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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery Early Entries!

October 28, 2015

It’s never too early to start submitting your videos for the FIFTH ANNUAL 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! The final deadline is January 10, 2016 but we’ve already received many top-notch entries.

For instance, check out the above from the Schaumburg Township District Library in suburban Chicago. Every year I hang out with the teens at the Schaumburg Library to help them make their 90-Second Newbery, because they’re a great group to work with. And this year, they chose to adapt Beverly Cleary’s 1978 Honor Book Ramona and Her Father.

Schaumburg always puts a crazy twist on the material. Two years ago it was The Whipping Boy done in the style of Star Wars, complete with light sabers and space battles. Last year it was Charlotte’s Web done in the style of a horror movie that was actually kind of legitimately scary!

This year they audaciously decided to adapt Ramona and Her Father in the style of PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING—complete with bombastic smack talk, crazy staged violence, and over-the-top attitude. This video answers the question: what if the Quimby family’s problems strained them to the point where everyday life turns into a neverending raucous brawl? Complete with flamethrowers, exploding pumpkins, and bonus points for Picky-Picky, the Quimby’s terrifying cat! Admittedly a bit longer than 90 seconds, but I promise you, you’ve never seen Ramona and Her Father like this!

Our next movie today is by Max K., one of my students back in 2013 when I taught a “90-Second Newbery” class at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development. You can see the movies from that summer here; among other roles, Max shines as the French mouse taunting Elmer/King Arthur in the Monty-Python-flavored adaptation of My Father’s Dragon.

Here Max tackles Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal winner The Giver, giving it a great mixed-media, stop-motion collage montage:

One of the most fascinatingly abstract 90-Second Newberys I’ve ever received! The animated stones and chess pieces were inspired. I liked how Max represented the dialogue with text onscreen. The crazy barrage of images ending with a nuclear blast was awesome and overwhelming. I like how the only two places that had sound were the nuclear explosion and the song at the end! I also appreciated all the careful little touches, like how the “a” letters in the name turned red at in the title. The story is told with rapid efficiency, with good use of intertitles and onscreen dialogue! The chase scene at the end was epic. And I loved the “diverse” place Jonas finds at the end!

Next up is Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal winner The One and Only Ivan, written, directed, and edited by 10-12-year-olds Stephanie C., Maria M., Youssef Z., and Sarah Z., at North Andover CAM, a community television station in Massachusetts, with their coordinator Tiffany Begin-Stearns (who takes on the role of Stella here; “a challenge,” Tiffany wrote, “since my construction paper ears and trunk kept falling off”):

The “elephant” costumes were adorable—really, all the costumes were great!—and the green screen work was resourceful. I also liked the way the bear was manipulated puppet-style, very clever! The hash marks counting off the days in the zoo behind him was an inspired touch too. I liked the way the elephant ears comically flopped forward right before Stella’s death, and the record-scratch before she gave her final wish. The narrator was really expressive—indeed, all the acting felt committed and enthusiastic! Good musical and sound effects cues throughout, too. That always helps a lot. I particularly liked how the movie went to black and white for the memory-in-the-jungle anecdote (and I was amused at how the truck was helpfully labeled “TRUCK”). Good fast-forward for when Ivan is producing the art. I liked how it kept switching up the variety of shots for visual interest in almost every scene. All in all: a fantastic job! Thanks, North Andover!

Next up is Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s 1968 Honor book The Egypt Game, as adapted by Friends Central School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania:

I appreciated the believable and amusing acting throughout (especially when the kid was yelling for his squid Security!), and the resourceful use of green screen mixed with real sets. Good use of montage in the clean-up scene! And the switch to black and white and the big black sheet coming on worked really well. Great summary of the story. I love this book, and I loved this adaptation!

This last one is from my neck of the woods, in good old Chicago. It’s by the kids at the Latin School’s after school club, facilitated by Ms. Gall and Mr. Sutton, and it’s their take on 2015 Honor book El Deafo (which happens to be the ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BOOK of my 6-year-old and 4-year-old daughters):

I loved how they replicated design elements of the graphic novel, such as having everyone wear the bunny ears and including word balloons. All throughout El Deafo, the heroine is trying to decide who she prefers as a best friends, and so this movie smartly repackages the story as a kind of political campaign by the various friends, vaunting their qualifications for the job. Many creative and enjoyable choices in the cinematography and how the story was presented, like when the kids pop out from behind Cece yelling “Me!” or how the movie slowed down for the “Nooooo!” The barfing scene was resourcefully done, too—I always love me a good barfing scene! I like how this group took the time to choose the right music for each part and also choose the appropriate costumes. The script was tight and told the story efficiently and amusingly, and with a great twist! And the way Cece was “flying” at the end was hilarious!

Thanks, everyone, for these early entries to the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! I’m looking forward to a great year of movies!