I had intended to write this week's column on the Oscars, but there's time enough for that. When I realized this column would fall on the day after Bloody Sunday, I decided instead to focus on Irish cinema . If you haven't noticed, a lot of great films have been coming out of Ireland for the past several years.
It's funny how Americans have embraced all things Irish--from the ancient Celts and the language to jewelry and Guinness, we practically trip over ourselves to get "in touch" with our "roots." We've come a long way from the days of "No Irish Need Apply."
Although...I recently read an article in which the Irish themselves discussed how unappealing they found their fellow countrymen-and-women on the big screen. Irish passion in film was a major turn-off. Intriguing, isn't it, when we know so many Americans who think the opposite?
Here is my Top Ten List of the Best Films in Irish Cinema. Kind of. I was hard-pressed to put them in any particular order...and it was difficult, to say the least, to narrow it down to just ten!
#10. DISCO PIGS (2001)
The tag is right--it's 90 minutes you will never forget. Based on the play by Enda Walsh, it stars Cillian Murphy and Elaine Cassidy as Pig and Runt, born on the same day in the same hospital, and inseparable since then. When they reach 17, Pig is finally awakening sexually-and Runt is the only girl for him. Obviously. He has blinders on, and there is no one else in his world--no other friend or family. Runt is his everything. It's an unhealthy obsession and relationship. Cassidy was beautiful and heart-breaking as the saner half of this unhealthy relationship. By the end, you'll just want to take her into your arms and lead her into a new life. Jim Sheridan's daughter Kirsten directed this...she obviously picked up a few tips from her Da.
#9. THE CRYING GAME (1992)
I wanted to see this when it came out, but somebody told me The Twist, and I was so disappointed, it was 15 years before I sat down to watch it! Neil Jordan directed Stephen Rea in an Oscar-nominated performance as an IRA volunteer falling in love. This film explores sexual mystery, nationality, and acceptance all in one movie. I won't spoil it for you, if you haven't seen it before...but you'll need to add this to your Netflix queue, for sure.
#8. BREAKFAST ON PLUTO (2005)
Yet another Neil Jordan masterpiece, starring Cillian Murphy as Patrick "Kitten" Braden and featuring Stephen Rea and Liam Neeson. Depression, runaways, sexuality, the IRA...this film has it all--including Murphy as a devastatingly gorgeous transsexual. Though there are a few major differences from the Patrick McCabe book this is based on, it features an extraordinary cast able to elicit laughs and tears from you,
within moments of each other.
"Ugh, you're already American!"
#7. IN AMERICA (2002)
When speaking of Irish cinema, you will probably notice a few names mentioned over and over again. Jim Sheridan is one of them. Not only did he direct this movie, he also co-wrote it with his daughters Kirsten and Naomi. He loosely based it on their struggles as they lived in America in the 1980s. Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton head the family living in a crack house in Hell's Kitchen. The movie starts out with heartbreak, and you want to turn your head from the grief and sorrow that follows, but the acting and the direction in this movie keeps you glued to the screen. The oldest daughter narrates the movie, and one of her opening quotes perfectly describes the movie: "We heard Manhattan before we ever saw it, a thousand strange voices coming from everywhere. And you're not going to believe this, but we had to go under the water to get to the city. And we lost contact with everything; it was like we were on another planet. "
#6. INTERMISSION (2003)
This ensemble dramedy had me cracking up throughout much of it. Starring the likes of Colin Farrel, Colm Meaney, Brian F. O'Byrne, Cillian Murphy, Shirley Henderson, and Kelly Macdonald, this is an unforgettable film filled with moments in life, intersecting those of everyone else's. I've heard it described as an urban love story...I'd have to agree with that, though remind me not to be within fist's reach of Colin Farrell! And ever since watching this, I've been dying to put brown sauce in my coffee. Except I don't drink coffee...so you'll have to tell me if it's as good as they say!
#5. MY LEFT FOOT (1989)
Any list discussing Irish cinema would be incomplete without this movie. Daniel Day-Lewis won an Oscar for his portrayal of Christy Brown, an Irish poet, author, and artist born with crippling cerebral palsy. With Jim Sheridan at the helm, a movie that could easily become cloying instead becomes a modern classic.
#4. THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY. (2006)
This Ken Loach story is all about the brave people who fought to make their country their own...yes, those same folks who became the IRA. It stars Cillian Murphy as Damien, a reluctant hero, abandoning his plans of studying medicine in London to join his brother in the fight against the British. Padraic Delaney perfectly compliments Cillian Murphy as Teddy, Damien's older brother. Teddy, a skilled and heroic leader, talks Damien into joining the uprising but finds that Damien may be the more militant of the two. Dramatic...thought-provoking...shocking...heartbreaking...and no, it does not glorify the IRA, in case you were wondering. It's a good film that opens our eyes to a history we may not have known much about.
#3. BLOODY SUNDAY
How long must we sing this song?
When this movie came out, I thought Paul Greengrass had made a documentary on the events of 30 January, 1972. What I found was a dramatization, with the look and feel of a documentary. I could swear I was watching the news, it was so realistic. A peaceful march by the Civil Rights Association ended when British paratroopers opened fire, killing 13 people, many of them minors. One man died a few months later from injuries sustained that day. This film takes us to that day, from the point of view of Ivan Cooper (played by James Nebitt), the MP who organized the march. At a press conference at the end of the movie, Cooper declares to the British government that "you've given the IRA the biggest victory it will ever have. All over this city tonight, young men...boys will be joining the IRA, and you will reap a whirlwind."
#2. ONCE (2006)
John Carney has completely transformed the movie musical with this little-film-that-could! It stars two non-actors (Glen Hansard, lead singer of The Frames, and Marketa Irglova) as an Irish busker and a Czech immigrant who meet, flirt, and write and record catchy and wonderful songs together, all in the space of a week. Instead of having characters burst into song when they feel a strong emotion, ONCE showcases the songs in a realistic way--in a recording studio or jamming with friends, for instance. They never take us out of the movie, and the charming performances by Hansard and Irglova leave us touched, even though the characters never so much as kiss.
#1. THE COMMITMENTS (1991)
I saw this with my family shortly after it came out on video. I will always remember sitting on my parents' bed, laughing our arses off! Similar to ONCE, this movie featured several unknowns with musical talent. Jimmy (Robert Arkins) decides that Dublin needs the world's greatest soul band, and sets about finding people to form The Commitments. "Soul" and "Ireland" don't usually go together...but damn if they don't give Otis Redding a run for his money! Plus, the hilarious quotes from this movie are never-ending: "I'm black and I'm proud," spoken by one of the whitest guys in Ireland. And this gem from Colm Meaney: "Elvis...is GOD!" He even hangs a framed picture of The King above the pope, who may talk to God, but clearly isn't the deity Himself.
Obviously, I've had to leave off several wonderful films...but considering how much I love Irish cinema, that would be a column no one would be able to finish reading! I hope this inspires you to look outside the States for your next movie, though...especially considering 2009 will more than likely be a dry one at your local movieplex!
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Stream-of-conscious ruminations on whatever pops into Christa's head.
Christa would prefer to live in a world where everyone breaks out into song and dance. Um, and also one in which she is rich and very famous. |
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