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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newberys from San Antonio!

December 8, 2015

The screenings for 2016's FIFTH annual 90-Second Newbery Film Festival are right around the corner! And this year we're adding some new cities— including San Antonio, TX, thanks to the good folks at Bexar County's Digital Library Bibliotech and sponsor H-E-B. I had the pleasure of visiting Bibliotech back in March.. This year's San Antonio 90-Second Newbery Film Festival screening will be Saturday, January 9 from 3-5 pm at the Tobin Center. For free, of course. You should come!

The many fine movies you'll see will surely include the above movie, done by the inspired kids of Carl Schurz Elementary in New Braunfels, Texas. It's their wild, ambitious, surprising, satisfying adaptation of Jack Gantos' 2012 Newbery Medal Winner Dead End in Norvelt!

I liked how the filmmakers chose to make the "book" seem to "open up" at the beginning, and we are drawn into the movie as it expands out of the pages! Ingenious! Great props and costumes all throughout—the gun, Jack's outfit, his mother's outfit, the Grim Reaper costume—and I loved how Mr. Spizz pedals away on a tricycle—even better when the "Hell's Angels" come by on the same tricycle! Good sound effects (when the gun goes off and he's knocked out) and I liked how the filmmakers used the thought-bubble to give Jack's unspoken musings about the corn field. Loved the multiple nosebleed scenes (very true to the book!) and how the sped-up voices helped us get through the whole thing with admirable speed.

And . . . holy canneoli . . . IS THAT AUTHOR JACK GANTOS HIMSELF, as "Death" in the ending credits?! What a coup! That's fantastic!

But I expect no less from Texas!

And that's not all I got from San Antonio. Here's William Steig's 1983 Honor Book Dr. DeSoto as adapted by Deyanira, Jessalyn, Alex, and Katlyn of Margil Elementary School, SAISD:

The idea to do it as a series of voiceovers on top of clip art of mice and a cat was inspired, and it was especially good because of the lips-moving "Clutch Cargo" effect that they put in (achieved by an app called Chatterpix, apparently)! I like how the filmmakers switched the villain from the book's fox to a cat—especially since that cat picture is so fierce. The script was tight and the story whipped along at an admirable pace. Great job!

The next video is an adaptation of Katherine Paterson's 1978 Medal winner Bridge to Terabithia by Brianna West of Louis D. Brandeis High School:

I knew I was in good hands from the start, with its title sequence's somber piano music and slow pan over the waters. Well-shot throughout, with good use of locations and music! And I like how Leslie's death is tastefully implied, by cutting to Jesse throwing rocks into the water and crying. Brianna does a lot with pure visual storytelling, not so many words needed.

The last one I'll feature today is by Deerra Hill of San Antonio, and it's of Louis Sachar's 1999 Medal Winner Holes:

There are so many great touches throughout that really paid off! The green screen work at the beginning, along with the black-and-white effect, and the evocative violin soundtrack, set up the "flashback" feeling well. I liked that the filmmakers clearly labeled the characters with text onscreen, and also explained certain plot points the same way—when your film is this short, that's a great tool for getting a lot of info across with necessary speed. I like how the characters committed to different accents, and the "trash bag" costumes were resourceful! The script was slyly witty at times ("why are we digging?" "because we LIKE holes!"), and the 8-bit computer-y music was a good contrast to the violin "flashback" music. And I thought it was clever how the whole thing was a kind of dream, and that the treasure was . . . the book of Holes itself! A mind-bender!

So much ingenuity and creativity in Texas! All of these movies, plus many more, will be shown at the San Antonio screening of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival on January 9, 2016 at the Tobin Center. And remember, the deadline for San Antonio entries is December 15, so if you're still dawdling on editing your footage, get cracking! (The deadline for the rest of the cities is January 10, 2016.)