Monday, December 31, 2007


This week’s movie:



It has occurred to me that, of late, my recommendations have been getting – shall we say – wordy. That is, long. I sometimes have a tendency, when I can’t think of what to write, to start off in an arbitrary direction (like now) and approach it from another angle. It also occurs to me that a lot of you don’t have time to waste and so, are not reading my post. I understand – you mainly want just enough information to decide whether or not this is a film you want to watch. So, I’ve decided to get this part over right at the beginning and let you go with your day – and for anyone that wants to stay, I tell you WHY you should watch this film.

VERDICT: Yes! You should definitely see this film! You will love it! You will adore it! It will make you feel all warm inside and make you want to call your best friend that you haven’t seen high school. Go out and rent it or buy it today! It’s one of the best movies of the year (2007 not 2008)!

Of course, if I didn’t think you should see it, I wouldn’t be writing about it here – after all, this is not a movie “review” site, it’s a movie “recommendation” site. You should see this film because it does four things really well.

Many of you may not know this about me, but I’m a part-time musician. I’ve been one for a long time. There was a time, back in college when I was seriously considering going full-time and making a go at it. I chickened out – it’s tough trying to make a living playing music and I opted for the easier route. I have a very house in New Hampshire. I suspect that if I had chosen to make my living playing music, I would instead be living in a refrigerator box behind Wal-Mart.

I had exposure to music at a fairly early age, thanks to music lessons that my parents gave me, and although I never really took to the accordion, I used it as a gateway drug to more serious instruments like the guitar, piano, organ, etc – and I have been playing music ever since. Why? Because once you do it, like a drug, you get addicted to it – you want more, I know this first hand. I also know that there are times, when you get people together to play music, whether you’re playing for yourselves or in a performance, when magic happens! It may happen for just a second or for a whole performance and it might not happen often – but it does happen. It’s when everything comes together in an unexpected way – where the result is greater that the sum of its parts and it’s like falling and you want to capture that feeling and bottle it – but you can’t. You want it again and again and so you keep playing. Every musician knows what I’m talking about – that’s why you do it. It’s not for the money – there are easier ways to make more money!

The first thing this movie, ONCE, does is a better job than any film I’ve ever seen at recreating that exact moment when the magic happens. It’s not easy to do, but they were able to do it because the actors portraying the musicians performing the music – are the actual musicians who wrote, performed, and recorded the music. The magic isn’t recreated for the film, it filmed while happening. The two main characters, we never know their names (they’re know just as “guy” and “girl” in the credits), are played by Glen Hansard (guitarist/singer for the Irish band “The Frames”), and Markéta Irglová (a Czech composer and musician). They’ve recently recorded an album of music together titled “The Swell Season” – 5 of these songs are featured in the movie.

The second thing this movie does very well is capture that exact moment when two people fall in love – every scary, exciting, heart-breaking moment of it. We see it happening before our eyes and we want to screw ourselves right into this picture and give somebody a nudge or something – for truly, no two people were made for each other more than these two. Alas, things are never that easy. Besides being a film about the making of music, it is one of the most romantic movies of the year.

The third thing this movie does really well is to show the process of creating music. This is not an overly dramatized version of the process. We see how they teach each other the songs, bargain a rate for studio time, recruit other musicians for a band… You never doubt for a second that real music is made in exactly this way – it is.

The fourth thing this movie very well is dispel the idea that good movies require huge budgets, recognizable faces, and months of shooting. This is where Hollywood generally goes wrong. You’ve got nothing if you don’t start with a great story. Filmed in 17 days for less than $150-thousand, this movie took my breath away. This film was obviously a labor of love and not of money – still I hope the film makes a go-jillion dollars for their efforts. It hasn’t yet – so far it has netted less than $10 million – still pretty good for the original investment. Now if I can get all of you to rent or buy it …….

Here are 10 more reasons to see ONCE:

  1. This movie made me want to call up me mates from my original band (some whom I haven’t seen in years) and get together for another go.
  2. Your jaded heart, covered from life with scar tissue, will feel new and vulnerable once again.
  3. It’ll make you want to be a better person. It sounds funny but it’s true – perhaps for no other reason than to deserve the kind of chance at a life story that these characters have.
  4. Real love expressed through music. It’s not a new concept – but where has it been lately?
  5. It’s a musical. If you hate musicals – it’s not that kind of musical. It’s a musical in the sense that it features musicians playing music under circumstances where they normally would. That is, people don’t spontaneously break out into song and dance in the middle of the street with an orchestra in the background. This is closer to The Commitments (BTW: Glen Hansard was also in The Commitments), but really, this is a new kind of musical – one I hope to see more of.
  6. They say only love can break your heart – love and this movie!
  7. After seeing this film you’ll want to make contact, touch somebody. Perhaps you’ll call up some old friends and meet in a bar somewhere and talk about the old days when life seemed simpler and the future held so much promise, and maybe you’ll play some tunes on the jukebox and have some frosty ones, and maybe soon the old days won’t seem so far away, and maybe the future really isn’t immovable, like you thought, and maybe, just maybe, you realize that anything is possible and that you’ve got another shot at it after all.
  8. Never underestimate the power of a great song to reach inside of you and ……..well, do just about anything. The right song, at the right time, with the right people – it’s a powerfully emotional experience. No wonder so many people are talking about this film.
  9. Why do I seem to be pulling out all the stops to get you to see this movie? I really liked the film. It has universal appeal and I think you will like it too.
  10. Markéta Irglová – she had me at “hello”.

Age Appropriateness: A lot of people tell me that they have children and can only watch movies appropriate for the whole family. I understand this and so will start to include, in this section, what you need to make that evaluation.

For some god-unknown reason, the MPAA has rated this film R (for language). This is the sort of thing that convinces me that they’re “a bunch of mindless jerks who will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.” If I find out that the R rating has prevented any teenager from seeing this film, I will make it my personal vendetta to hunt them down and make them pay.

There is a somewhat better service called Common Sense Media that takes into account both positive and negative aspects of the film and weighs this against the “kind” of child you have. They’ve rated this film ON 13+. This means that it is highly recommended for children 13 and older, maybe appropriate for younger children depending on …… The only negative aspect comes from the matter-of-fact use of profanity – not a lot of it, just natural for the environment )it is after all a realistic depiction of a place and time) – so if your child can deal with that, any age could be appropriate.

ONCE scores a 98% on the tomatometer. Obviously, one critic was in a bad mood that day. Many many film critics love love this movie. You can read Roger Ebert’s review here. You can read Michael Phillip’s review here.

ONCE is not enough.


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