And the winner is... who should win at the IFTAs
He used to judge them, now Paul Whitington gives his verdict on tomorrow's awards
There's no crowd quite like the film and television folk when it comes to self-congratulation. Every year around this time, actors, writers and directors gather for a series of lavish awards ceremonies that culminates, usually around the end of February, with the biggest bunfight of them all-- the Oscars.
In 2003, the Irish Film & Television Awards slipped quietly but effectively into this annual orgy of backslapping, with a gala event staged in Dublin's Burlington Hotel.
That opening IFTA awards was staged in November, but the organisers have since cunningly sandwiched the event in the week between the BAFTAs and the Oscars, the logic being that more big Hollywood names are going to be attracted to the event if they're coming over to the British one anyway.
Tomorrow night's awards at the Burlington will continue the tradition of honouring Irish filmmakers and actors. Here are some of the films and individuals who've been shortlisted for potential honours.
The films nominated are, as always, either Irish or Irish-related, which is why they bear such scant relation to any of the other award ceremonies.
This year, the films in contention are: 32A, Marian Quinn's touching coming-of-age drama set in 1980s Dublin; The Escapist, a clever little prison thriller starring Brian Cox; A Film With Me In It, Mark Doherty's black comedy starring himself and Dylan Moran; Lance Daly's beautiful urban odyssey Kisses; and Steve McQueen's film about Bobby Sands and the 1981 strikers, Hunger. With respect to the other competitors, only Kisses stands a chance of upstaging the brilliant Hunger.
Those nominated are Ian Fitzgibbon for A Film With Me In It; Martin McDonagh for In Bruges; Declan Recks for the fine adaptation of Eugene O'Brien's play, Eden; and Lance Daly for Kisses. If Daly doesn't win it'll be a travesty.
Actor in a Lead Role
With all due respect to funnyman Dylan Moran, who is nominated for his whimsical turn in A Film With Me In It, he hasn't a hope in hell of winning, because he's up against some stiff competition. Both Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell are nominated for In Bruges, while Michael Fassbender is honoured for his extraordinary portrayal of Bobby Sands in Hunger. Fassbender has to win.
Actress in a Lead Role
Again for me there's a clear frontrunner in this category. Saoirse Ronan is up for her role in the futuristic fantasy, City of Ember; Jenn Murray is nominated for her fine performance as a disturbed teenager in Dorothy; and newcomer Kelly O'Neill is honoured for her raw and energetic turn in Lance Daly's Kisses. But surely the superb Eileen Walsh is a shoo-in, for Eden.
Actor in a Supporting Role
This is an interesting one. Liam Cunningham (who played a priest) and Stuart Graham (who was a prison warden) are both nominated for their fine performances in Hunger. Also up is Gerard McSorley, who plays a not very happy border policeman in the IRA drama, Anton.
Cunningham would surely be favourite, but dark horse Peter O'Toole may overtake him, for his fine, crusty turn in the Edwardian drama, Dean Spanley.
Actor in a Supporting Role
In one of the most open categories, young actress Sarah Bolger is nominated for her performance in the big budget Hollywood fantasy, The Spiderwick Chronicles; Lesley Conroy is honoured for her supporting role in Eden; Saoirse Ronan gets her second nomination, this time for the period drama Death Defying Acts; and Ger Ryan is nominated for Dorothy. Anyone's guess.
In the international film category, the harrowing concentration camp drama The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is nominated; as is the brilliant documentary Man on Wire; the Pixar/Disney animation Wall-E; and Martin McDonagh's In Bruges. One imagines, as it will be the most heavily represented on the night, that the latter film will win.
In the international actor category, Casey Affleck gets the nod for his brother Ben's crime thriller, Gone Baby Gone; Josh Brolin is up for W.; Robert Downey is nominated for the witty superhero film Iron Man; but I've a feeling Ralph Fiennes will win for his icy turn as an arrogant nob in The Duchess. Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Emma Thompson (Brideshead Revisited), Kristin Scott Thomas (I've Loved You So Long) and Meryl Streep (Mamma Mia!) are nominated in the best international actress category.
The TV Awards
The IFTAs, of course, is also Irish television's big night out. This year's TV nominations are again dominated by The Tudors, which is filmed here, as well as RTE's medical drama The Clinic, and the fine dramatisation of the Dr Michael Neary scandal, Whistleblower.