Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Reel Fanatic
Very interesting movie blog and what constitutes a good 'Irish' movie

I recently came across a great little blog called 'Reel Fanatic', created and maintained by Keith Demko. I just read a few posts and his profile and was instantly drawn in. There's plenty of good reviews and indeed news on upcoming features. Keith describes his own blog as such;

''When I was very young, my father brought home a little movie called "Spinal Tap," and I have never been the same since. Along with being a movie junkie and a devoted fan of the hapless Baltimore Orioles, I design the Life & Style pages for the Telegraph in Macon, Georgia.''

Now, while reading through the content, I came across this posting - Favorite Irish movies, which Keith describes as such;

''OK, I know, St. Patrick's Day was two days ago, so I guess I'm a bit late with this. But looking through my DVD shelf, I realized that, next to America, Ireland has produced (or at least figured prominently in), the most movies I own.''

He goes on to list some great movies, amongst them 'the snapper', 'the boxer' and 'war of the buttons'. I then had a look at the comments page, and was suddenly compelled to put all this to pen (well, keyboard).

I was shocked at what some people thought constituted an 'Irish' movie. Keith himself seems to have a good grasp of what is an Irish film, but some of the people who posted comments were coming up with some amazing choices as their favourite 'Irish' flick, so I decided to give an Irish man who loves movies opinion on this!

To preface, this post is aimed at people around the world and the States in particular, who think 'The Quiet Man' is a great Irish movie. I am shaking my head wistfully even typing that. First of all, to start on a positive note, if you want to watch a real Irish movie, try and get your hands on 'I went down'. It stars the wonderful Brendan Gleeson and is basically a comedy/road movie but essentially very Irish. On a side note, I went to school with one of the co-stars, David Wilmot. Great soccer player.

Bunny Kelly in 'I went down': What ever happens over the coming years, you be ready to forgive your man, because sometimes the benefit of the doubt can even save your life, I been learning that.

In my opinion you can split 'Irish' movies into three groups.

Group A: Small budget, generally filmed in Ireland, almost 100% Irish actors, Irish music and Irish content.

Group B: Big budget movies with a largely Irish content, some important cast members from Ireland and other Irish aspects, but generally filmed in the States with American leads and script etc..

Group C: Big budget movies made in the States with American actors loosely based on the Irish experience. Generally completely and utterly useless, erroneous and often borderline insulting.

To kick things off, 'I went down' is a Group A movie. It's budget is lowest of the low however it is an enjoyable, funny and touching little story. Grab it any way you can.

On to some of the comments in Keith's comment section for his piece on his favourite Irish movies.

Question A: ''Would Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch count as Irish?''

NO!! They would not. They are British movies! Enough said.

Question B: ''Have you seen The Devil's Own? I don't know if that's "classic" or not.''

Boy oh boy. The Devils Own, where do I start? Apart from having practically no Irish actors, some of the worst Irish accents this side of the Quiet Man (I'll get to that later!) and some absolutely glaring historical inaccuracies, it also has some of the worst lines I have ever heard in movie history.

Just so you know this is not just me ranting, I saw that movie in the cinema when it came out and people were openly laughing at crucial dramatic scenes because the accents were so bad and the acting was brutal (one of Pitt's worst parts ever.)

I beg of you..
''but after I finish this I'm gonna see if I can Netflix it ...''
Do NOT waste money on this movie! It is about as Irish as The Taj Mahal.

Question C: ''How can you leave off The Quiet Man and The Commitments?''

Second part was a great point, the Commitments is definitely an true Irish great, put it this way, everyone in Ireland loves that movie. Its funny, smart, well written, well acted, and very true to it's subject matter. Plus the music is fantastic. It falls smartly into that 'Group A' category I outlined above.

The quiet man? Boy oh boy, ill get to that shortly!

Question D: ''Intermission is an interesting Irish thriller. A little slow, but intricate and has my 2 favorite Irish actors, Cillian Murphy and Colin Farrell.''

Fantastic point. Intermission, again, a REAL Irish movie. Definitely Group A. Actually, if you want to see what the rougher parts of Dublin are like, and the antics the small minority of local scum bags get up to, great movie! Very funny too. Colin Farrell reels in his ego for two hours and is brilliant in it.

So, seeing my point so far? Intermission, I went down, Commitments, the snapper...all fantastic Irish movies. Real Irish movies. Low budget, well written, well acted, no pretensions, just great little movies.

The Quiet Man. Dear oh dear. The Quiet Man is a ridiculous, insulting and boring stereo type, as is the Devils Own, only the latter is slightly more offensive. These fall into Group C. They were possibly written by people that had never actually set foot in Ireland, judging by their pathetic, lazy stereotypical characters and story lines.

I know it is kind of blasphemy to critique the Quiet Man in some parts, but folks, you can do allot better than that! It just really is not as Irish as it makes itself out to be. You want Irish? Check out Intermission or I Went Down. The Quiet Man, however, isn't even half as bad as 'The Devils Own'.

In the February 2, 1997, issue of Newsweek, Brad Pitt called the film a "disaster", and said that "it was the most irresponsible bit of filmmaking - if you can even call it that - that I've ever seen. I couldn't believe it." That almost, almost gets him off the hook for the worst Irish accent in the history of the motion picture. At least he was honest about how bad the movie was.

It is an ugly, incorrect and offensive piece of rubbish, that is about as accurate as a blind man playing darts when it comes to portraying the struggles up North. It should be avoided like the plague, like most 'Group C' 'Irish' movies.

Finally, on to Group B. I totally agree with those who commented and mentioned the Departed, and Millers Crossing, they are Irish enough in content to warrant being Irish, plus they are chock full of great Irish actors. Gabriel Byrne is one of the best.

I would add one more Group B movie though that I am amazed people missed - Gangs of New York. Not only is Irish great Brendan Gleeson in it, the wonderful Liam Neeson is too. There are many other minor roles played by Irish actors, the music is all Irish, the subject matter is true to its Irish roots (emigration, for example portrayed beautifully and with great emotion) but most of all it is an absolute tour de force by Ireland's greatest actor, in my humble opinion, the wonderful, mysterious, enigmatic Daniel Day Lewis.

To sum up..

Get your hands on 'I went down' if you can, and go watch 'Gangs of New York' again and just enjoy Day Lewis at his best, one of the best of a fine group of Irish actors.

4 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

Wow ... I'm glad you enjoyed reading my blog, especially the comments ...I like it when a post provokes a discussion like that ... and I will definitely be checking out I Went Down from my Netflix

Ed said...

As St. Patrick's Day has come and gone I feel obliged to point out a movie I've watched on that day for years - Boondock Saints. A fun, gun fight filled B-class movie set in Boston around a couple of Irish guys. Maybe not the most 'Irish movie,' but entertaining enough for this Bostonian/Sox fan and if you count The Departed then that one might as well be counted too.

And yes, I did see it was pointed out in the comments at Reel Fanatic. But it deserves another plug!

Cormac said...

''... and I will definitely be checking out I Went Down from my Netflix''

You are going to love it, it's my cast-iron guarentee!

Cormac said...

''Maybe not the most 'Irish movie,' but entertaining enough for this Bostonian/Sox fan and if you count The Departed then that one might as well be counted too.''


Sign me up - i'm going to hunt this down! Thanks for the tip.

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