The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Oscar’s Wrap-Up

The Oscars 2008

Sitting alone on my bed at the age of 12 or so, I remember trying to write my thanks to everyone, including the Academy, upon my victory of “Most Awesome Movie“, a category created in my honor. The category never got made, therefore, I never received my Oscar. But regardless of categories, one thing remains atop the list of ‘to look fors’ on Oscar Sunday: true thanks.

The show went on, despite the writers absence for more than 3 months during the preparation and thanks in large part to wonderful host, Jon Stewart, there were little writers jokes made. We all worried how many times writers would be brought into question, but after the initial pun about inviting them to this year’s non-existent Vanity Fair party––we had a good laugh and thankfully, moved on.

The true heart and soul (and I mean that in all honesty) of this years glitz and glamor could be seen in the subtle moments rather than the grandiose. No signs of a ‘Cuba Gooding’ from winners and (if my memory serves me right) very little political rhetoric, taking the mood from a well-dressed food fight, to that of a, well…awards show. It was a pleasure, but one could not forget the highlights.

Marion Cottillard

In my mind, there seemed to be an unspoken victory already in hand for four categories: Best Picture (No Country), Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem) and Best Actress (Julie Christie), but the Academy had other plans. My ballot lie in the care of those few thousand with a say; and I couldn’t have been more pleased with their decision. Taking little-known, French actress Marion Cotillard and awarding her instead of the high-brow, altogether assuming Julie Christie was like, well, yeah––I’ll just say it––like the Giants winning the Super Bowl. Its the truth. Her honest tears and delicate thank you was a testament to her sincere love of acting and her wonderful work. If you didn’t get a chance to see the other contestants’ reaction of the announcement (especially Cate Blanchett’s), take a look; they speak volumes.

Daniel Day-Lewis is probably my favorite actor, so naturally, I was overjoyed.

Daniel Day-Lewis Best Actor 2008

Javier Bardem was thrilled to be kissing his mother in joy and one will not soon forget his special words (in Spanish) to the same woman in his life, as he concluded his speech. Real people who deserved to be very real winners; we all loved it.

Javier Bardem Best Actor 2007
The night was caught in the middle of a triple-nomination by Disney’s Enchanted, forcing three performances by the cast’s various ensembles including one very uncomfortable, very unnecessarily lonely performance by Amy Adams––the film’s main star. It felt as if we were watching a home school talent show. No…bad? Just…painful. All props to Amy who did the best she could, nevertheless, dreadfully alone. Leaving room for another wonderful nominee…

Glen Hansard Marketa Irglova Falling Slowly

Not to be held from the spotlight (and in mine for the past 3 months) is the little film that could, Once. Of all of the big number songs performed last night, the best by far was the simple duet about two singers trying to find their ways back home, to love. Again, if you haven’t heard it, its linked on various part of this blog, and if you haven’t seen the movie, buy it. If you haven’t got the time to watch, you can always listen here. I’m not going to lie to you, when the “Best Original Song” category came on screen, I was on the edge of my seat. I never get into the Oscars. Let me rephrase that, I’ve never gotten excited about the Oscars, and never wanted to, until I heard ‘Falling Slowly’. There is much more about the song and the movie below, but for now, its charm can be summarized by its ability to play David and take down the giants. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are amazing together, amazing in the movie and amazing on stage. Her post-win-then-brought-back testament to struggling musicians around the word made me want to pick up the guitar all over again. Glen’s guitar showed how far he’d come and their accents––a sign of the borderless tunes they sung.

The Oscars couldn’t have been written any better.

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Oscar Pick-em!

I’ve always wanted to vote for the Oscars. Not to vote in a sense that would count towards all the elitist’s votes, but rather an audible say. Like, a loud yell from the downstairs kitchen as voters fill in their ballets. I had Thanksgiving dinner at the house of a man on the Academy, but more importantly, I once knew a waiter at the Oscars. He was an underrated man who told the story with a very real, very tangible spunk. Outside of that connection, I have about as much connection to the Oscars as the other sad Californians affected by its traffic. But lets get to the point. While voting, my decisions will be swift and my judgments, flawless. I will not waiver in my verdict, but like a fat girl at a cheer tryout––there will be tears. Keyboard in hand, I cast my swaying vote.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

George Clooney in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax)

Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.)

Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah” (Warner Independent)

Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” (Focus Features)

There is little choice here. If you haven’t seen There Will Be Blood (deemed by southern California radio, “There Will Be Milkshakes’ for its now infamously misinterpreted final sequence) you need to see it, for the final scene alone. If I had watched this movie two years ago, I would have literally fallen asleep; strike that, I would have punched the friend who invited me in the face and then fell asleep. But now that I have a blog and I’ve had a chance to unload it mentally, I loved it.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.)

Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage)

Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Universal)

Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment)

Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

There is even less chance here. Javier Bardem stands alone in the most hauntingly brilliant and blatantly awesome performance of the year. If I had a team of assassins to choose, the straight-faced-killing Anton Chigurh would be my first draft choice.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal)

Julie Christie in “Away from Her” (Lionsgate)

Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse)

Laura Linney in “The Savages” (Fox Searchlight)

Ellen Page in “Juno” (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production)

I’m calling you out Junior––I’m calling you out. If you come across the Feb 25th edition of Sports Illustrated, burn it. Better yet, called up SI and hold the phone to the fire. Some clown named Junior decided to use his words in the column “Players” to bag on Juno. Not impressed my friend. Just because you have a name that also happens to be the greatest baseball player of the 90’s name, doesn’t mean you can be a douche. Yeah, I said it. Ellen Page steals the show in Juno; it’s as simple as that. Juno has you laughing to tears while it deals with a tender issue with calm, collected brilliance. Thank you Ellen. Give her two Oscars for all I care.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There” (The Weinstein Company)

Ruby Dee in “American Gangster” (Universal)

Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement” (Focus Features)

Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone” (Miramax)

Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.)

If you haven’t seen this movie, you need to see it. If you can get by the mass array of ‘schpeep this’ and ‘bleep that’, you’ll find a terrific film awaiting. Amy Ryan (although quite pleasant in real life) plays one of the most repulsive women I’ve ever seen on screen. Her appeal to real-life Boston hits a home run and her ability to carry such a disgusting character into your heart instead of your hate is Oscar worthy.

Best animated feature film of the year

“Persepolis” (Sony Pictures Classics): Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud

“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Brad Bird

“Surf’s Up” (Sony Pictures Releasing): Ash Brannon and Chris Buck

Is. There. A. Question? No, there’s not. Ratatouille should be up for best picture, let alone best Animated Film. Well done Pixar; another epic.

Achievement in art direction

“American Gangster” (Universal): Art Direction: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Beth A. Rubino

“Atonement” (Focus Features): Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer

“The Golden Compass” (New Line): Art Direction: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.): Art Direction: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Art Direction: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

I’m left speechless. This is actually quite a tough one for me. Although I am reading The Golden Compass (and haven’t seen the movie), I can’t go as far as to say it beats TWBB. The art is great. The oil plays a key role and the film is beautiful.

Achievement in cinematography

“The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” (Warner Bros.): Roger Deakins

“Atonement” (Focus Features): Seamus McGarvey

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Janusz Kaminski

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Roger Deakins

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Robert Elswit

I don’t care what any of you say. Diving Bell should be up for best picture for its cinematography alone. A movie shot from the eyes of a quadriplegic leads you down life’s road one blink at a time. An all-encompassing, powerful example of how cinematography can simply change everything. Well, everything besides the tears cascading down your face.

Achievement in costume design

“Across the Universe” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Albert Wolsky

“Atonement” (Focus Features) Jacqueline Durran

“Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (Universal) Alexandra Byrne

“La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Marit Allen

“Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.) Colleen Atwood

A beautiful film with beautiful costumes on beautiful people––anything but simple.

Achievement in directing

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel

“Juno” (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Jason Reitman

“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson

Easily my hardest category. I wish so much that they would issue a tie between No Country and Juno. Juno is my favorite film of the year, by far, but I have to give it to No Country. Plainly, it’s aptitude for film making genius despite music (much like TWBB), when joined with its chill, brings it full circle.

Best documentary feature

“No End in Sight” (Magnolia Pictures): Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

“Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience” (The Documentary Group: Richard E. Robbins

“Sicko” (Lionsgate and The Weinstein Company): Michael Moore and Meghan O’Hara

“Taxi to the Dark Side” (THINKFilm): Alex Gibney and Eva Orner

“War/Dance” (THINKFilm): Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine

Is it bad that I haven’t seen any of these? The one I would most likely see would be anything but Sicko, unless I was paid to watch it, and even then….I don’t know. Operation Homecoming has a good name; I’ll go with that.

Ps: if Michael Moore wins, I will dedicate my life to his demise…

Best documentary short subject

“Freeheld”: Cynthia Wade and Vanessa Roth

“La Corona (The Crown)”: Amanda Micheli and Isabel Vega

“Salim Baba”: Tim Sternberg and Francisco Bello

“Sari’s Mother” (Cinema Guild): James Longley

No one cares? They’re all winners.

Achievement in film editing

“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal): Christopher Rouse

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn): Juliette Welfling

“Into the Wild” (Paramount Vantage and River Road Entertainment): Jay Cassidy

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) Roderick Jaynes

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Dylan Tichenor

It will not win, and for that, I throw all my chips in its basket, hoping it does. Come on Bourne! Come on! You can do it… then take the award and jump out the window.

Best foreign language film of the year

“Beaufort” Israel

“The Counterfeiters” Austria

“Katyn” Poland

“Mongol” Kazakhstan

“12” Russia

Everything I’ve heard about this film has been great. Granted, I’ve heard about as much about this movie as I have about the polar ice caps refreezing, but still, its a start. Plus, Sound of Music went to Austria, it has to win.

Achievement in makeup

“La Vie en Rose” (Picturehouse) Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald

“Norbit” (DreamWorks): Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel

The only good thing about this movie was its makeup. Please here me say that: the ONLY good thing. The academy wants to give this movie an award worse than Mel Gibson wants to prove his sobriety. You choose. Norbit will probably win, who am I kidding.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

“Atonement” (Focus Features) Dario Marianelli

“The Kite Runner” (DreamWorks): Alberto Iglesias

“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.) James Newton Howard

“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney) Michael Giacchino

“3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate) Marco Beltrami

From one ‘Lostie’ to another––Michael Giacchino, your stock is tipping the scales.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

“Falling Slowly” from “Once” (Fox Searchlight): Music and Lyric by Glen Hansard and: Marketa Irglova

“Happy Working Song” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

“Raise It Up” from “August Rush” (Warner Bros.): Music and Lyric by Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack and Tevin Thomas

“So Close” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

“That’s How You Know” from “Enchanted” (Walt Disney): Music by Alan Menken; Lyric by Stephen Schwartz

Yeah, yeah, yeah, have you heard it though? No, you haven’t. So right now, go on itunes––do it illegally for all I care, just download this song. I would rather you watch the movie, but if you can’t, at least listen here. Listen to it and tell me it doesn’t have the get-up to beat out three nominations by your precious Enchanted. Glen and Marketa, I want to be your third harmony, email me.

Best motion picture of the year

“Atonement” (Focus Features): Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers

“Juno” (A Mandate Pictures): Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers

“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.): Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage): Scott Rudin, Ethan and Joel Coen, Producers

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers

Although No Country will win, I’m sticking to my satirical guns. Want to know why Juno will win? Because it’s the best movie in the last 2 years. Not to mention, if Brokeback can lose––Juno can win.

Best animated short film

“I Met the Walrus”: Josh Raskin

“Madame Tutli-Putli” (National Film Board of Canada): Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski

“Même les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)”: Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse

“My Love (Moya Lyubov)” (Channel One Russia): Alexander Petrov

“Peter & the Wolf” (BreakThru Films): Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman

A very pretty film with a great knack for storytelling. Great job. I can’t think of an applicable joke without saying something offensive about its title.

Best live action short film

“At Night” A Zentropa Entertainments 10 Production: Christian E. Christiansen and Louise Vesth

“Il Supplente (The Substitute)” (Sky Cinema Italia) A Frame by Frame Italia Production: Andrea Jublin

“Le Mozart des Pickpockets (The Mozart of Pickpockets)” (Premium Films) A Karé Production: Philippe Pollet-Villard

“Tanghi Argentini” (Premium Films) An Another Dimension of an Idea Production: Guido Thys and Anja Daelemans

“The Tonto Woman” A Knucklehead, Little Mo and Rose Hackney Barber Production: Daniel Barber and Matthew Brown

I have about as much idea here as a home schooler in a locker room. I’ll take the fifth; no wait––Tonto is a word that doesn’t get used near enough, I’ll go with that.

Achievement in sound editing

“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal): Karen Baker Landers and Per Hallberg

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay

“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Randy Thom and Michael Silvers

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax): Christopher Scarabosio and Matthew Wood

“Transformers” (DreamWorks/Paramount/Hasbro): Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins

Another victory for Bourne! Perfectly timed blows to the head joined with substantial amount of carnal gunfire make this movie a blissful Final Cut® nightmare. Congratulations trilogy––now make another? Come on Bourne!

Achievement in sound mixing

“The Bourne Ultimatum” (Universal) Scott Millan, David Parker and Kirk Francis

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland

“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney): Randy Thom, Michael Semanick and Doc Kane

“3:10 to Yuma” (Lionsgate): Paul Massey, David Giammarco and Jim Stuebe

“Transformers” (DreamWorks/Paramount/Hasbro): Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Peter J. Devlin

The fact that a story-less film was freeeeaking awesome means it has to win something. Transformers can be summed up quite nicely by my father when he said, “Wow, that was just…action. Really, the whole time.”

Achievement in visual effects

“The Golden Compass” (New Line/Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (Walt Disney): John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and John Frazier

“Transformers” (DreamWorks/Paramount/Hasbro): Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl and John Frazier

There’s no way this side of Saturn that Pirates wins this. If Transformers doesn’t get the nod, I’m going to walk up to Jerry Bruckheimer and donkey punch him in the back of the head. Now if Golden Compass wins? Oh, no way. I can’t even process that.

Adapted screenplay

“Atonement” (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton

“Away from Her” (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood

“No Country for Old Men” (Miramax/Paramount Vantage), Written by Joel & Ethan Coen

“There Will Be Blood” (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written by Paul Thomas Anderson

Have to. Phenomenal movie. As much as Diving Bell has a chance; it could and should have gone that much deeper.

Original screenplay

“Juno” (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Written by Diablo Cody

“Lars and the Real Girl” (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver

“Michael Clayton” (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy

“Ratatouille” (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird

“The Savages” (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins

This may actually be my hardest category. I’ve heard nothing but good come from Lars, and as incredible as Juno was––Ratatouille is in there too! Juno is my pick. Juno is my movie. And if we want more movies to be made like this, we’d better get out there and sSee it again, buy the DVD, take friends … support.

I’ll end with a quote from my roommate who reports for CBS radio here in LA, “I want nothing to do with the Oscars and I’m afraid if I’m here, I’ll have to cover them. So, I bought my flight today, on February 24, I’ll be in Argentina––just to make sure.”

February 24, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lost: The Logic-Free Fee

Lost Season 4

A Brief Synopsis of One’s Man’s Journey

By Bryce VanKooten

Solely relying on last week’s shenanigans (Writer’s Strike) here in the greater LA area, many of us hope to put our lives back on hold and re-start our proverbial television engines. Yes, the news is in: It takes a whole city to raise a show; and it takes all of one hour to regain my trust.

There I sit relaxed in the moment, free of all anxiety (outside of that brought on by the last 4 hours) watching Lost Season 1. Pleasantly joined by my roommate at the time Dave; I sat. I listened. I loved. I have never fallen in love before, nor have a fallen hard for much of anything. I would call myself a simple man, nay––an inherently simple man––willing to see Transformers for its good and able to listen to soundtrack music till I’ve added more lyrics than a Sean-Paul tune. However, there comes a time in every man’s life when he faces his antithesis and realizes, before he proceeds, that he has met not his match but his victor.

So it was with Lost.

Four episodes in, I had relinquished myself to the joys of Doritos and Red Bull and gave a swift, “Be gone!” to the remainder of any other roommates that dared enter their own living room. Free from the woes of academia for the remainder of the month; I was a man possessed. I had a new show, new socks and new scripts––this was the pinnacle of living.

This wonderland lasted only as long as could have been expected (24 Episodes = 24 hours in the course of 3 days) and I was off to the neighbors house to get the second season. Shortly following that season, and after many lengthy philosophical, rhetorical and impossible discussions, I found myself not in need of a cure, but another fix. Six steps down the hall, and there she was: Ahhhh….iTunes. Dave and I — both as addicted as we possibly could be and pleasantly alienating the world — split the cost and decided to binge together. Its never been truer: Pain does love company.  We swiped the credit card faster than Mrs. Clinton at a pants store, and had our 10 episodes — locked and loaded. I wish I could tell you that we watched them carefully, savoring them by the minute knowing the inevitable cliff of depression that was to come in their wake…

We didn’t.

The next couple of months saw a lot of cursing, attempted illegal downloading and other normal stuff (who could quickest track down Cuse and/or Lindelof for ransom, etc). Needless to say and despite all of our anger, during the months of season 2 (and some of 3) we all knew that any given episode would involve three things:

Back Story: Back story that would so fervently mock our intelligence that we would honestly consider breaking the very television we were watching (ex: Hurley’s still fat! Sawyer found a frog! Jack has dad issues!).

Answers … or Lack of Answers: Moments in the episode when an answer seemed inevitable, but never probable.

The Oath: A silent, bitter oath would be taken following each episode — from those of us watching — realizing after all the torment we put ourselves through, we would cancel our wedding before we would miss the next episode. They hopelessly have us. We’re hooked.

Why is this so? Why can something so similar to herpes (its sly way of embarrassing, disrespecting and torturing) bring you back so loyally? Why don’t we face the facts of this injustice and react accordingly by stop watching!?

I’ll tell you why: Its a mystery.

My dad has told me for years, “You can’t add logic to an illogical situation” and after watching LOST, we all know this is true. For some reason, unknown to man and unproved by science, I keep watching. We all keep watching. This is Lost to me.

Granted, there have actually been some fairly insightful (and altogether plausible) theories regarding the Island’s powers, questions and curses––most of which I have checked out and dismissed. Most of them are touched on briefly in Lostpedia and others simply roam the depths of the World Wide Web, stirring mostly in the minds of their creators. My favorite (and most fun) is Jason Hunter’s theory concerning the entrance of Time Travel to the inhabitants of the Island. If you’ve never read it, I urge you to do three things (in this order): Get a cup of coffee. Set aside a good half hour. And as a friend put it, “Prepare to get your mind blown”.

Regardless of opinion, there’s more ‘fun’ to come, wonderful answers to be given and glorious epiphany’s in store, I’m sure. Bitterly, I would rather not have to wait, but alas, we all will. And each week, wrought with hate and focused on revenge, we clear our schedules and tune in. Each week I’m confounded by LOST’s ability to line me up and kick me in the crotch. To keep me coming back to the thing which tortures me most. Lost––quite frankly ––is something I will never understand and for that; I tip my cap, offer my hours of service and volumes of thanks and prepare my crotch once again…

February 12, 2008 Posted by | Lost, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Once (2006)


Guy (Glen Hansard) meets Girl (Marketa Irglova) in Once, the perfect modern musical.

A Wonderful First

By Bryce VanKooten

It isn’t very often you can see breathtaking film making joined with realistic reality. Often times, one leaves a comedy with little more than a laugh. Exits a musical with nothing more than a tune. And frequently realizes that what they just saw can in no way, transcend their life. Let me tell you; today, its happened Once.

If I were to tell you that I am an above average moviegoer, you would label me an elitist. If I were to qualify that statement for the next hundred words, you would call me a blow hard. Here I stand: I am an above average moviegoer. I say that not to separate myself from the gawking masses, but instead to identify my pessimism regarding Musicals. Like Hitchcock watches student films, so too do I watch Musicals. With an opera singer for a sister and more music packed in 23 years than calories in a frappuccino, I don’t bring joy to Musicals; I bring expectations. After sitting through a half hour of Once, all expectations had left my ears, all judgments laid rest until the credits appeared and I relished in my moment: sweet reality, lived one string at a time.

Once is a simple film. Simple in the eyes of the Director and simple in the eyes of most watching, including myself. Its initial simplistic attitude can been seen in the leading character’s names. While creating the film,
Anton (Glen Hansard) was referred to as ‘Guy’ while his counterpart (Marketa Irglova; never given a name in the movie) is referred to as ‘Girl’. From the very beginning, with names that any of us could take, we enter into a story that any of us could have. A simple story of deep pain, profound healing and true friendship, joined by the sweet melodies of an Irish tune. Guy and Girl meet one night on the streets of Ireland, both poor, both hurt, both keenly drawn to each other to form a friendship that blossoms. Very seldom do we get to see great films depict friendship for what it truly is. No scene speaks to this more fervently than in the piano store (a scene that goes down as one of my favorite cinematic moments in a long, long time). After just meeting, Girl tells Guy that she plays the piano and after some convincing, they briskly make their way to the store in hopes of catching a moment of silence that would allow them to play. Only a few seconds later we find ourselves Falling Slowly (as the song so eloquently sings) as the music joins the ensemble and remains beautifully in the leading role.

I don’t know you, but I want you all the more for that.
Words fall through me and always fool me, and I can’t react.
And games that never amount to more than they’re meant, will play themselves out.

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time.
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ve made it now.

We stay with Guy and Girl through the rest of the film, rarely meeting any new faces outside of brief family moments and a quick ride to the ocean. The music guides us at a wonderful pace, along the journey of two very different people joined together by one beautiful sound. Once, a movie that dared to use kindness as motivation and music as consummation, showed two people, not in love with each other, but committed to one another. How truer of love? Worn thin by the pressures of life, yet confidently upbeat about the journey to come, it showed us that love is best displayed in our desire to truly care for another. In our conscious ability to lay our agendas aside and do what’s best for someone else. Some may call this story too simple, others, too musical. I chose to recede to the depths of my couch, eyes closed to the music, relishing in both its breathtaking lyrics and simple harmonies, and call it wonderful…

February 6, 2008 Posted by | Film Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment