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Oscar Watch: "Once"

By admin Published: February 17, 2008

Once

Overview: One nomination, best song for "Falling Slowly."

I have this odd fantasy involving "Once" and "Juno" ...

In this fantasy, "Juno" does not exist. (Hey, relax. I like the movie a lot, as I said in an earlier post.) In that world, Oscar nominators looking for a quirky little independent film, a successor to "Little Miss Sunshine" if you will, don't have a "Juno" to be drawn to. So, instead, they discover "Once," and it becomes an Oscar darling.

Now, I know that there are numerous reasons why this would not happen, other than the way "Juno" really does exist. "Once" does not have any recognizable American actors, and it hasn't made more than $100 million at the U.S. box office, and the accents at times are even harder to understand than some of "Juno's" slang. But "Once" remains a fine film, and one that deserves far more than its measly single nomination for best song.

Not that I object to that nomination. "Falling Slowly" has been stuck in my head ever since I finally saw the movie. I know many people discovered the song before the movie, via the Frames. But I heard the soundtrack before I saw the film, and was far less entertained than I was after I saw "Once." The songs are a sublime fit within the movie, and their place in my memory now is based on how touching they were in context. (Even then, not all the songs work. But most do.)

For those of you tuning in late, "Once" involves a Dublin musician (Glen Hansard) who is drifting musically and emotionally. Then he meets a Czech woman (Marketa Irglova) who brings out both his creativity and his ability to feel love again. His idea of love, and of their relationship, is different from hers. But they both find their way to a place where, if romance is not possible, then at least the joy of making music is. (As I watched, I kept thinking that a more Hollywood approach to the same story would get us, well, "Music and Lyrics" -- cute in its way but nowhere near as thoughtful or touching as "Once.")

While Hansard is good enough as an actor (and fine as the real-life musician that he is), it's Irglova who takes over the picture with her charm and her intelligence. But both of them work because of a smart script and a look that is scruffily realistic. Check out the movie on DVD, then get the soundtrack.

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