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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery Film Festival at the Detroit Institute of Arts!

September 21, 2016

I grew up in a suburb of Detroit. In high school, I used to go to the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts all the time. The DFT is where I first saw David Lynch on the big screen. It’s where I learned about Jane Campion, Werner Herzog, Akira Kurosawa, so many great filmmakers. There was no Internet to speak of in the late 80s and early 90s. Video stores were a mixed bag, to put it mildly. So if you were fascinated by great and strange movies, and you lived around Detroit, then there were only a few theater options: the Main Art in Royal Oak, the Maple in Bloomfield Hills, and the Detroit Film Theatre. The DFT was my favorite. Just look at it:


With that buildup, you can just imagine my enthusiasm when I got the opportunity to bring the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival to the Detroit Film Theatre! Back on August 26 and 27, we showcased a “Best Of The 90-Second Newbery” screening at the very same place where I used to thrill to Wild At Heart and Touch of Evil!

My co-host was the hilarious, brilliant, and very game Maria Dismondy, author of picture books such as Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun and The Juice Box Bully. Check out the video of her and me at the top of this post, doing the opening song-and-dance of What Would John Newbery Do? She’s a natural!


We got good crowds on both Saturday and Sunday. I hope that this leads to future screenings at the Detroit Film Theatre . . . and more 90-Second Newbery entries from the Detroit area!

The fact that this happened at all is due to the enthusiastic advocacy of my old friend Ronica Bhattacharya, who under the name Ronica Dhar wrote a great, highly-praised book called Bijou Roy that St. Martin’s published a few years ago. And the folks who worked at the DFT who actually made the show happen—Emily Bowyer, and Gavin, Jody, Mary, and Lindsay—were so friendly and helpful and a pleasure to work with. Thank you, everyone!

After the show Ronica and I went with another friend to La Rondinella, an amazing restaurant in Detroit’s Eastern Market that’s run by my friend-since-childhood-who-grew-up-across-the-street-from-me David Mancini. The last time I wrote about Dave, back in 2009 (check out the pictures of what we looked like as children, compared to what we’re like now!), it was the one-year anniversary of his pizzeria Supino. Supino is still going strong (and is still some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, along with San Francisco’s Ragazza and Gialina), and La Rondinella blew me away. If you live anywhere near Detroit, you have to go to La Rondinella. The best. Just the best. And the prices are mysteriously, seemingly impossibly low!

It was a great time in Detroit. I always love coming back, seeing family and old friends from high school.

That said, wild horses couldn’t drag me to this year’s 25th high school reunion. I mean, nostalgia has limits.