beautifully drawn. The occasional animation worked well (the flying kick, the ‘pink boy’ chasing Ha) but the quick cuts, zooms, and thoughtful cinematography also served well to propel the story forward and keep it feeling dynamic and propulsive. Even though it was long at 3+ minutes, I wouldn’t cut it down by a single a second—everything worked and felt necessary!” Read the full review here.

Open Signal’s Spring Break “So You Want to be a Filmmaker” Camp made three great movies in their weeklong workshop. (You can learn more about Open Signal’s youth programs here.) All three were done by Moto, Sean (a.k.a. “Hobbs”), Solomon, and Victoria. The first is an adaptation of Rita Williams-Garcia’s 2011 Newbery Honor Book One Crazy Summer:

As our judges wrote, “The kooky pitch-shifted voiceover performance gives this movie a daffy, almost avant-garde vibe, especially with the lurching, loopy, fun-to-watch cut-paper animation—characters hopping over each other, skateboarding around, zooming all over the place . . . I’m not sure what was happening in the ‘Horito laughed his head off’ scene, but the ‘I watched my mother get arrested’ scene was particularly well done, especially with the cut-and-paste army of Black Panthers with arms upraised in salute—weird but oddly compelling! ” Read the full review here.

The same group also did this very good version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As our judges wrote, “A pleasure to watch! The movie is fast but never feels hurried . . . the clay animals are deftly sculpted and skullfully animated . . . Great work!” Read the full review here.

The third and final movie by Moto, “Hobbs,” Solomon, and Victoria is an adaptation of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

As our judges wrote, “Ambitious, nimble, and fun to watch . . . I particularly liked the oddly long and drawn-out singing to the pig, and the direct malediction hurled straight at the camera: ‘You forgot me! You’re cursed!’ . . . Good music and opening titles sequence too! A fun sprint through the story.” Read the full review here.

Next up is this skillful stop-motion movie of Gary Paulsen’s 1988 Honor Book Hatchet by Mac Childers and Cooper Hurt of Capital Community Television:

As our judges wrote, “This stop-motion lego movie told the story of the book very effectively, somehow hardly using hardly any words! All of Brian’s actions were very clearly rendered, from the way he makes a fire to how he kills a pig with bow and arrow (and turns that pig into edible meat!). The skunk episode and the tornado were also resourcefully and artfully done . . . Great movie, entertaining and accurate to the book!” Read the full review here.

Also from Capital Community Television, Anya Beebe and “Hip-Hop Angel” made this adaptation of E.L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Newbery Medal Winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler:

As our judges wrote, “Telling the story from the point of view of Jamie was a great idea! It got up and running quickly, putting us in his shoes and making us see how he feels about the whole adventure . . . The addition of Siri to the story was a nice modern touch. It was funny how they literally found baloney in the files, and the ‘Angel’ statue was amusingly posed. Fun and entertaining!” Read the full review here.

At last, the Salem Public Library Teen Advisory Board made this movie of Gail Carson Levine’s 1998 Honor Book Ella Enchanted:

The judges “loved this bonkers, breakneck-paced sprint through the story . . . with the insane, delightful twist to retell it entirely with google-eyed vegetables! . . . This was a fun romp, and it looked like it was a blast to make!” Read the full review here.

Thanks again to everyone who came to the the film festival, and all the organizers and folks who made it happen! (And thanks especially to Joe and Madeleine, my old friends whose house I stay at every time I come to Portland. Hanging out with them would make the whole Portland trip worth it, even if the film festival weren’t happening at all!)

And of course, thanks most of all to the young filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them, especially those who came out to our screening on April 14. Here’s the final montage we showed that day:

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.