Movies... What makes them great?

As I sit here watching the Golden Globe Awards, my toenails freshly painted and my skin properly moisturized, I find myself amazed once again at the creative process and the creative abilities of human beings.

I'm actually not a huge fan of awards shows, other than getting a glimpse at celebrities I enjoy all decked out in tuxes and great evening gowns.  And I've already seen Gerard Butler tonight, so I feel it's been worth watching!  Seriously however, I don't necessarily believe in the validity of any of the awards shows.  Too much emphasis is placed on name-recognition and money.  While it's true that the notoriety of a movie star and the amount of money invested in a film are factors in its success, so many times really wonderful movies and performances fall through the cracks.  But sometimes a film slips in, just flies right in there, under the radar.  And when that happens, it's funny that all the mega-stars and ultra-rich studios tout those little films as heroes, talking as if they knew all along it would happen, and hailing those films as being examples of true cinematic art.

Last year, there was a little movie called "Once".  It's a simple story of a down-on-his-luck musician who makes a living working in a vacuum repair shop, and a Czech immigrant who's a single mom, barley scraping by cleaning houses in Dublin.  The two discover a common love of music, and together they create amazing songs and a demo CD that will hopefully spawn a record deal.  That's the sum total of the story.  There is no violence.  There is no sex.  There is no nudity.  There is very little offensive language.  It's just a film about two people whose love of music brings them together.  The beautiful thing is this... Glen Hansard, who plays the leading man, is not a big-time professional actor.  He's the front man of an Irish Band called The Frames.  Marketa Irglova, who plays the leading lady, really is a classically trained Czech pianist, just like her character in the film.  So they aren't only actors playing musicians.  They are musicians playing musicians.  They wrote all the music for the film.  They performed all the music in the film.  They spent a mere $100,000 dollars on the movie, which is pocket change by today's Hollywood standards.  In three weeks, in Dublin Ireland, they shot this movie with two hand-held cameras.  The results?  A movie I'd never heard of until I picked it up in a rental place, simply because the guy on the cover had a guitar on his back.  And a movie that produced a soundtrack that is simply amazing, including one song that eventually won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, beating out songs from "August Rush" and Disney's "Enchanted".

In their acceptance speech at the Oscar's, Hansford and Irglova were absolutely inspiring.  Hansford ended his part of the speech with, "Make art!  Make art!"  Irglova said: "This is such a big deal not only for us, but for all other independent musicians and artists who spend most of their time struggling.  And just the fact that we are standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, is just the proof that no matter how far-out your dreams are, it's possible."

And there's the creative spirit I was talking about at the beginning of this post.  They made the movie and the music not for big money, but for the love of art.  Could it be that's what's missing from much of the film industry these days?

If you haven't seen "Once", you really should.  It has been called "the little Irish musical that could".  And boy did it ever.

P.S.  As I was writing this, Mickey Rourke, just won the Golden Globe for Outstanding Lead Actor, for his role in The Wrestler, a film I blogged about on New Year's Day.  Another movie that went against the grain of big Hollywood money and name, casting an actor everyone thought washed up and over with as the lead.  This is another film you should definitely check out!  YAY MICKEY!


  1. Amy:
    I saw ONCE on HPO not long ago and loved it. Thought the music was wonderful and I actually looked for it at Walmart for our music teacher at school for her birthday.
    It's one of those sleepers that when you see it you say, "Gee I'm glad I saw that. It's a keeper."
    And I saw August Rush and loved that one too.
    Just saw Momma Mia too. Not to sure if Pierce Brosnan will ever cut an album but I thought it was a cute movie.
    I like Alba.
    But the plot has been done before years ago. Wish I could remember the name of the film.
    YAY Mickey! He may not look like the hunk he was but maybe that was holding him back. He's lost the pretty face and gained some substance.
    Teresa Reasor

  2. Teresa,
    I agree... Mickey lost the looks, but gained something deeper. I enjoyed him in his earlier movies, not only for his looks but for his abilities. But this film, The Wrestler, is really something special. And his performance in it is absolutely amazing.

    I rented "Once" over the summer, and when I returned it to the rental store, I bought a previously viewed copy to keep. I love the story behind the movie, and how their work paid off for them despite the fact they didn't have big names or big money.

  3. Amy,

    Great post! I'll look for "Once" at our rental place.

  4. I hope you like the movie as much as I did, Magdalena! I downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes the next day!

  5. Count me in, I'll look for Once--at Once!