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The Order of Oddfish

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Witness the Magic and Mayhem of Boston’s 2019 90-Second Newbery Film Festival!

May 1, 2019

The eighth annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival tour is almost complete. Fourteen screenings in fourteen cities, from February to May, yee-hah! We’re in the home stretch now. Last Saturday was our second-to-last screening of 2019 at the Boston Public Library, hosted by me and M.T. Anderson (author of Feed, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, and many other amazing books).

Check out the video of the opening skit above, in which the film festival is nearly shut down by order of the nefarious HIGH SUPREME NEWBERY COUNCIL, helmed by Newbery winners Kate DiCamillo, Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. White, and . . . uh, Meindert de Jong? Who’s that? Watch the video and find out. Can I escape execution from the High Supreme Newbery Council’s pitiless sergeant-at-arms? (Special thanks to Iman for playing that role.) And can we pull off the opening song, sung to the tune of “One Day More” from Les Miserables?

This is our third year bringing the film festival to Boston. Thanks first to Kate Gilbert for her tireless hustle in bringing the film festival to town. Thanks to Laura Koenig and everyone from the Boston Public Library for sponsoring the show and providing such a great space for it. Thanks to the Writers’ Room of Boston and ArtWeek Boston for the promotion. Thanks to Trident Bookstore for doing bookselling after the show. Thanks to M.T. Anderson for being a witty, generous, and up-for-anything co-host and friend. And thanks most of all to the young filmmakers, and the parents and teachers who helped them create their masterpieces!

Let’s take a look at some of the great entries we received from the Boston area. For instance, the Benali family (which includes Iman from the opening skit) created this inventive and entertaining adaptation of Adam Gidwitz’s 2017 Honor Book The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog. They put the events of the story to song—of “Summer Nights” of Grease—rewritten here as “Stupid Knights”:

Superlative! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved how the movie cut between expertly-drawn animation and live-action storytelling . . . the lyrics hit all the major plot points clearly and vividly and with a lot of humor! This was a pleasure to watch, resourceful and fun!”

Homeschoolers Merrik, Canon, Lauder and Aldrin Moriarty of Holliston, Massachusetts submitted this enthralling movie of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s 2016 Honor Book The War That Saved My Life:

A triumph! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved how thoroughly and carefully this movie recreates the time and place of the book, from the English accents to the period-appropriate costumes and sets . . . The cinematography was crisp and assured, with well-framed shots and brisk editing . . . and I was amused by the inclusion of the White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’!”

Agapi, Ramon, Jake, Nanette, Michelle, Ellen, and Ben of West Bridgewater Public Library made this engrossing stop-motion movie of Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Medal Winner When You Reach Me:

Delightful! As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “The stop-motion animation of the dolls was expertly handled, and I like how the combination of green-screened images in the background and foreground sets combined to make effective sets . . . I like the sardonic, abbreviated tone: ‘Marcus, you are the Laughing Man! And now you are dead.’ A movie to be proud of!”

Last year I visited Eliot School in Boston’s North End because one of their students, Jordan, had made a 90-Second Newbery movie The One and Only Ivan. This year, Jordan and Zolie of Eliot School are back for another shot at 90-Second Newbery glory with this movie of Kate DiCamillo’s 2001 Honor Book Because of Winn-Dixie:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Energetic and resourceful . . . the crazy grocery store manager, grabbing Opal and shaking her by the shoulder and using the cat-grabbing robot arm all over the place, was well-played in the most over-the-top manner . . . Great performances throughout . . . Fantastic work!”

Also from Eliot School, Bea and Orson adapted Eleanor Estes’s 1945 Honor Book The Hundred Dresses . . . but with a twist. Instead of a hundred dresses, it’s a hundred pairs of Steph Curry athletic shoes:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the creative idea of switching up the premise of the original story, so that instead of Wanda boasting that she has one hundred dresses in her closet, she instead claims to have one hundred pairs of Steph Curry shoes! . . . This movie has charm and inventiveness to spare!”

Fiona and Zoe of Melrose Avenue School traveled in all the way from Jamestown, Rhode Island to the screening! Their movie was of Matt de la Pena’s 2016 Medal Winner Last Stop on Market Street:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Great acting in this one, very natural and expressive! The greenscreen backgrounds and the resourceful costumes (like Nana’s shawl and the blind man’s dark glasses and cane) helped to make the movie feel authentic. The movie told the story quickly and accurately, hitting pretty much all the plot points, and it looked like everyone was having fun, which made it fun to watch.”

Thanks again to all the filmmakers for these great movies! I can’t wait to see what Boston comes up with next year. Remember, the deadline for next year’s film festival is January 2020 . . . but you can start making your movies now, and turn them in at any time! Complete details, including tips for filmmakers, can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

If you enjoyed the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, please consider kicking a few bucks our way! It’s tax-deductible. Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

And here’s final montage of all the movies that we played at the end of the Boston screening: