The stories behind the greatest songs from Hollywood movies and Broadway musicals.
Juno is a terrific movie. However, you needn’t take my word for that. Juno was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture (it lost to No Country For Old Men …no shame in that), Best Actress (*Elliot Page), Best Writing and Best Original Screenplay (which it won). The movie ended up in the Top Ten year end lists of over forty different magazines and entertainment websites for 2007. The soundtrack for Juno went to #1, making it the first movie soundtrack to do that since the soundtrack to the film Dreamgirls made it all the way to the top a few years earlier. Yet, despite all of the accolades and accomplishments that Juno has earned along the way there is still the very clear sense that Juno is somewhat of an under-rated movie. If you get that sense as well, then that would make the producers and stars of Juno happy because making a movie with big ideals that played like a small budget Indie flick was exactly what they were going for. Here is the story of how they did it and why the song “Anyone Else But You” by Kimya Dawson is the perfect symbol for Juno’s success.
Juno was directed by Canadian Jason Reitman. It starred Canadian actors Elliott Page and Michael Cera. The movie was filmed on location in Vancouver. For all intents and purposes, Juno is a Canadian movie. Not surprisingly, Juno looks like a Canadian movie. If you have watched any number of Canadian movies such as The Sweet Hereafter starring Sarah Polley, Margaret’s Museum starring Helena Bonham Carter or The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz starring Richard Dreyfuss you will know that it is fair to say that Canadian movies have a well-earned reputation for focussing on character and language and nuance, rather than big time special effects and flashy cinematography. Juno maintains that tradition very well. It is all about the tremendous acting performances of its cast (that also included Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Allison Janney and J. K. Simmons) and the razor-sharp writing of award-winning playwright Diablo Cody. Juno is a movie lover’s movie and to this day is lauded for the warmth of its storyline and the realistic “feel” of the emotions at play throughout the story.
The plot of Juno is fairly simple. It involves two teens that may or may not be in a relationship having a sexual encounter that results in an unplanned pregnancy. The whole movie pivots upon Page’s character and how the issue of being pregnant in high school is dealt with. One of the things about Juno that resonates highly with most viewers is how down-to-earth the characters all seem to be and how realistically the plot unfolds. Without giving away the ending of the movie, the most important part of the story is that Page’s character is the one who gathers all of the necessary information needed to make a big personal decision and is supported all the way by those surrounding him. It is Page’s character who, in the end, decides to keep the baby and raise it as his own/have the baby and put it up for adoption/have an abortion….you’ll have to watch the movie to see which of those choices is the one Page went with. But, the point is that the person who is pregnant gets to call the shots. All throughout the movie, it is made to seem normal that the pregnant person would be the one in charge of all aspects of this experience. To some viewers, that this is the case plays as something revolutionary in terms of feminist characters on screen. However, in Juno, there are no grand speeches from any soapboxes or pulpits. In the end, it all seems like a very real situation being handled by very real, flawed, ordinary everyday people who each have the others’ best interests at heart.
One of the ways that director Jason Reitman managed to create such a mood was through the judicious use of music. While several big name artists appear on the Juno soundtrack, such as The Kinks and Sonic Youth, the main contributor to the soundtrack is a person named Kimya Dawson. Dawson is one half of a musical duo called The Moldy Peaches. The Moldy Peaches are now defunct, but, in the early 2000s, they had carved quite a reputation for themselves as an anti-Folk Folk duo. Much of the acclaim heaped upon The Moldy Peaches in Indie circles was the result of Dawson’s quirky singing style. To say that Kimya Dawson is an unpolished singer is not an insult. In fact, it had become The Moldy Peaches’ calling card. So, when Jason Reitman was searching for the right musical tone for his simple, small movie, he thought of Dawson. Kimya Dawson submitted over 200 songs for Reitman’s consideration. Reitman picked almost a half dozen. Of those songs, the one entitled “Anyone Else But You” is the one that really sets the tone for the film. There are two versions of “Anyone Else But You”…one that Dawson sings in her typical awkward manner and one that appears in the movie with Page and Cera singing to each other. The version with Cera and Page was released as a single from the soundtrack and made it into the Top Ten, selling several million copies along the way. Kimya Dawson’s version garnered lots of attention by association and has gone on to be her best selling single by far. Overall, the song is quirky and humble and simple and filled with meaning because it seems to come straight from the heart…just like the storyline to Juno does, as well.
Below, I will give you links to both versions of “Anyone Else But You” so that you can enjoy both ways the song is presented. I will also give you a link to the movie trailer. If you have not watched Juno, then I suggest watching the trailer first in order to give you a sense of why the song works so well. Furthermore, if you haven’t watched Juno yet then consider this post your invitation to do so. It is a sweet, sweet movie that possesses some of the best writing and acting you are ever going to see. I highly recommend it! If you have seen the movie, then by all means, share your opinion of it in the comment box below. I look forward to reading what you have to say.
The link to the video for the movie trailer for the film “Juno” can be found here.
The link to the video for the song “Anyone Else But You” as used in the film “Juno” can be found here.
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