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The Order of Oddfish


The Final 90-Second Newbery Screening of 2019—In Boulder, Colorado!

May 15, 2019

We did it! The 2019 season of the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival has at last come to an end. From February to May, we’ve put on fourteen screenings in fourteen cities, with 2883 registered attendees, and just over 400 movie submissions. What a ride!

The final screening was on Saturday, May 11 in a brand-new city: Boulder, Colorado. Here’s the end of the show, when all the young filmmakers came onstage for pictures:

Wait, who’s that co-host next to me? It’s none other than Boulder’s own Lija Fisher, author of The Cryptid Catcher and the upcoming The Cryptid Keeper. She was a fantastic co-host, so funny and game for anything! Afterwards folks came up to us and asked how long we had been doing this show together. They thought we’d been sharing the stage for months. Actually we had only first met a few hours before! Lija’s natural charisma and quick comic sensibility made the show shine. Thank you, Lija!

How’d we score a show in beautiful Boulder? Kerry & Zach Maiorca (friends from Chicago who are veterans of the 90-Second Newbery) recently moved their family to Boulder and wanted to bring the film festival there too. Working with Darsa Morrow of Mackintosh Academy, they managed to get the Boulder Public Library on board, to secure sponsorship from Mackintosh, to spread the word to local filmmakers, and to do the million-and-one things it takes to make the film festival flourish in a new city. And they pulled it off magnificently!

We even got a a big splashy article about us in the Boulder Daily Camera, which helped to fill up the 200-seat Canyon Theatre at the Boulder Public Library. Thanks to the Boulder Book Store for showing up to sell books, and folks from Steve and Kate’s Camp for offering a pop-up stop-motion moviemaking workshop at the event. (And thanks to Katie, Shawn, Jude, Julie and Xander of the Ropp family, my old friends from Chicago, for putting me up while I was in town!)

Let’s look at the movies we got from Boulder this year! Mackintosh Academy made this excellent version of Robert C. O’Brien’s 1972 Medal Winner Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “An entertaining and comprehensive romp through the story! I loved the running joke about Mrs. Frisby’s shawl (or ‘cape,’ as she amusingly insists on calling it), with her repeated slow-burn reaction shots. The performances were funny and yet emotionally grounded, making the far-fetched talking-animal story feel believable . . . Mrs. Frisby’s superheroic pose at the beginning and the end was a great way to frame the whole story.”

Sabrina of the Maiorca family teamed together with her friends Bridger, Celia, Edie, Harper, Scarlet, and Yael to make this amazing version of Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “Expertly shot and hilariously acted, with resourceful costumes and a great use of sets! The cinematography was on point throughout: I loved how so many of the important characters are deftly set up in just the first few seconds, including a perfect silhouetted shot of Flora watching the out-of-control vacuum fly across the backyard, Ulysses cowering in the grass, and the ‘blind’ William Spiver failing to catch a ball . . . I loved the script (‘holy unanticipated occurrences!’) which told the story with economy and style.”

Izzie, Amalia, Sylvie, Bridger, and Kinley of Whittier International School made this fun-to-watch movie of Victoria Jamieson’s 2016 Honor Book Roller Girl:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “What a fun, energetic, joyful retelling of the story! . . . I loved the script, with such great lines as ‘some other jerkface named Rachel’ and Rachel’s ‘OMG I chipped a nail . . . call 911!’ followed by a dramatic fainting. There were great costumes and sassy attitude throughout, especially when the parade of the other, more experienced cool-girl skaters came by . . . Unhinged, fun, and entertaining in all the best ways!”

Nina, Harper, Ruby, Liv, and Ella made this quite funny version of Katherine Applegate’s 2013 Medal Winner The One and Only Ivan:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I enjoyed this original approach to telling the story, telling in the form of quick scenes punctuated by explanatory intertitles . . . The intertitles could be disarmingly vain (‘That was a perfect scene’) and amusingly cognizant of the limitations of the form (‘Ruby’s full monologue is an hour long. Alas, 90 second Newbery’) . . . The movie zipped through the essential plot points and told the story in its own idiosyncratic and entertaining way. Great work!”

Every year we get a 90-Second Newbery movie that is mind-blowingly weirder than every other submission that year. This year, that honor goes to this other version of The One and Only Ivan, done in Claymation by Keira and Sebi:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “A MASTERPIECE. In my eight years of reviewing movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival, I’ve never been so simultaneously disturbed and delighted by an entry! This movie dispenses with the plot of The One And Only Ivan entirely, and focuses on one incident between Ivan the silverback gorilla and Ruby the elephant. While imprisoned next to each other at the mall zoo, Ruby asks Ivan for a story, and . . . well, we’re off to nightmare world. My hat is off to the monstrous and haunting horror show that ensues.”

Every year I get about fifty movies of Lois Lowry’s 1994 Medal Winner The Giver from the University Middle School in Greeley, Colorado. This year, I finally got to feature the film festival close enough to Greeley that the filmmakers could come! Here Aaliyah, Jackson, Levi, and Sally make The Giver in Minecraft:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “It was a fun idea to use Minecraft to tell the story, especially with the switch between black and white and color. Whoever built the environments did a great job of designing the world of the story! The best part of this film was the expressive and often hilarious (and sometimes British-ish) voiceover . . . The scene of the boy being released was hilariously gruesome, and I was amused at how Jonas rides a pig when he’s escaping from the community.”

We got a lot of great entries from Eagle Crest Elementary School in Longmont, just north of Boulder. I was lucky enough to get to visit this school the Friday before the screening, and meet the students and talk to them about The Order of Odd-Fish. This movie of E.B. White’s 1953 Honor Book Charlotte’s Web, by McKenzie from Eagle Crest, got a particularly big laugh at the screening about 37 seconds in:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “It was a fun idea to retell the story of Charlotte’s Web in the style of a movie trailer. There was resourceful use of pictures of stuffed animals and stock photos to give us insight to the various characters, and the onscreen text and titles gave crucial assistance in telling the story too.”

Also from Eagle Crest Elementary, we got this version of Louis Sachar’s 1999 Medal Winner Holes by Michael O., Nischal G., and Erik J.:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the energetic, leave-it-all-on-the-field enthusiasm of the performances in this movie! . . . I also thought it was funny how you changed the ending, and made the story conclude with Stanley and Zero getting devoured by lizards in the desert. Probably a more likely outcome!”

Also from Eagle Crest, Eden H., Haley G., and Audrey L. made this movie of Cece Bell’s 2015 Honor Book El Deafo:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “I loved the spectacular beginning of this movie, which kicks off with Cece doing a backflip! The characters were all clearly and swiftly introduced, and I liked the goofy fight scene . . . Entertaining and sassy.”

Katelyn B. adapted an uncommon choice, Catherine Coblentz’s 1950 Honor Book Blue Cat of Castle Town, with stop-motion legos:

As the judges said on the 90-Second Newbery website (full review here), “This was an entertaining movie-trailer style teaser for the book . . . The stop-motion work was fluid and fun to watch, the onscreen text well-chosen to tell the story, and the music a good accompaniment overall.”

There are actually too many great movies from Eagle Crest Elementary to feature them all in one blog post! I recommend also checking out Brenton D.’s movie of A Wrinkle in Time, and Izabella “Peaches” M.’s version of Misty of Chincoteague, and Master Gamer Eric’s take on The Cricket in Times Square. Great job, Eagle Crest Elementary! I hope you submit next year, too.

Indeed, a big thanks to all the kids of Colorado for these great movies, and thanks to the parents and teachers who helped out. I can’t believe how much the film festival caught on in Boulder in just the first year! I hope to bring the 90-Second Newbery back to Boulder in 2020 too. So start cracking on those entries! The deadline for next year is January 2020, but you can submit your movie at any time. Complete info (including helpful tips) can be found at the 90-Second Newbery website.

Speaking of movie submissions . . . Before the show, I met Julia of the Flatirons Food Film Festival. We thought, what if kids made food-themed films based on Newbery books, and submitted them to BOTH of our film festivals? After all, there are quite a few food-themed Newbery winning books out there. Off the top of my head, I can think of Polly Horvath’s 2002 Honor Book Everything on a Waffle and Kathryn Lasky’s 1984 Honor Book Sugaring Time. Or you could give any Newbery-winning book a food twist—say, doing a movie of Ramona and Her Father in which Ramona is played by a chicken strip, Beezus is played by a tomato, and Mr. Quimby is played by a box of Cheerios? I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here. The Flatirons Food Film Festival has a children’s program on October 1 and the deadline is July 19. You can find out more here.

One last thing. If you enjoyed the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival this year, please consider kicking a few bucks our way. The 90-Second Newbery is always free to submit and to attend, but it does take money to run. And anyway, it’s tax-deductible! Our fiscal sponsor is Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

Here’s the final montage of all the movies featured that day, which we played at the end of the screening. See you next year, Boulder!