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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery, Lancaster Country Day Edition: The Giver and The Westing Game

January 16, 2013

It’s almost here! February 10 is the Chicago screening of the second annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, co-hosted by me and Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer). That’s Sunday, 2/10/2013, from 2-3:30 pm at the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. Reserve your free seat here. Quick! It’s selling out!

Today I want to highlight two films I received from Lancaster Country Day School, who thanks to their librarian Sarah Julsonnet, has been part of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival from the beginning. Above, check out their first video, which was featured in the first annual film festival, of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver. For that one, I like how they went the enigmatic route—with so little dialogue, it feels like a weird art movie from the late 1970s. Good acting, clever musical cues, and I liked the occasional switch from black and white to color. The helicopter “special effect” was particularly choice!

But that’s not all we got from Lancaster Country Day! There’s also this adaptation of Ellen Raskin’s 1979 Medal winner The Westing Game:

This book is the mother of all challenges for the 90-Second Newbery—it has such a labyrinthine plot, with so many characters and mysteries and occurrences, that it defies the 90-second limitations. That’s why I’m always happy to see 90-Second Newbery versions of The Westing Game—they always become glorious barrage of what seems like hilarious nonsense. The true test isn’t whether or not the plot is conveyed, which is impossible, but how much fun the filmmakers seem to be having, and whether they do it with panache. And in this case, clearly everyone is having a ball, and I really enjoyed watching it! I particularly liked the nice explosion effect in the kitchen! And the aftermath of people dropping to their knees and shrieking in terror and despair is great. The last scene, in which everything is explained, is done with such aggressive understatement it’s like a Wes Anderson movie. In a good way! (I like the offhand way he dies, too.)

Great job with both of these, Lancaster Country Day—and I’m looking forward to what you might do for the third annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival for 2013!

90-Second Newbery, Ramona Edition: Ramona and Her Father and Ramona Quimby, Age 8

January 14, 2013

It’s coming! The Chicago screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, co-hosted by me and Blue Balliett (Chasing Vermeer). The time: Sunday, February 10, from 2-3:30 pm. The place: the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago. It’s free, but you have to reserve your seat ahead of time. You can reserve your place here. Do it now, this thing is selling out!

Today we’re going to feature the two Newbery-winning Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. The first one is above, of 1978 Honor Book Ramona and Her Father, adapted by Nadia Duncan in St. Louis, Missouri. I’m so glad Nadia chose to do this book, because it’s one of my favorite Newbery honorees. It’s funny, it’s real, and yet . . . mysteriously, nobody has made a 90-Second Newbery of it! Until now!

And I must say, this is one of the most professional-looking 90-Second Newberys I’ve received. The script was tight, the acting was convincing, and not only that, it was clearly shot by someone who knows their way around some cinematography. And the editing and music cues are spot-on! Terrific job!

But that’s not the only Ramona 90-Second Newbery we have tonight. Not to be outdone, here’s 1982 Honor Book Ramona Quimby, Age 8, adapted by Xela Shawn, Riley Water, and friends:

I particularly liked the nice use of pigtails to make the girl playing Ramona look even younger. The raw-egg on the head scene—which is essential to get right if you’re filming this book—was done perfectly, with complete commitment and marvelously extended mocking laughter! I also thought the music cues were good, especially when Ramona is running away and going to the principal. Nice ambitious green screen work, too! Firing on all cylinders!

This movie is from Portland, OR, and of course we’re going to have a 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening in Portland on February 24. See you there, Xela and Riley!

Back From Vacation, and My Review of “Listening For Madeleine”

January 12, 2013

I’m back from a monthlong vacation from the blog. After our December screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival in New York, I needed to take a break and hang out with Heather, Momo, and Ingrid for the holidays. And get more writing done! The picture above is of when Momo and I were stuck in the house, waiting for Ingrid to wake up from her nap. I cut out some cardboard pieces in the shape of a dinosaur, hid them all around the house, and then blasted the Raiders of the Lost Ark theme while Momo and I hunted up the bones like mini-paleontologists and jigsawed them back together. A fun rainy day thing to do!

Current news: I have a review in this weekend’s Wall Street Journal of “Listening For Madeleine,” Leonard Marcus’ biography-through-interviews of Madeleine L’Engle. I highly recommend the book! (You can also find links for that review, and all the reviews I’ve done for the WSJ, here.)

More about the upcoming 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screenings in Chicago, Portland, and Tacoma to come. In the meantime, here’s another activity Momo and I did. She wanted to fly a kite, but we couldn’t get outside because it was too cold, Ingrid was still asleep, and, uh, we didn’t have a kite. But there’s nothing that paper, string, a couple of hooks in the ceiling, and the 1960s sounds of the Free Design can’t solve:

Seriously, that kept us entertained for an hour. I’ve been regressing to being a three-and-a-half year-old again and loving it.

All this Momo stuff . . . let’s not forget her younger sister Ingrid, all of one-and-a-half. A bit of a bruiser. Here she is taking down her older sister:

And here’s the whole family at Santa Lucia Day in Andersonville in Chicago. It’s a Swedish wintertime holiday in which girls wear crowns of flaming candles in their hair. Lucy Momo was totally into it. Heather and I were totally into her and Ingrid’s matching dresses.

Okay, enough! Glad to be back in the saddle at the blog!

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