With the recent success of Irish actors and productions in Hollywood, Alexander Glover takes a look back at some of the best Irish films from the last few decades.
Oscar buzz is at a fever pitch now with just over a month to go until the ceremony. Irish eyes have been drawn to news of five Irish nominations. Saoirse Ronan has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her part in Lady Bird. This comes after her win at the Golden Globes and marks Ronan’s third Oscar nomination at just 23 years old.
Kilkenny-based animation studio, Cartoon Saloon has also received its third nomination, this time for The Breadwinner which faces tough competition from Coco for Best Animated Feature. Suggesting three could be the magic number for the Irish on the night, costume designer Consolata Boyle picked up her third nomination for her work on Victoria & Abdul.
The final two Irish nominations go to Martin McDonagh, the Irish-British writer and director. His film, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has been nominated for Best Motion Picture and Best Original Screenplay. McDonagh has previously won an Oscar for Best Short Film in 2006 with Six Shooter.
For such a small, isolated country separated from Hollywood by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland has certainly made its mark on Tinsel Town over the years.
For such a small, isolated country separated from Hollywood by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, Ireland has certainly made its mark on Tinsel Town over the years. In fact, the Oscar statuette was designed in 1929 by Dubliner Cedric Gibbons who was the head art director at MGM. Gibbons is also Ireland’s most decorated Oscar nominee and recipient, being nominated for 39 Academy Awards and winning eleven of them.
1989 kicked off somewhat of an Irish film renaissance with My Left Foot receiving five Oscar nominations. Daniel Day-Lewis won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his turn as Christy Brown and Brenda Fricker won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Christy’s mother. The film missed out on Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay as did Jim Sheridan for Best Director.
1989 kicked off somewhat of an Irish film renaissance with My Left Foot receiving five Oscar nominations.
The following year saw a Best Actor in a Leading Role nomination for Richard Harris for his performance in Sheridan’s The Field. Harris is best-known among this generation as Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films.
1993 saw seven Oscar nominations for Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father but unfortunately no wins. His impact on Irish film cannot be understated. Following this run of Oscar-nominated films, Sheridan went on to write and direct other influential Irish features such as The Boxer, In America (three more Oscar nominations) and most recently The Secret Scripture. His most surprising work came in 2005 when he directed 50 Cent’s biopic Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Aside from Oscar-nominated films, the nineties and noughties saw some of the best Irish releases. Roddy Doyle’s ‘Barrytown Trilogy’ includes three films that are always ranked among the best and most loved of our country. 1991’s The Commitments, 1993’s The Snapper and 1996’s The Van are all hilarious renditions of ordinary life in Dublin in the 1990s.
The late nineties saw successful period pieces such as Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins starring Liam Neeson, Jordan’s The Butcher Boy and the adaptation of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.
The early noughties saw important societal issues being delivered with Irish wit in the form of comedy dramas.
The early noughties saw important societal issues being delivered with Irish wit in the form of comedy dramas. 2004’s Adam and Paul deals with the issue of homelessness in Dublin. The film manages to make audiences laugh out loud whilst also being deeply touching. That same year Irish audiences were treated to the brilliant Inside I’m Dancing (also known as Rory O’Shea was Here). A 25-year-old James McAvoy stars as the titular character who is wheelchair-bound due to muscular dystrophy. He enters a home for the disabled and brings fun and freedom into the life of Michael (Steven Robertson) who has cerebral palsy.
Continuing this trend, Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto was released in 2005. The film stars Cillian Murphy as a young trans woman who leaves her small Irish town in the 1970s to go to London where she feels her gender identity will be overlooked.
In recent times, Irish animation has been well-received by the Academy and audiences alike. 2009 saw nominations for both The Secret of Kells and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty produced by Cartoon Saloon and Brown Bag Films, respectively. This was followed by Song of the Sea’s nomination in 2014.
2015 marked a return to Oscar-form for Irish film talent with seven nominations shared between Brooklyn and Room. The latter was written by Irish Novelist Emma Donoghue. American actress Brie Larson won the award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in the film.
Unfortunately, not many of the great Irish films can currently be found on Netflix. Those that are currently available and are worth checking out are the recently added In Bruges starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, Handsome Devil which was nominated for Feature Film of the Year at the IFTAs, Young Offenders and Sing Street.
Here’s hoping 2018 will be the year the Irish win big at Hollywood’s most-coveted award ceremony.