I felt like the 2023 Oscars were like the World Cup Finals. Ireland were competing at the highest level of the game and my favourite players were there. They might even win.
The Banshees Of Inisherin. Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan. Nine nominations. Oh for just one. I was rooted for them, my Irishness big and proud.
Along with them the wee north (our wee country) with An Irish Goodbye. A short film - Tom Berkeley, Ross White, Séamus O'Hara and James Martin. James who I watched grow up in Fisherwick Presbyterian and never thought.
It turns out that, like me, the world needs to rethink now. On James’ birthday An Irish Goodbye wins best short film. The entire theatre sings him Happy Birthday. You couldn’t make it up! Holywood might try!
Sadly, nine nominations but no winners for The Banshees Of Inisherin. The opposition was amazing though. I am no less proud.
I put off watching the The Banshees of Inisherin as long as I could. I was frightened of how sad it would be. Eventually, it needed watched… and yes it was sadder than I had even imagined It was bleak. Utterly heartbreaking.
Yet, what a movie! What a feat of movie making!
I mean writer and director Martin McDonagh comes up with almost 2 hours of film based around two men, one of which doesn’t want anything to do with the other anymore. To make filling the time harder he sets it on an island off the west coast of Ireland.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are other stunning performances, Kerry Conlon and Barry Keoghan to name but two, and the odd animal like a horse, dog and a miniature donkey (was that really the actual one at the Oscars?!?!) but there’s not a lot happening. Yet, this is bizarre and beautiful and there’s no temptation to take your eyes off it.
Ireland looks stunning. It’s rugged, its characteristic green and beautiful. It’s wind beaten and wild. Yes, there is a certain amount of caricature but this was indeed the west of Ireland in 1923. I have just finished Niall Williams’ book This Is Happiness about electricity coming to Kerry in the late 50s. Inisherin is believable.
The strength of the acting of Farrell and Gleeson is how these actors can make a two hour film out of the simple plot of two men breaking up without reason. It is a painful watch mentally, emotionally, spiritually… it even gets physically brutal.
Colm gets some new ideology in his mid life crisis head. To be remembered he needs to do something more than drink every day with his dull friend Pádraic. He’s going to write music instead. Taking it to an irrational and obsessive length the film has its moving fault line; a heart quake if you will allow me. For two hours Colm goes to extraordinary lengths to keep Pádraic at another table.
Now when I mention ideology I perhaps tip my hat at what is happening across the water on the Irish mainland in 1923, when these shenanigans are said to be going on in Inisherin. We hear the odd blast across the sea.
The Irish Civil War is doing the same thing to families and friends as Colm is doing to Pádraic. Maybe we can see personal and national ideologies do the same across America and Europe in 2023.
I could’t help looking in the spaces that The Banshees Of Inisherin gives for thinking. What have all our Irish ideologies done to one another. Some so outdated now but still dividing and causing bloodshed.
It reminded me of that powerful allegory The Field, Jim Sheridan’s equally brilliant take on John B Keane’s play, also set out in the west of Ireland.
An Irish Goodbye has similarities apart from the length. The son of farmers who in Northern Ireland should take on the land runs off to London but when his mother dies he has to return to ask himself not only about the farm but a brother with Downs Syndrome. Again we have two humans in conflict in 23 minutes of grief and a great deal of, laugh out loud, humour. James Martin is astounding throughout.
In an interview, maybe 40 years ago, Bono said that us Irish didn’t build big bridges or go to the moon… we wrote stories. Boy, wasn’t he right. Only one win at these Oscars but still fighting way above our weight!