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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery 2016: Tacoma!

May 3, 2016

I know, I know! I’m still way behind bon logging about these screenings, but now that I’ve finished with the 2016 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, I finally have a chance to catch up! I’ll report on the Rochester, NY and Philadelphia screenings soon, but first let’s talk about February 20, 2016’s screening of the fifth annual 90-Second Newbery at the Tacoma Public Library, co-hosted by me and Tacoma’s own hilarious Doug Mackey. There’s our opening skit and song-and-dance, above!

Tacoma always makes great movies for the film festival every year, and this year didn’t disappoint. Check out this animated version of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, as adapted by Levi, Charity, and Israel of the Film Club at the Tacoma Public Library:

I love the idea of doing the adaptation of Charlotte’s Web in an anime style. The art is impressive, there’s some skillful voiceover acting, and I particularly loved the part where Wilbur turns all the colors of the rainbow!

Every year I get a great movie from Tacoma’s Rosemary Sissel, and here she knocks it out of the park with her adaptation of Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s 1968 Honor Book The Egypt Game:

I love the snobby way April was played, and how the movie follows the whole arc of her character, even burning the eyelashes at the end (nice touch!). Melanie’s chipper bubbliness was perfect too. The script was brisk and funny (“conveniently located in the backyard of the local creepy guy! nobody will ever find us!” “except me, heh heh heh”). The flourishes that the kidnapper does with his knife before attacking April were quite funny, and April really puts her all into that scream! But maybe my favorite part was how the creepy guy keeps his beard on a table while he’s sleeping, and hastily puts it on after he wakes up to save April. And I like how after he saves her, he starts screaming as though SHE’S attacking HIM… (also, very resourceful to have the same person playing both the murderer and Melanie in the same scene! That must’ve been the quickest costume change of all time…)

I love it when filmmakers put a weird twist on the material, and here Zoe, Simone, and Dori of Burping Toad Films do just that with Karen Cushman’s 1996 Medal Winner The Midwife’s Apprentice—which here has a more modern occupation—ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Telemarketer’s Apprentice:

Funny, swift and on-point all the way through, not a single wasted shot! I liked the “opposite day” way our hero gets fired, and the adult’s voice on the boy for “Mr. Henry” was strangely funny. And at the end, is Beatrice’s voice begging for her job back coming from . . . the phone? That is . . . is she TELEMARKETING THE TELEMARKETER!? Wheels within wheels!

Lloyd Alexander’s 1966 Honor Book The Black Cauldron has had many 90-Second Newbery adaptations, but never one so elaborate or thorough as this one, impressively done in stop-motion Legos by a young filmmaker known only as “Minifigure Clone 267-87”:

I love the total environments this movie creates, in which every single thing we see is a Lego of one kind of another. The figures themselves are well-chosen and the animation was a real kick, especially in the chase and battle scenes with the cauldron-born! The epic music throughout was a good choice too, so relentless and stirring!

Every year I get a lot of wonderful movies from Tacoma’s Seabury School, and this year was no exception. It’s always hard to choose which ones to show for the screening, I want to show them all! Here are the two that I ended up showing at the Tacoma screening—first, this adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Medal winner Flora & Ulysses by Vardaan Kumar and friends:

I like how this movie staged the high-stakes opening scene of the vacuum nearly sucking up the squirrel. I also like the cinematic way it “follows” Flora, with over-the-shoulder camera, into the house to her mother, who ignores her pointedly. The way the girl who plays Flora placed Ulysses next to the “I’m hungry” thought bubble was clever. The ning-nong doorbell was amusing, and I like how the costuming department took the time to give “blind” William dark glasses and a cane. The search scene at the end was tense and I liked the tension of the handheld camera running along with them.

Also from Seabury, E. L. Konigsburg’s 1968 Medal Winner From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as adapted by Kyle Maitlen:

Resourceful use of that white cardboard for the bus! Great performance for the “angel” statue too. I like the way Jamie says “Let’s do research!” while pumping his fists. I also liked all the “files” that are laid out at the end, and how quickly the mystery is solved as soon as Jamie says “baloney.” Well done!

Thanks again for a great film festival, Tacoma! Special thanks to all the folks at the Tacoma Public Library, especially teen services librarian Sara Sunshine Holloway, and my fantastic co-host Doug Mackey. Thanks to my friend Joe Fusion for filming the opening skit. And of course the biggest thanks to all the young filmmakers, and their teachers and families and mentors who encouraged them and came out for the screening! I can’t wait to see what you cook up for next year!

To sign off, here’s a final montage of all the movies we showed in this year’s 90-Second Newbery screening in Tacoma: