Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patrick's Day - How about a Movie?

Ahh, St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone becomes a little more Irish. My friend, Italian-American Ted Calantino, who owned and operated the Irish Pub in Pueblo, Colorado, adopted the moniker, Ted O’Calantino. So, yes, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated by those Irish or not.

Of course, much of the celebration involves Pubs and drinking, in addition to pipe bands and step dancing.

But here’s a thought, in addition to whatever else you may do to celebrate, watch an Irish movie. There is no shortage of good ones to choose from. Here are some suggestions:

"The Quiet Man"

This is one of those films that I will watch over and over again. If it is on TCM, you can count on the fact that I will turn it on. John Ford, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ward Bond as a fly-fishing priest and the rest of the Ford Acting Company. John Wayne as Sean Thornton, a boxer with a past relocates to Ireland and falls for O’Hara as Mary Kate Daneher. The marriage is complicated because of Mary Kate’s dowry and her intransigent brother, played by Victor McGlaglen. The Irish scenery is great and there is that horse race and the running fist fight between Wayne and McGlaglen.

"In the Name of the Father"

Daniel Day-Lewis shows up twice on this list. Before he was Lincoln, this amazing actor played Gerry Conlon in this real-life story about the Belfast man wrongly imprisoned for the 1974 IRA bombing of a pub in England. A number of films on this list focus on ‘the troubles’ or the early fight for Irish independence. The film also features the late Pete Postlethwaite.

"Shadow Dancer"

This terrific film is the newest one on the list (2012). I saw it at the Denver Film Festival last November, and in fact it really only had film festival exposure in the US (though it is available on Blu-Ray). This riveting thriller, too deals with ‘the troubles’. Andrea Riseborough as Colette McVeigh plays an IRA sympathizer forced to become an informant for British MI5. Clive Owen is the MI5 agent who may be falling in love with McVeigh.

"The Commitments"

A group of down-and-out Dubliners form a band. Jimmy Rabbitte (Robert Arkins) has dreams of creating the ultimate soul group, and succeeds in bringing together a bunch of talented, eclectic characters. But eventually personalities clash, and the survival of the band is threatened. This adaptation of the Roddy Doyle novel featured a relatively unknown cast at the time, but was welcomed with critical acclaim and a successful box office run.

"My Left Foot"

It really isn’t all Daniel Day-Lewis all the time on this list, nonetheless, here he is again. Another true story and character for him as an Irishman who overcomes his disability to become an amazing painter, poet and writer. The film documents the extraordinary life of Christy Brown, a working class Irishman born with crippling cerebral palsy. With the encouragement of his mother, played by Brenda Fricker, Christy learns to write and draw with his only functional limb - his left foot. Both Day-Lewis and Fricker won Academy Awards for their roles.

"Bloody Sunday"

This is a documentary style re-creation of the events of January 30, 1972 - better known as Bloody Sunday. An attempt by Ivan Cooper (James Nesbitt) to organize a peaceful protest in Londonderry, Northern Ireland over the illegal imprisonment of Catholics in Northern Ireland is torn asunder by more hard-line IRA members and the British military. By the end of the day, the military will fire on the protesters and kill 13 people. More of ‘the troubles’

"Odd Man Out"

This film by Carol Reed goes back to the early days of the struggle for Irish independence. It stars James Mason in his star-making role as IRA operative Johnny McQueen. Breaking out of jail, Johnny takes it on the lam, but idealism forces him out of hiding in order to raise money for the IRA cause he believes in so strongly. He decides to rob a bank, but the hold-up goes bad and Johnny is seriously wounded by the police. Staggering through the streets of Belfast, Johnny meets a succession of people who either want to help him or turn him over to the authorities. Johnny finally stumbles into a pub, where he is taken in by a homosexual artist (Robert Newton) who wants Johnny to pose for him in order to capture the desperation in his eyes. Johnny breaks free from the artist and tries to make his way to the waterfront in a final effort to escape ... but the police are slowly closing in

"The Crying Game"

The controversial film that put Irish director/screenwriter Neil Jordan on the map. Set in rural Ireland and bustling London, IRA member Fergus (Stephen Rea) develops a friendship with his captive, Jody (Forest Whittaker),and promises that he will protect Jody’s girlfriend Dil. Fergus cannot execute Jody, as he has been ordered, but Jody is killed nonetheless in a horrible set of coincidences. Fergus then flees to London, where he seeks out Dil. He becomes romantically involved with her. But the plot becomes more complicated. This is a terrific film not only about ‘the troubles’ but about gender, sexuality, race and nationality.

"The Magdalene Sisters"

Away from ‘the troubles’ to a different and disturbing kind of trouble. The Magdalene Sisters is a 2002 film, written and directed by Peter Mullan, about four teenage girls who were sent to Magdalene Asylums (also known as 'Magdalene Laundries'), homes for women who were labeled as "fallen" by their families or society. The homes were maintained by individual religious orders in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. The Magdalene Sisters is a bold, shocking and powerful film.

"Ryan’s Daughter"

This David Lean film takes place during World War I against the backdrop of the Irish Nationalist Movement and the recent Easter Uprising in Dublin. The film has all the hallmarks of a Lean film: sweeping vistas, complicated characters and complicated romances. Sarah Miles plays the title character, Rosy Shaughnessy - nee Ryan - who is unhappy in her life, married to the local schoolmaster played by Robert Mitchum. Into this comes a British Army Officer, commanding the nearby Army base. Rosy becomes involved with him and trouble ensues for her and her father.

On a completely different note:

"Darby O’Gill and the Little People"

This Disney film introduced us to Sean Connery in a very unBond-like role. It is typical Disney fare, which means it doesn’t have much depth but it is fun to watch nonetheless.


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