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OscarNattersWatch: an uphill battle ("Once" and "Away from Her")

Posted at 2:59 PM on January 28, 2008 by Euan Kerr

I spent the weekend looking at lists and creating a spreadsheet of Oscar nominated films I have and have not seen this year. Man, it's tough.

There are a lot of movies to see and a very finite amount of time. The big ones on my list: "There Will Be Blood,""No Country for Old Men," and "Michael Clayton." Those are relatively easy to find still in the theaters. There are a fair number on DVD already too, with others coming just before the actual ceremony.

This weekend I knocked off "Once" (Nominated for best song) and "Away from Her" (Nominated for best actress Julie Christie.) While both were good films, I wasn't blown away by either of them.

"Once," the tale of the relationship between a Dublin busker and a Czech woman who turns out to be a fine pianist and singer herself, is a musical at heart. It has some interesting plot twists, and Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova make an intriguing pairing both as characters and musicians. Also Hansard has created a great song in "Falling Slowly." yet overall the film felt a little underdeveloped to me, leaving more questions than answers, and not necessarily in a good way. In terms of the Oscar, "Falling Slowly" goes up against three songs from "Enchanted" which I have to believe can only help its chances, and given the lack of buzz about "August Rush" the fifth nominee, it has to be a strong contender.

Director Sarah Polley's "Away from Her" is a real heart-tugger of a film about what happens when Grant and Fiona, who have been married for 44 years, learn she is suffering from Alzheimers.

At her insistence she enters a care facility where she very quickly develops an attachment to another man, having apparently forgotten almost everything about Grant, other than he is the guy who visits every day. Much of the film concentrates on Grant (Gordon Pinsent) as he comes to terms with the loss of the person with whom he has shared good times and bad. His hatches are battened down tight, and Pinsent's low-key performance as a quiet man in torment is very moving. (Full disclosure though, being a fan of "The Red Green Show" it's hard to shake the echoes of inveterate liar Hap Shaughnessy from my mind.)

Julie Christie carries off the role of Fiona with great dignity, even at the times in the story where she is panicked and confused. I have to wonder however why this performance has been singled out over others this year. I need to see some of the other nominees still, but I will be surprised (even with last night's SAG award,) if this is the performance which takes the Oscar.

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