‘Lady Bird’ Marks The Return Of Luminous Talent Saoirse Ronan To The Big Screen

How it’s New York: Writer/Director Greta Gerwig is based in New York and actress Saoirse Ronan was born in the Bronx

Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein in “Lady Bird”. Courtesy Merie Wallace.

How it’s Irish: Saoirse Ronan is Irish-American, raised in Ireland

Greta Gerwig, who came up through Mumblecore movies, has established herself in recent years as a writer, bringing her distinctive voice to Frances Ha and Mistress America. For her first turn behind the camera she turns her attention to her own Sacramento adolescence that serves as the inspiration for the film.

Although she’s in her 20s, Ronan nails what it’s like to be a romantic, struggling narcissistic teenager.

It’s circa 2002 and Saoirse Ronan plays Christine McPherson, who yearns for something bigger than her staid Catholic school youth on the wrong side of the tracks. To her, Sacramento is the “Midwest of California.”  To usher in a new era, she gives herself the name “Lady Bird”. She’s a smart but underachieving senior, a sort of outsider with one best friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), both surrounded by their far wealthier classmates and their stately homes. She gets along with her understanding father Larry (Tracy Letts), but is an angry jerk toward her brother, Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), a recent college graduate.

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War Movies and Film Festivals

How It’s New York: Irish Screen America and New York Film Festival happen in New York City. Irish Rep’s Ciarán O’Reilly is in one of the shorts, and several of the directors live here.
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How It’s Irish: “No Stone Unturned” is a film about the Troubles and New York Irish Shorts are made by Irish filmmakers

Last weekend was quite the film buff’s dream. Not only was Irish Film America hosting their annual film festival, but Lincoln Center’s New York Film Festival also opened. I was lucky enough to attend both in one day. Focused on Irish cinema, I began by seeing Alex Gibney’s “No Stone Unturned” at the Elinor Bunin Monroe film center. Described as a murder mystery in its title, going in I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a drama or a documentary, but it’s a murder mystery doc. (more…)

Dylan Moran’s Wit and Wisdom at Theater 80

How it’s New York: Theater 80 is in New York’s East Village
How it’s Irish: Dylan Moran was born and raised in Navan, Co. Meath

Dylan Moran ended a 4-night run at theater 80 in the East Village on Saturday night, which I was lucky enough to attend. In short, my body heaved with laughter, a sure sign of a successful performance.
His big themes were politics, family, middle-age, millennials, technology, and the past, with a scattering of comparisons between New York, England and his native Ireland. (more…)

Queens Gets A Film Fest – The Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema

 
How it’s New York: The movie extravaganza took place in Queens
How it’s Irish: The fest featured films from the Celtic Nations including Canada and The UK

 

 

Earlier this month, Queens played host to the inaugural Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema. The Fest, which ran from August 4th-13th, screened over 150 features and shorts at the Queens Museum and Kew Gardens Cinemas, which is the borough’s only operating art-house theatre. There were free panels as well on subjects such as Women in Independent Film and The Dos and Don’ts of Distribution. With the Unisphere close by, it was fitting that the selections came from a veritable United Nations of countries like Canada, Romania, Pakistan, the UK and the US.

Although Ireland didn’t have anything in the fest, the Celtic Nations were well represented. I saw the Canadian feature “Grand Unified Theory”, which won Best Screenplay. In keeping wit the themed programming the organizers created for the fest – science and outer space were the theme for what I saw- was accompanied by a music video from the British band Jenny Got Famous called “Loneliest Hour”. The charming video is about an astronaut in a spaceship made entirely out of cardboard, which director Karl Dixon explained in a Q&A after, took three months to build. (more…)

Podcast #41: ‘Find Your Way Home’ and ‘The Journey’

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How it’s New York: ‘Find Your Way Home’ plays Symphony Space on Tuesday, July 25. ‘The Journey’ had a New York premiere.
How it’s Irish: The musical ‘Find Your Way Home’ is about an Irish family in 1910. ‘The Journey’ fictionalizes in film an encounter between Ian Paisley and IRA leader Martin McGuinness in 2006, as they attempt to end the conflict in Northern Ireland.

We spoke to “Find Your Way Home” co-author Jimmy Kelly, and to “The Journey” director Nick Hamm.

Featured song: “Heaven Hear Me Now,” from “Find Your Way Home.”

 

Caroline’s On Broadway Presents Des Bishop

How it’s New York: Caroline’s has been entertaining local audiences for over three decades

DES BISHOP

How it’s Irish: Des Bishop and all of the comedians on the bill are Irish-American

Des Bishop at Caroline’s on Broadway
Saturday, June 24, 7:30 and 10 p.m.
Sunday, June 25, 7:30 p.m.
1626 Broadway, New York
212-757-4100

Caroline’s kept it all in the hilarious (Irish-American) family Friday night and for headliner Des Bishop, that was literal as he shared the bill with his brother Aidan, and their much-abused mum was in the audience. Friday kicked off the first of five shows the lads are doing over the weekend, with Brendan Fitzgibbons as host for the evening.

Fitzgibbons, a Chicago native, warmed up the room with crowd work, showing no love for Wisconsin or New Jersey. Having lived in both states I say fair. Now calling Crown Heights in Brooklyn home, Fitzgibbons explained that his current roommates are all women, which his friends told him sounded awful. His take on the difference between living with women (his current roommates) and with guys:

“I have a safe place for my emotions. Beats being called gay whenever I asked about the weather.”

Although most people in the room last night were fans, for those unfamiliar with the Bishop brothers’ story, they were raised in Queens but spent large parts of their youth and adult years in Ireland. Aidan Bishop, the younger of the two, has been living in Dublin for the last 14 years. He’s worked steadily as a comedian in Europe, creating a one-man show that went to the Edinburgh Fringe and is perhaps best known as the resident MC at the International Comedy Club in Dublin.

Of his unmistakable Flushing accent Bishop remarked, it’s “the least intelligent accent on the planet. You’d never hear it on the Discovery Channel.” About a decade ago, when he was in his late 20s, Bishop, who had struggled as a student, learned for the first time he was dyslexic, which was life-changing for him and also a source for comedic gold.

“When I had to look up ‘dyslexia’ on Google, it was the most patronizing ‘did you mean?’ ever! Fuck you, Google!”

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Tribeca Film Festival: The Lovers is a Screwball Valentine

How it’s New York: The spotlight narrative film, The Lovers, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Broadway playwright and actor Tracy Letts, of Irish descent, plays one of the leads (“Michael”). And Aiden Gillen (“Robert”) IS an Irish actor.

Debra Winger as Mary and Tracy Letts as Michael in THE LOVERS.

Azazel Jacobs, screenwriter, director, and producer of The Lovers, maintains that the film is a fond look back at screwball comedies. But this reviewer only had to take a look at his parents, who were seated in the audience and took an informal bow at the screening I attended, to figure out the real reason for this film: they have been married for a gazillion years, but there’s still a glowing “something” going on there for them. This film explores, among other things, middle-aged, long-term married “love” and what makes it tick. One might wonder how Jacobs could possibly keep such a theme interesting for 94 minutes much less how a couple could keep a marriage vital year after year.

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Tribeca Film Festival: ‘The Public Image is Rotten’

How it’s New York: Documentary aired at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Focuses on the work of John Lydon, the London-born son of Irish immigrants.

He’s lived the life, of that there can be little doubt,  and the man at the forefront of Britain, no, the world’s, punk explosion back in the mid 1970s is still living it. Perhaps it’s not the ostentatious existence of obnoxiousness which representatives from other musical genres are, for reasons unknown, proud to display, but John Lydon, a man who shocked, even disgusted, most of the population while enjoying his heyday as the UK’s supposed public enemy Number 1, is still here, and has no plans on going anywhere. His supposed alter-ego, Johnny Rotten, may have been somewhat forced into semi-retirement many years ago, and while the attitude has softened somewhat, and the ironic sneer has metomphorphozed into a cheeky grin, the charismatic personality that some of us loved, and more loved to hate, is here, at Tribeca, and on the big screen.

 

Lydon, who fronted The Sex Pistols, Britain’s most outrageous musical act, for three years before they imploded in 1978, is no stranger to controversy, or indeed, documentaries, having been the subject of a number over the years, most notably 2000’s ‘The Filth and the Fury’, the director of which, Julien Temple, is one of those interviewed for this one.

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Tribeca Film Festival: ‘Pilgrimage’

Jon Bernthal as the Mute.

How it’s New York: “Pilgrimage'”was included in the Tribeca Film Festival.
How it’s Irish: Set and filmed in Ireland,  it features an Irish cast and crew.

“Pilgrimage,” the upcoming Brendan Muldowney film which featured last week at the Tribeca Film Festival, is one of those rare cinematic gems, which ticks all the appropriate boxes. It is a road movie, or perhaps a ‘little-used woodland path’ movie, without the motorized vehicles.

It is a buddy flick, where men become friends and companions, but, perhaps more importantly, allies. It is an action flick, with enough battles and blood to keep hearts racing and pulses rising.

More than any of that however, it is an Irish production, set in an era we don’t often see represented in film (the 13th century),

featuring a talented ensemble cast of established and recognizable actors, mingle with a number of up-and-coming faces from Ireland’s drama scene. (more…)

Tribeca Film Festival: The strain in Spain stays mainly in the brain in ‘The Trip to Spain’

How it’s New York: It’s a “Spotlight Narrative” entry in the Tribeca Film Festival – in New York City, of course!

Filmmaker/DirectorMichael Winterbottom on the Red Carpet with Suze (Ray Foley, photographer, NYIA)

How it’s Irish (and English and Welsh): Actress Claire Keelan (“Emma“) is “from Ireland by way of Liverpool.” The director, Michael Winterbottom, hails from Blackburn, Lancashire, England. Steve Coogan (“Steve“) is an English actor, stand-up comedian, impressionist, screenwriter, and producer from Middleton, Manchester, England. And Robert Brydon (“Rob“),  is an MBE and Welsh actor, comedian, radio and television presenter, singer and impressionist.

Road Pictures: a genre as old as Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, as ground-breaking as Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, as turned on its head as Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis in Thelma & Louise, and as final (please!) as what-the-hell-my-agent-said-it’ll-be-good-for-my-career as Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, John Travolta, and William H. Macy in Wild Hogs.

In 2010, Michael Winterbottom contributed his homage  to road pictures as a British television-series-turned-feature-film called

I “squeezed the kids in” but “not doing a Mick Jagger”

The Trip. The premise was a paid food and travel article gig between two buddies, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, that turned into a culinary romp through Northern England. That film was so successful that Winterbottom repeated his efforts twice more: The Trip to Italy (his favorite cuisine) and, now, The Trip to Spain. (more…)

‘Love After Love’ at Tribeca Film Festival 2017

Cast of Love After Love at premiere at Tribeca Film Festival (Photo by Nicholas Hunt – © 2017 Getty Images – Image courtesy gettyimages.com)

How it’s New York: The film played at  the Tribeca Film Festival, a festival designed to get New Yorkers back downtown after 9/11. Russell Harbaugh is a New York director.
How it’s Irish: Features Irish Actor and Comedian Chris O’Dowd as Nicholas in slice of life drama by Russell Harbaugh.

“Love after Love” at Tribeca just received

  • Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film – Cinematography by Chris Teague forLove After Love. The award was given by Alex Orlovsky

 

Usually walking into a movie starring Chris O’Dowd I would expect a laugh-fest, and that was not at all what I encountered with Love After Love this week at Tribeca.  This piece is definitely a more serious and sometimes somber look at the ways that life, love and loss affect us all.  The story from

Dree Hemingway and Chris O’Dowd in Love After Love

director Russell Harbaugh and writer Eric Mendelsohn wends its way through the struggles and emotional chasms of loss and finding love again.

In the lead role of the womanizing and high-strung Nicholas, O’Dowd is miles away from his usual hilarious persona, and gives a riveting look into what makes this guy come unhinged. (more…)

Podcast #38: Wils Wilson on ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart;’ ‘Narcan’

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How it’s New York: The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart was a big hit Off-Broadway. “Narcan” played at Irish Screen America and at the Manhattan Film Festival.   rssheadphones1
How it’s Irish and Scottish: Jim Halpin, of “Narcan,” is from Limerick (he played young Malachy in “Angela’s Ashes.”)
“The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart” is by Scottish playwright David Grieg, presented by The National Theatre of Scotland and the McKittrick Hotel (home of “Sleep No More.”)

We spoke to director Wils Wilson about the brilliant and unforgettable Scottish immersive drama “The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart,”a campfire pub play if there ever was one, with brilliance running through each line like water inside a snowflake. Alice Farrell spoke to Peter Halpin, star of the short film “Narcan,” which may turn into a feature film Stay tuned.

Featured tune is from Annie Grace’s “The Bell.” Annie was in the cast of  “Prudencia” when we attended. We think she has a voice to rival Dolores Keane and were sorely tempted to end with two of her songs.

‘Emerald City’ – A Cinematic Gem That May Speak for a Generation

How it’s New York: A New York story shot on location in the Big Apple.
How it’s Irish: Written and directed by a native of Tyrone, and featuring an ensemble of Irish actors.

Some of the cast and crew at the recent London Film Festival.

For an Irish emigrant in the latter half of the 20th century, there was a supposed ‘holy triumvirate’ of occupations that one could, not so much enjoy, but experience. Three jobs the weary long-term ‘visitor’ has, over generations, been either, welcome to try his hand at, or been firmly nudged towards, due to a lack of opportunities elsewhere. There’s the pulling of pints and there’s the moving of furniture. Then there is the knocking down, and building up of; walls, ceilings, floors, apartments, skyscrapers, neighborhoods and entire cities. See, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve torn things down, and built them up. Whether it be buildings and businesses, or friendships and families. We’ve held them together, and torn them apart, for over 200 years in this town. This home from home, this Big Apple, this ‘Emerald City’.
Writer/director Colin Broderick, one of those unique breeds, a County Tyrone-born and reared New Yorker, has set out to tell a tale or three, involving several memorable characters from this, his first movie, detailing the lives and loves of an ageing Irish construction crew. ‘Emerald City’ expertly weaves a number of storylines together into a colorful tapestry, one that is rich in character and colorful of language. It is as much a tribute to the immigrants who came and stayed and those who never made it back, as it is to Broderick’s beloved New York.  This is where he, before honing his skills as an acclaimed writer of two biographical works (‘Orangutan’ and ‘That’s That’) and a number of plays, worked in the construction industry, where ideas for many of his characters no doubt, first developed.  (more…)

Irish Screen America Festival – NY Friday September 30th through Sunday October 2nd. – NYU Cantor Film Center

How it’s New York: At the Cantor Film Center at New York University
How it’s Irish: Presenting the best of current Irish Film and Media

Print   I had a blast covering the 2016 Irish Screen America Festival in New York at the NYU Cantor Film Center. 

The Festival is the brainchild of Irish film-maker/producer Niall McKay and his Deputy Director Clodagh Bowyer.  There was an entertaining collection of films, shorts, television and an insight-filled panel discussion to boot.  Have a look at their trailer to get a taste of what they are about.

Irish Screen America Trailer

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