• Is ‘Falling Slowly’ really being investigated?

    I picked up The Sunday Tribune today largely because of the front-page reference to ‘Falling Slowly’, the freshly Oscar-nominated song from surprise Irish hit ‘Once’.

    The front-page lead-in reads “Could Once be disqualified? – Irish film’s Oscar hopes in doubt” with the headline of the article itself (written by Una) reading “Hollywood probe to decide if ‘Once’ song is eligible for Oscar”.

    The rules in question are available here with the important bit relating to this nomination reading:

    An original song consists of words and music, both of which are original and written specifically for the film. There must be a clearly audible, intelligible, substantive rendition (not necessarily visually presented) of both lyric and melody, used in the body of the film or as the first music cue in the end credits.

    So here are the facts – ‘Falling Slowly’ first saw the light of day on ‘The Swell Season’, an album released by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in April 2006. It subsequently appeared on The Frames’ ‘The Cost’, released in Ireland in September 2006 and, according to The Sunday Tribune, was on the trailer for Czech film ‘Beauty in Trouble’ in October 2006. The film ‘Once’ was released a few months later, March 2007 to be precise. ‘The Swell Season’ album originates from sessions performed by Hansard and Irglová at the request of director Jan HÅ™ebejk, who wanted songs for his upcoming film (the aforementioned ‘Beauty In Trouble’).

    ‘Once’, which was filmed over a 17-day period in January 2006; months before ‘The Swell Seasons’ or ‘Beauty In Trouble’ came out – something that wasn’t mentioned in The Sunday Tribune article.

    From this muddled time-line it seems as though the only revelation that could disqualify the song would be if it could be proven that either ‘Beauty In Trouble’ or ‘The Swell Season’ were wrapped and fully produced before Hansard was approached by John Carney in relation to ‘Once’. Given the respective release dates of the two, that seems unlikely.

    After all, even if the reality is far different, Hansard can easily claim that he wrote ‘Falling Slowly’ for ‘Once’ at any time as long as it can be shown that he was aware of the film’s production. It doesn’t matter where or when the song was used after that fact. Even if the first proper recording of ‘Falling Slowly’ was the one made for ‘The Swell Seasons’, the only important aspect is what it was written for in the first place.

    However my question isn’t whether an investigation could discover anything – it’s whether there’s one happening at all. The thing that’s most suspect about the existence of any “Hollywood probe” is the fact that the aforementioned article makes no reference whatsoever to any aspect of the investigation, nor does it quote any Academy official (named or unnamed). Indeed John Carney himself is quoted on the matter but he seems to be equally unaware of any investigation, saying he hasn’t been contacted by the Academy. While he does say “we’re all discussing that at the moment to get clear, exactly, and figure this out”, that doesn’t refer to anything of substance that could lead one to believe that an investigation is imminent or expected.

    So is this a non-story? Wouldn’t the eligibility of something not be sorted out well in advance of it getting nominated? Wouldn’t the likes of John Carney be the first port of call to an investigator trying to establish the exact origin of a song?

    Only time will tell, I guess.

    edit: Speaking of non-stories, “Irish man from the telly has opinion about other Irish man from the telly”

    Update: There’s a speculative (and mildly misinformed at times) post on a New York Times blog about this – the post seems to have been made before Una’s article was printed on Sunday. (Thanks to Derek for the link).

    A comment on that post suggests that the movie was screened before either CD appeared on the shelves, which is quite possible.

    Another blogger at the Sun Times in the US has picked up on the issue too – again there’s no sign of anything solid coming out from the Academy, just the online echo chamber in full swing.