The Oscars and Westchester’s Juno Connection

Okay, the county went 0-for-2 for Academy Awards. New Rochelle’s Ruby Dee lost the Best Supporting Actress award to Michael Clayton‘s Tilda Swinton. North Salem resident Alan Menken’s Best Original Song award went to the indie musicians from Once for their “Falling Slowly.” (It should be noted that Cynthia Wade, who swapped Westchester for Brooklyn, took home a statuette for her documentary short “Freeheld,” reversing my former theory that ex-county-residents get shut out for awards.)

To be fair, both categories had strong contenders. Even though the Best Supporting Actress category was one of the few that was wide open, Dee had less than 10 minutes of screen time, while Swinton had a meaty, Hulk-sized role in Clayton. And, while Menken was nominated three times for his songs from Enchanted, “Falling Slowly” proved equally as magical, as the song itself carries most of the emotional weight of the film. Plus, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are darned cute.

Okay, so our locals didn’t win. There’s always next year—or whenever The Taking of Pelham 123 comes out.

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In the meantime, I want to talk about another one of Oscar’s non-winners. The only prize four-time nominee Juno took home last night was for Best Original Screenplay. The Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress awards all found their way to other homes. (Though it wasn’t the Big Prize, the Best Original Screenplay award usually goes to my personal favorite film of the year, so it’s a great honor nonetheless.)

Yet even though the film couldn’t gain enough traction with Academy voters, Juno seems to be winning the countrywide popularity contest. According to Box Office Mojo, Juno has far exceeded the ticket sales of all the other Best Picture nominees, raking in $130,377,000 to date. Its closest competitor, No Country for Old Men, stands at less than half that amount with a $64,162,000 domestic gross. Juno could buy and sell poor There Will Be Blood (gross: $34,986,000), the lowest-earning nominee, almost four times over.

Movie tickets aren’t the only thing that Juno is selling. Its soundtrack, which, like the film, includes a lot of left-of-the-mainstream bands like Belle & Sebastian and Cat Power, is also a hit. Currently, it’s been on “ The Billboard 200” for the past seven weeks. Today, it’s sitting pretty at No. 6, but it hit No. 1 at the end of January, unseating the seemingly unstoppable Alicia Keys. According to Billboard, it’s the first soundtrack to do so since last year’s Dreamgirls.

If the Dreamgirls soundtrack has Jennifer Hudson, Juno‘s soundtrack has Kimya Dawson. The singer/songwriter has six of her neo-folk songs on the album, and one by her former band, the Moldy Peaches. “Anyone Else But You,” that tender song that Juno and Paulie sing together at the end of the film while sweetly strumming their guitars, is a Moldy Peaches song.

Here’s where Westchester comes in. The Moldy Peaches—who, if you haven’t heard of them, were kinda punky, kinda folky, had some old-school rap elements, and often took the stage dressed in animal costumes—were founded in this fair county, where Dawson and her bandmate Adam Green grew up. According to New York magazine, the two met at Mount Kisco record store Exile on Main Street, where Dawson worked. She recognized him from an open mic at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts, where he sang a song by indie hero Calvin Johnson. At the time, Green was being raised by his double-doctor parents, and Dawson grew up in her parents’ day care center in Bedford Hills.

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The two became fast friends and formed the band. “The Moldy Peaches record and my solo album were both recorded at home,” Green told New York. “Either in my parents’ basement in Mount Kisco or at their apartment after they moved to the city. You know, one track was recorded at this kid’s house in Chappaqua. He was like 14, and he plays drums.”

Now, Green lives in the hipster haven of Brooklyn, while Dawson has decamped to the Pacific Northwest. Now that they’re gone, maybe they’ll have Oscars in their futures.

See the complete list of Oscar winners.

Check out the Moldy Peaches.

Listen to (or buy) the Juno soundtrack.

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