Watch some Irish movies this St. Patrick's Day
St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year (which means I won’t have jump over any drunk teenagers to get to work in Manhattan). I’m not sure what you’ve got planned, but I’m guessing it involves booze, unlike how they celebrate it in Ireland…with church, tea and maybe booze. I tend to stay indoors every March 17th. The world just isn’t safe for red headed ladies to roam the streets on St. Patrick’s day. Instead, I’ll be watching some of my favorite Irish films. Right after I watch this awesome Guinness commercial celebrating the genteel world of dog herding (again) and right before I don’t buy Nike’s new sneakers named for a British paramilitary unit that terrorized Irish civilians.
Now on to the movies:
One of this year’s hits in indie circles was the Sundance 2011 selection THE GUARD. Irish national treasure Brendan Gleeson got a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of pill popping, prostitute patronizing, policeman Jerry Boyle. It’s basically a buddy cop movie with Don Cheadle playing the hard boiled, fish-out-of-water FBI agent who gets stuck with an, ahem, less traditional partner while trying to break up an international drug smuggling operation that has managed to land on the west coast of Ireland. Oh, and it’s hysterical. You can download it on iTunes.
Here is a classic you can almost always catch when you are channel surfing over in Ireland (it’s like their version of COMING TO AMERICA). THE COMMITMENTS is a film worthy of it’s soulful soundtrack. You’ll learn just as much about American soul icons, like James Brown, as life in 1980s, working class Dublin. Bonus feature? An early appearance by Glen Hansard of The Frames and Swell Season who went on to star in, and write music for, the Sundance hit ONCE. You can’t get THE COMMITMENTS online (legally), but you can buy it on VHS from Amazon. While you are there get the original novel by Roddy Doyle and then watch the other two film adaptations of his Barrytown trilogy SNAPPER and THE VAN.
There are plenty of films about the Irish fight for independence. THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY stands out because it managed tp humanize the struggle and show how it was equal parts social revolution and struggle for autonomy. It’s brutal and violent, but you get to look at Cillian Murphy for a few hours, so that sort of softens the blow. The film snagged the 2006 Palme D’or and Cannes and was the highest grossing Irish film of all time until THE GUARD stole that title away last year. Did I mention Cillian Murphy was in it? You can watch his blue eyes stare through your soul over on Netflix.
The next time you see a pub called Bull McCabe’s you’ll know where the name comes from. Ireland is better known for its plays than its films, so it’s only fitting that we have at least one stage to cinema transfer on our list. To fill that void, we’ve got Jim Sheridan’s cinematic adaptation of THE FIELD. And yes, it’s long on drama. Badass farmer Bull McCabe (Richard Harris, who got an Oscar nom for the role) finds out his rented plot of land is being auctioned off. While he manages to bully just about every local from bidding on it, a wealthy Irish American comes to town and throws a wrench in his plans (in an interesting twist, McCabe’s nemesis in the original play was English, not American). Bonus feature? Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) plays McCabe’s son. You can rent THE FIELD via Amazon Instant.
Director Jim Sheridan gets a second entry on our list because we’d be remiss to not include MY LEFT FOOT. Before Daniel Day-Lewis refused to break character as Abraham Lincoln to enjoy his lunch, before he “drank your milkshake,” he was a rising star diving into method acting to portray the Irish writer and artist Christy Brown. It was the first time the actor refused to break character throughout shooting, a trait he’s notorious for these days. Day-Lewis got his first Oscar nom and win for his portral of Brown, who suffered from cerebral palsey. The film won four more Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. So, if you have not already seen it…you’ve got issues. Fix them, by watching it right now on Netflix or rent it on YouTube. We also need to talk about how awesome trailers were in the 80s.