An award for everyone in audience
ANYONE remember the IRMA awards? Thought not. They had a short life in the 1990s, honouring Irish music. The trouble was, this being a small country, we usually had the same winners (hello again, U2) and few big-name guests at the ceremony.
The IFTA awards have the same problem. The Irish Film and Television Academy has announced their 10th annual nominations, and you can't help feeling they're stretching the definition of "Irish" to fairly absurd limits. In a way, though, it's understandable, because there just aren't that many Irish programmes or movies, and even fewer worthy of an award.
In TV, for instance, the excellent 'Love/Hate' is up for Best Drama – no objections there. But its competitors include 'The Borgias' and 'Game of Thrones'. While the former is the brainchild of Neil Jordan and the latter is partly filmed here, are they really Irish in any meaningful way?
Chris O'Dowd's 'Moone Boy' also gets a nod. Yes, it was filmed in his Roscommon hometown, but by Sky, with British money, for a British audience.
Film contenders have more credibility, with many being mainly Irish productions. But still, Martin McDonagh's script big-budget British picture set in LA? Seamus McGarvey for Cinematography on 'Anna Karenina', a Russian tale starring Keira Knightley?
The thing is, if they didn't include these vaguely Irish shows and films – a sort of artistic version of FIFA's "grandfather rule" – you'd have little left. 'Love/Hate' might find itself up against 'Fair City', which would be ludicrous. Almost every Irish movie made in 2012 would be nominated in all categories by default.
You can see why they have this event: IFTA was set up to promote and support Irish filmmaking, for small and big screen. Admirable work, and we shouldn't be dismissive for the sake of it.
But it's all a bit silly, especially descriptions of the IFTAs as "the Irish Oscars". And that weighty word "Academy", which seems to bestow an intellectual air, as if this were some venerable seat of learning dating from the Medici era.
It's different with the Choice music award, or Irish Book of the Year. Filmed entertainment is much more expensive and difficult to make than albums or novels; consequently, many more of those are released. With the IFTAs, you can't help thinking of primary school sports day, where they give out a prize to every child just to encourage them.
Having said that, it could be argued that all arts awards are rubbish. The awards are stupid, pointless, subjective ... plain wrong. Pitting films, authors or songs against each other, like it was a sporting competition, is the opposite of art.