Posts Tagged ‘ James Joyce ’

Film Review: The Double

Double exlusive trailer

We live in an age of anxiety, and good old Dostoyevsky saw it coming: “If there’s no God everything is permitted,” he said in 1880. It is a statement often quoted as a moral warning – a prediction that without the Big G overseeing things man would implode in an orgy of hedonistic chaos. But that wasn’t Fyodor’s main concern – he was much more interested in how a world without meaning, fate, or belief might torture an individual human soul.

Welcome to the 21st Century. “Everything is permitted” is now the gleeful cheer of our consumerist overlords. Enjoy freedom! Enjoy choice! Be anyone you want to be! Unfortunately, for people who don’t particularly like themselves this is a double kick in the guts, because not only have they grown up to be a social clod with all the charisma of a P60, they are now entirely and solely responsible for this state of affairs. Nobody to blame but yourself says the modern world – you chose this miserable destiny. You could easily have been a rock star or spaceman but you ended up sitting in your pants, eating Nutella straight from the jar, writing film reviews nobody reads. What a waste.

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A Poetic Month In Dublin: ‘One City One Book’


Yes, it’s that time of the year again in Dublin’s fair city when we are all encouraged to read one book with a Dublin theme. ‘One City One Book’ is one of my favourite cultural events of the year so I cannot let it go by without a mention. This year for the first time since its inception in 2006, the organisers have plumped for a poetry anthology rather than choosing a novel. The collection is entitled If Ever You Go: a Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (Dedalus Press) which was created by Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth especially for this event. Moreover, this poetry collection is heavy on contemporary writers so that the Dublin on the page will be one that many of us will nod in recognition at seeing in print. Continue reading

Has Anybody Got a Ticket?

It happens every single year. All-Ireland Final day approaches, your local club is fresh out and every single one of your contacts has mysteriously disappeared at the same time. So you have to come face to face with reality – you simply haven’t got a ticket. However many enterprising individuals take their begging to the nation, and this year is no different. Dublin man Ray O’Brien, who has lived in Mayo for the past 12 years has recorded and uploaded his Song for Sam up on Youtube, where it’s already garnered almost 800 views.

And it’s not half bad either:

News in Brief-Cruise Is A ‘Nob As Enda Assembles Egg Deterrent Army

Tom Cruise is a Nobber! It’s true, it’s true, he apparently has ancestral links back to the town in County Meath (whose name isn’t funny at all). Not only that but it seems Cruise could be a distant relation (with a capital DISTANT) to our dear Ryan Tubridy, now Tubs has had his wages cut perhaps Tom could lend him a few euro.

Misquoting, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake’ Stephen Dedalus said in the wake of the production of the celebratory silver James Joyce coins. Featuring a line from Joyce’s great work Ulysses the €10 coins (which cost €43) released by the Central Bank have had to be withdrawn and an embarrassed apology offered after an extra word was added. Honestly, next they’ll be putting in punctuation. Perhaps the sculptor who designed the coins was demonstrating her own stream of consciousness? Continue reading

New Year: New reading challenge!

irelandAt this time of year, we are all thinking of new beginnings and resolutions. I have been looking around at a few bloggers who really have their teeth into the New Year to an unusual extent. These writers have not merely made a few resolutions; they have set challenges for themselves and they encourage us to join them in their efforts to scale new heights. I thought I would feature in my piece a couple that I have bookmarked for my own interest.

While I am fascinated by the wide variety of challenges, it is the reading or writing ones that are dearest to my heart. On my trawl through Google’s rich archives, I came across an American blog site run by book and film enthusiast Carrie Kitzmiller, which is a veritable treasure trove of literary challenges. Books and Movies!  blog site has one challenge in particular that might appeal to the discerning readers of this news site and that is the 2013 Ireland Challenge (now in its fourth year).

The details are broadly as follows: the challenge runs from January 1st – December 31st and any book with an Irish connection and in any genre qualifies for the challenge. Apparently, re-reads are allowed (which is very generous I think) and you can count any book read for this challenge towards another challenge if you so wish. Interested book lovers just need to register on the site and can upload reviews (and link to their own blogs) as they go along.

Finally, there is a graded commitment scheme so you just choose your level of participation and away you go. For example, the lowest level is Shamrock at four books read, moving up to ten books and more read for the Ceilidh challenge. I assume that you could aim cautiously and then upgrade if you were flying through your James Joyce. Mind you, I feel that Ulysses probably ought to count as more than one book due to sheer size!

If you are more of a writer than a reader (though I admit most writers read and vice verse) you could do a lot worse than check out Irish writer Alison Wells’ Head Above Water blog site for some early year therapy. Alison has begun a series of thirty-one blog posts designed to help with getting your creative juices flowing (and keeping them flowing). Each post will ‘explore ways of keeping our head above water in physical, mental, emotional and creative areas’, as Alison writes in the introduction to her blog series.

Each post will give you something to think about, something to reach for or suggest sources for inspiration. For instance, on the January 6th post Alison gives a link to a Ray Bradbury interview on tips for young writers. There you will find plenty of food for thought from an expert writer. Keep checking back over the rest of January to see what else Alison comes up with to inspire and encourage your creative muse.

Check out the links given in the text for more information.

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.

New Organisation Aims To Showcase Irish Talent

It’s been said that Ireland has produced some of the most beautiful and profound works of literature in the world, and with writers such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Bowen and Joseph O’Connor part of our literary past, it’s hard to disagree. ‘Under Thirty’, a new non – profit organisation, hopes to add to that reputation by inspiring a new generation of writers.

Specifically aimed at Irish writers between the ages of 16 – 30, the organisation which was set up in September by Dr. Stephen Doherty, aims to showcase Irish fiction at home and abroad. ‘Under Thirty’ is made up of a group of expert panellists and provides a platform for young writers to have their work published and critiqued by experienced peers.  The most promising submissions are published in the group’s bi – annual journal which will be distributed as an e –book and a printed book throughout Ireland, the United States and Australia.

‘It’s quite experimental and it’s not something that has really been done before within the creative writing world’, explains Dr. Doherty, who is an author and a lecturer at Dublin City University.

‘It came from talking to young writers who were struggling to have their work read, and I thought it would be an interesting idea to set up a organisation where people can submit their work, get constructive advice and have a chance to be published.’

At the moment the organisation has fifty panellists from a mixture of professional backgrounds; they include Irish Times journalist – Tim O’Brien, author – Yvonne Cassidy, literary scholar – Professor Margaret Kelleher and historian/ author – Turtle Bunbury.  All the organisers and panellists work voluntarily to ‘review submissions, provide feedback and encouragement to the country’s aspiring writers.’

Valerie Sirr, winner of the Hennessy New Irish Writer award in 2007 and writer for the Irish Times, outlined her view on the initiative – ‘I think it’s a great idea to reach young writers. I wish it had existed when I started out.  I hope my own input will be of benefit to young writers because it’s a great feeling to see new writers develop and in my experience they often come on in leaps and bounds with the right guidance’.

The most outstanding contributor will be awarded with a prize of either, a creative writing scholarship or a writing retreat which will be funded by eBook and book sales. Plans are in place to have the journal put together in December with the finished product ready for sale in the run up to Christmas.

‘The group is a non profit organisation with the idea essentially based around people being generous with their time. There has been a great reaction so far and I’d encourage anyone who is interested to submit their work before the November deadline’, says Dr. Doherty.

Currently ‘Under Thirty’ is only open to Irish writers based at home and abroad but organisers are optimistic that if interest continues it will expand to the ‘UK and USA, and include younger writer’s as well’.

The deadline for this year’s submissions is midnight the 7th of November. Further details are available on the website or join the conversation on Twitter  and Facebook –

By Luke Holohan