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The Order of Oddfish

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Behold the Splendor of the San Francisco and Oakland 2019 90-Second Newbery!

April 10, 2019

Please donate to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Last Saturday and Sunday, the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival came romping through the Oakland Public Library in Rockridge and the San Francisco Public Library! As a winter-weary Chicagoan, I’m always delighted to come out to the Bay Area at this time of year, especially since it’s a chance to catch up with so many old friends.

And I’m extra-lucky to have as my co-host the hilarious and talented picture-book author Marcus Ewert of 10,000 Dresses, Mummy Cat, and Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That! Watch the video above of me and Marcus, taken at the SFPL screening on Sunday, in which Marcus and I must struggle against the forced shutdown of the 90-Second Newbery by the fearsome HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL comprising Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White . . . and Meindert De Jong? Who’s Meindert De Jong? Watch the video to find out some odd Newbery history, especially if you like Les Miserables! (And special thanks to Simran, who played the part of the Sergeant-At-Arms of the High Supreme Newbery Council to perfection.)

After the screenings in both Oakland and San Francisco, we had some of the filmmakers come up onstage with us for a picture (Simran’s the one who is about to fillet me with that sword):

Let’s look at some of the great videos we received from the Bay Area this year that we featured in the screenings! For instance, Simran and a lot of other young filmmakers in the San Francisco Public Library Video Production Club worked together to make this impressive version of Lois Lowry’s 1990 Medal Winner Number the Stars:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This was a compelling, creative, resourceful adaptation . . . The cinematography and editing throughout was artful and effective, from the closeup on the German soldier’s eyes, to the way the fleeing girls are framed by his legs, to the shifting perspectives of different emotional reactions during the hurried, anxious conversations . . . I appreciated that the movie took the time to show the kids having fun and being authentic children, so that when the soldiers came searching for them, we felt their terror in a much more genuine way . . . A real triumph!”

Noemi, Grant, Sage, and Athan of Orange County, CA did this fantastic movie based on Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What a knockout! This was a witty, crisp, and accurate sprint through the book. Not a moment was wasted . . . lots of goofy details and well-crafted jokes made this a pleasure to watch . . . I like the repeated use of the Charlie Brown Christmas music to indicate sad parts of the story, and especially how the movie accelerates as it goes on, mentioning the events of the book faster and faster as the appropriate images flash by . . . Charismatic actors, tight script, polished production!”

We were also proud to feature Astral and Defy’s movie based on Derrick Barnes’ 2018 Honor Book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut:

As the judges wrote on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This movie featured a great reading of the poetry of the book, with the power of the carefully-selected images to bring all the emotions and ideas together! I liked how the rapid-fire images of geography exam, honor roll, and brain were quickly connected to the thematic poem, and how the use of memes, emojis, and dolls made the movie sing . . . Well done!”

We also got a bunch of great movies from Oakland, too! For instance, Elliott, Henry, and Owen did this snappy stop-motion version of Richard and Florence Atwater’s 1939 Honor Book Mr. Popper’s Penguins:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “From the very beginning, the clear, confident, expressive voiceover performance told the story up with style! I loved the excellent and creative green screen work . . . The animations of the penguins emerging from the packages were particularly well done . . . It told the complete story entertainingly and ingeniously!”

Samarra, Mirella, Asha and Elza from Oakland made this fun and resourceful movie of Victoria Jamieson’s 2015 Honor Book, the graphic novel Roller Girl:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The cinematography and editing worked well, especially how it showed the schism between Zoe and Nichole. The intertitles did a good job keeping the plot on track, and I like how this movie uses actual roller skates . . . Good job putting this joyful, anarchic, fun movie together!”

Thanks to Erica Siskind and Liz Soskin of the Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library, plus Lyn Davidson, Jim Jeske, Kenny Avila, Catherine Cormier and Megan Anderson from the San Francisco Public Library. And special thanks to Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore and the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library for doing bookselling after the shows. And of course a gigantic thanks to all the filmmakers who participated, plus the parents and teachers who helped out.

As usual when I come out to San Francisco, I stay with my good friends Alisha and Sharon, two of the nicest and most generous people you could ever meet. They took me out to Onsen Bath & Restaurant in San Francisco, which meant two hours of relaxing with them in a Japanese-style hot bath, sauna, and steam room, followed by an amazing meal. If you’re ever in San Francisco, hoo man, you should try this. Alisha and Sharon also have folks over their place after the show for an afterparty, and it’s always a treat. Here’s Alisha with me and Marcus and my friend Nick after the SFPL show:

Remember, it’s never too early to start making movies for next year’s film festival. The deadline is in January 2020, but you can turn them in anytime! Complete details, including tips for filmmakers, can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

Thanks so much, San Francisco and Oakland! I’ll see you next year! And if you enjoyed the film festival, please consider a donation to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

To round out the post, here’s the final montage that we used at the San Francisco screening: