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The Order of Oddfish


90-Second Newbery Films from Sidwell Friends: 2012!

Last year in 2011 I got a great crop of movies for the 90-Second Newbery Film Festival from Ms. Becky Farnum’s sixth grade class at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC. Now it’s 2012, and Ms. Farnum’s new sixth grade has turned in another great group of movies. Let’s watch them now!

Here’s a cool idea: why not do your 90-Second Newbery as a one-man show? This one is from Harry Kay, and it’s of the most recent Newbery Medal winner, Jack Gantos’ Dead End in Norvelt:

Even alone, Harry ably nails most of the beats of the story—pretty tough to do in a mere three minutes! I like how it took a ridiculously short amount of time to cut down the corn and to write the obituary. There is something both terrifying and silly about the way Harry announces the names of all the book’s murder victims while flipping through pieces of cardboard with their names on them with a serious-but-slightly-amused expression on his face. Cherry on top: the nefarious “mwa ha ha” for Spizz at the end, while in a getaway car that isn’t moving. I enjoyed the whole thing very much. Well done, Harry!

Next movie: Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm, filmed by Emma and friends:

This one has some of the best acting and cinematography in the batch and lots of nice little details (that treasure map!). Hits all the beats of the book well—and I have to say, the part where “Nana Philly” contemptuously tosses the bowl off the table was hilarious in an understated way, one for the ages! The maniacal “yeaa” at the end was a funny way to wrap it all up. Well done!

Next up is Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me by Patrice, Aditi, Anna, and friends:

Very amusing! Everyone’s acting was very expressive and energetic. I especially like how Marcus speaks his explanation of time-travel super super super fast. It was a good choice to get the film off to a running start with the scene where Sal gets punched. And quite silly at the end how Marcus gets run over by . . . a small plastic truck. And the part at the end where “Colin” kisses “his” hand and swats Miranda in the face with it was priceless. Miranda’s expression of startled discomfort made me laugh too.

Next, Clara, Claudia and Eden check in with their adaptation of Holes:

Another funny one! The swift intro at the beginning set up the situation efficiently, and the cuts between that intro, the shoes dropping, and the courtroom scene moved the story forward with admirable velocity. Another nice touch that everyone had prison uniforms. Clara turns in a pretty funny performance as Zero—hilarious energy, especially how enthusiastic Zero gets about the onion! (Which, in this movie, finding the onion the absolute climax of the book…?) No matter, this one was a lot of fun to watch! Thanks, Clara, Claudia and Eden!

Next up is Freya’s adaptation of The Dark Is Rising:

Frantic and satisfyingly goofy! It was clear that they were having fun throughout (especially in the deliriously silly credits sequence) and that punch-drunk energy made it a lot of fun to watch. Oh, and the “rider” had a suitably spooky costume—kind of like a Dementor from Harry Potter? I also particularly enjoyed the scene with the sign of fire and the candles. Solid!

Next up, Dr. DeSoto by William Steig, as adapted by Chris, Jeremy, Cole, Philip, and Dean:

A very enjoyable Doctor De Soto! Ingenious, clever and resourceful to pull it off as a puppet show. The narration told the story swiftly and efficiently. I liked the voiceover acting. Well done!

Next up, E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, as adapted by Lauren and Rachel:

Great! I particularly like it when a filmmaker uses the technique, perhaps pioneered by the Dorf On Golf Tim Conway movies from 1980s, of having someone kneel down and then put shoes on their knees to appear shorter, as they do here with Claudia’s younger sibling Kevin. I love that Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler seems to be dressed as a kind of glamorous hipster scientist, with big sunglasses and white lab coat. A whole new spin on the character! Is she a rogue geneticist? Good acting and briskly told story. Well done!

Next, Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts, as adapted by Sophia and friends:

I especially liked how it started—Moose’s intense eyes filling the screen for the first shot. That’s a compelling way to kick off a movie. I liked the choice of using a monologue to tell the story while the filmed action illustrates and extends the monologue. Another good choice to keep the monologue moving from place to place, and a fun idea to put that shot in the shower, with Moose’s irritated look, and the yanking closed of the shower curtain. A precise detail to use a vintage Underwood typewriter for the typewriter scene—I actually own a model of that very typewriter! I don’t use it, but I recognized it immediately. (Bought it at a garage sale in junior high school for $5.) Well done!

Next up: Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me as adapted by Sophie, Thea, and Sophie:

I love it when I get stop-motion 90-Second Newberys, those are my favorite (just like when Sidwell Friends did a stop-motion Island of the Blue Dolphins last year . . .) I particularly enjoyed that all the characters were disembodied heads made out of marshmallows! And I liked the way the Laughing Man marshmallow was completely crushed and smeared around after the car accident! Good summing-up of the plot and very clever way of shooting it. You should be proud, Sophie, Thea, and Sophie! Thank you for a great movie!

Next up is Sterling Kee’s animated adaptation of Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad Together:

Impressive! Sterling reproduced and extended the book’s original drawings very well, and I liked how he animated them and provided various “wipes” between scenes. The frisky music was a great choice, a perfect accompaniment.

Next is Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie by Iyanna Lewis and friends:

I liked the idea of having the various characters walk by while Opal explains the plot (in a voice that sounds like she just ingested a lot of helium!). I especially liked the exuberant preaching that the dad does, and Opal does a good job reciting the plot. Engaging and fun!

The next one is another adaptation of Because of Winn-Dixie, by Jacqueline and friends:

Having the story be narrated from the point of view of the dog was a marvelous twist. The dog costume was well-done, too; kind of reminded me of “Blue” from Blue’s Clues? The music going throughout was a good touch and propelled the story along nicely. The parrot costume was glorious; you should hold on to that for next year’s Mardi Gras. Well-shot and well-acted all around. Another excellent adaptation!

The last movie from Sidwell Friends is of Carl Hiaasen’s Hoot, and it’s by Oliver, Max, Mitchell, Thomas, and William:

It gets off to a rousing start with the fight on the bus on the chase, and the music choice was perfect to keep the momentum up! The subtitles explaining the plot were a good idea and very useful. Good job!

Thanks to everyone from Sidwell Friends!