Barry Louis Polisar wasn’t up for an Oscar on Sunday night, but his work made a brief appearance in the 80th Academy Awards broadcast.
The scene from Best Picture nominee “Juno” included the harmonica solo from “All I Want Is You,” a song Polisar wrote 30 years ago that is featured in the film’s opening credits.
A singer and writer of children’s books and music, Polisar was thrilled when approached by “Juno” director Jason Reitman for permission to use the song after he stumbled across it on iTunes.
“He was looking for another song and when he saw mine he must have figured it was the U2 song” of the same name, Polisar says. “When he listened to it, he liked it.”
The folksy kids’ tune, accompanied by animation, sets up the film by establishing that the main character is a child about to endure the very adult experiences of pregnancy and adoption.
The film’s soundtrack is also a hit, giving Polisar’s career a boost and leading to several new offers, including commercial work.
Polisar, who majored in film at the University of Maryland, was “thrilled to be part of the film,” which also garnered nominations for best director and best actress and won a screenwriting Oscar for first-time scribe Diablo Cody.
A Jew who became heavily involved in Torah study and synagogue life as an adult, Polisar says he was surprised that few people noticed a brief Jewish reference in the film.
When Juno (played by Ellen Page) visits the bedroom of Paul Bleeker, the father of her baby, there is a Hebrew alphabet poster on his door, a dreidel on the shelf and a bar mitzvah certificate on his wall.
“The bar mitzvah certificate shows the transition from childhood to being an adult,” says Polisar.
Having grown up in a secular home and undergone a perfunctory bar mitzvah, Polisar vowed that when he started a family “I wasn’t going to drop my kids off at the door [of the temple]. We would go to services together.”
Memories of being “kicked under the table” by hungry family members when he asked too many questions about the seder led him to write “Telling The Story,” a family-friendly Haggadah with illustrations by his 20-year-old daughter, Sierra. While the work is in bookstores, he’s also offering it for free download on his Web site, www.barrylou.com.
The Haggadah, he said, was a meaningful creation for him or — as Juno McGuff might call it — a labor of love.