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Posts Tagged ‘ Acting ’

Top Five Irish Actors Taking Centre Stage In The US

Ireland is recognised for the art of storytelling; from folklore, to literature, to music, to acting. For years it has produced remarkable stage and screen actors such as Gabriel Byrne, Liam Neeson, Michael Fassbender, Colin Farrell and Cillian Murphy to name a few, and now it would seem that there are a number of up-and-coming young male and female actors following their suit and paving their own way with their own distinctive careers. With St. Patrick’s Day not too far away, it is worth taking a look at a few actors making waves across the Atlantic and hoping that this trend only increases as time goes on.

Irish Film And Television Awards - Arrivals

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The Irish Film Industry Needs an Injection of Fresh Enthusiasm

There can be little doubt about it that when compared to our British neighbours, our film industry is pretty far down the pecking order. Ireland as a nation has traditionally been renowned for the arts over the decades, particularly with the likes of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats and Bram Stoker hailing from these shores. But when it comes to the film industry, we are inconsistent and somewhat incompetent.

Roddy Doyle’s “The Commitments”, released in 1990, certainly put us on the map as the film was a hit over in the States. And for a while, it was looking good for us. “The Commitments” shattered any foreign delusion that Ireland was a place full of beautiful valleys, white horses, cottages and fighting leprechauns. Abandoning us in the dark-heart of recession-crippled 80’s Dublin, and riddling us with a dose of Doyle’s realism and dark comedy, the film was an instant success and gained world-wide attention for show-casting some of the most poverty-striken areas of Dublin at the time in all their bitter glory. Doyle penned two sequels to complete what would become known as “The Barrytown Trilogy”, and they were adapted into lesser sequels which proved to be successful at home, but abroad, they are virtually unheard of. And this is partially 20th Century Fox’s fault, as they owned the rights to “The Commitments”, which also meant that the family name Rabbitte was subject to copy-right. Subsequently, in the low-budget sequels, the family had only two children in “The Van” but were back to it’s full-house in “The Snapper”. Oh, and to make it all the more confusing, only one character maintained their role through all three films, and that was Colm Meaney as Jimmy Snr in “The Commitments” and “The Snapper”, but as Dessie Curley in “The Van”. Naturally, this generated a certain feeling of alienation with the films in regards to connection. However, the lesser-known sequels are equally as good as their triumphant older brother “The Commitments” who had cast an immense and oppressive shadow over them.

With the right funding, and the right minds, I sincerely hope that this country continues to produce the talent and films that we all know it’s capable of. We are a distinctive people on the frontier of Europe; the first-stop for the US on the way to this continent. So instead of losing our talented actors and directors to Britain and the US, the Irish film industry will hopefully receive a hefty dose of fresh enthusiasm with new young minds of this generation. With this in mind, I’d like to draw attention to a low-budget and unheard of film made back in 1998 called “Crush Proof”.

Now, it’s a pretty bad film, however, what I want to highlight here is what the film makers were trying to do, and how they almost managed to pull it off. In this brutal urban drama, 18 year-old Neal gets released from Mount Joy prison after spending a year behind bars. He heads to his girlfriend’s flat to see the baby boy he hasn’t held yet, and when she doesn’t let him in, he attempts to break the door down and she calls the Guards. Neal’s not even out half an hour and already it looks like he could be going back in, and when he robs a mobile phone, he only makes things worse. He rejoins his gang of horse-loving misfits and thugs and after killing the drug dealer who ratted him out and got him locked up, the gang goes into hiding in the Wicklow mountains where they’ll confront the situation, and themselves, head-on. It’s a very grim and realistic depiction of modern-day Ireland. However, the dialogue is surprisingly bland and the script has plot-holes the size of the Grand Canyon. The editing gives off the impression that no care was taken in the editing room and the scenes were all just mashed together in parts. But at the heart of it all, we have some very rough, and realistic performances. Darren Healy – where did he ever go? – is superb as Neal. It’s such an anger-driven performance. He’s the epitome of adolescent angst, social isolation, and essentially a sad testimony as to when people generally get stuck in a rut, so to speak, many just continue to spiral downwards towards self-destruction. The title is derived from a speech made by Neal in the pub when he describes the North-Side Dubliners as the original breed and ‘Crush Proof’.

We are a nation socially built on verbal abuse and banter, and this generally rings through in many of the dark comedies that have hailed from here in the past ten years. “Intermission” and “The Guard” are two fine examples of brilliant modern Irish film making. “Intermission” exhibited some of the finest Irish acting talent available in 2003, with Cillian Murphy, Colm Meaney and Colin Farrell in lead roles. It was a charismatic and pulsating directorial debut from John Crowley, who was genius in his employment of Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction” tactics as we have a motley crew of characters in the film portraying their lives and the events which shape them, and subsequently interlinks them with the other characters. We have a corrupt cop, a violent scumbag, two losers who work in a supermarket, a pessimistic young lady with a moustache, a bank manager who has left his wife for a younger woman, and his aforementioned wife in search of a bit of excitement following him abandoning her. “Intermission” is a sharp, honest and inglorious look at Irish culture, and the characters that exist in every society. It’s a fast-paced film; very brutal and absolutely hilarious.

“Intermission” was probably the best dark comedy Ireland had to offer until “The Guard” in 2011. Brendan Gleeson – who was a teacher before picking up acting in his thirties – plays a corrupt, acid-licking, pessimistic, whore-loving, overweight and crude Guard living in the immense wilderness of Connemara, Co. Galway. Don Cheadle stars as the FBI agent sent to Ireland to instruct the authorities on a suspected international drug-ring operating from within Connemara. Unfortunately for him, he is paired up with Gleeson in a poor man’s “Lethal Weapon”. We’ve had our share of horror films as well – and pretty bizarre and unique ones at that. “Isolation” (2005) set on a rural Wexford farm, was as gruesome as it was welcoming. And 2008’s “Shrooms” set in the Wicklow Mountains was pretty good too.

Despite these examples – there are many more, of course, but hopefully I’ve named some of the best – there does indeed appear to be a certain lack of consistency and drive within the Irish film industry at the moment. Films that are made on these shores tend to have little, if any, major publicity. Irish film makers need to be concentrating on low-budget productions, in my opinion. And I say this in regard to the indie boom in the US during the 1990’s. A pandemic that continues to this day, in which many cult favourites today are destined to be classic-status in a few decades time. Irish film-makers need to be aiming for this.

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