Friday 13 December 2019

A golden age of film built on the great Irish novel

Gripping: Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in a scene from Room
Gripping: Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay in a scene from Room

Julia Molony

The Oscars beckon - and Ireland hasn't had this big a shout in international competition since Italia '90.

This is the year that the red carpet at the Dolby theatre will be turned green on February 28 by the tide of Irish talent rocking up at the Oscars. You can thank a new generation of creative powerhouses for that. Directors Lenny Abrahamson and John Crowley, actors Saoirse Ronan and Michael Fassbender, writers Emma Donoghue and Colm Toibin, and producers Ed Guiney and Fiona Dwyer. Together, they are the circle whose creative cross-pollination has ushered in a golden age for Irish film. 

The news broke last Thursday that the cream of the crop of Irish film-making talent had, between them, picked up nine nods - including two films out of a total of eight nominated for Best Picture (the big daddy of Academy Awards), a Best Director nomination for Lenny Abrahamson and a Best Actress nomination for Saoirse Ronan - a massive coup considering she's still only 21, and is up against a clutch of heavyweights including Cate Blanchett and Charlotte Rampling.

This little nation has not been so promisingly represented in an international competition since Italia '90.

Perhaps it's not a surprise that both of the best-performing Irish films are literary adaptations. Take a quality Irish novel, add a hotshot director and a poised, self-possessed young female star - this, it certainly seems, is the current winning formula in the two most garlanded Irish films: Room, adapted from the best-selling novel by Emma Donoghue; and Brooklyn, adapted from the best-selling novel by Colm Toibin.

And then, besides all that, there's Michael Fassbender - not just our hottest sex symbol, but a nominations magnet too. He was pipped to the post for Best Supporting Actor in 2014 by Jared Leto. This year, he's up for the big one - Best Actor, following his polo-necked turn as Steve Jobs. However, there may be riots in the stalls if that award doesn't go, finally, to Leonardo DiCaprio for his performance in The Revenant.

Nominated five times, he's pulled out all the stops to finally bring home his golden statuette, going full-method and munching on raw bison meat - and, to help things along, working with the Oscars panel's golden boy, director Alejandro Inarittu. If he can't win it this time, maybe he'll just give up altogether.

Inarittu, it seems, can do no wrong.

Last year, his fast-paced, surrealist melodrama Birdman ruled the roost. This year, The Revenant is up for no less than 12 awards, only the 15th film to be so well represented in the history of the competition.

But there will be a few long faces around Hollywood this weekend. Not least those of directors Ridley Scott and Quentin Tarantino, both snubbed for the best director category for their offerings, The Martian and The Hateful Eight.

Sunday Independent

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