Una Mullally

Society, life and culture on the edge

A golden moment at the dawn of a golden age

Irish cinema storms the Oscars

Thu, Jan 14, 2016, 18:20


Donald Clarke writes here about the veritable haul Irish film made this afternoon at the Academy Award nominations.

Today was always going to be a glorious day for Irish cinema, but the impact our industry is making on the most important awards in film is nothing short of phenomenal. This is not a once off, but something of a coming of age of filmmakers who as I wrote in my column this week are becoming increasingly outward looking, making films that stand up beautifully on the international stage.

The bevy of Irish male actors this country produces have always punched above their weight internationally, but we have a bonafide leading woman in Saoirse Ronan, and our skill as a nation of writers is also being reflected in the awards.

Room has four nominations; Best Picture, Best Director for Lenny Abrahamson, Best Actress for Brie Larson, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Emma Donoghue.

Brooklyn has three nominations; Best Picture, Best Actress for Saoirse Ronan, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Nick Hornby (Colm Toibin wrote the book).

Michael Fassbender was nominated in the Best Actor category for Steve Jobs.

Stutterer is nominated for Best Live Action Short, co-directed by Dubliner Benjamin Cleary.

Sadly, Viva, a beautiful film written by Mark O’Halloran and directed by Paddy Breathnach, didn’t make it into Best Foreign Language Film. But an additional shoutout should go to Irishwoman Catherine Biggs, who did Tom Hardy’s hair and makeup in Mad Max: Fury Road, which is nominated in that category.

Over all, Team Ireland can lay claim to nine Oscar nominations, which is nothing short of spectacular. Sure, we owe Brooklyn and Room a lot, but it’s the breadth of nominations that really speaks of the quality of Irish people creating great movies.

So what about that surprise nomination for Abrahamson for Best Director? Brilliant stuff, especially in a category so tightly contested. Room is an excellent film, and the Academy seems to have recognised Abrahamson’s gorgeous style, as well as his skill in translating a claustrophobic and almost impossible-to-imagine set so intelligently and sensitively to screen. Abrahamson is an extraordinarily sophisticated director, and Room shows off that unique trick brilliant directors can pull – allowing the style and nuance of the mechanics of their directing to become inextricably intertwined with the atmosphere of a story, its tone, and in Room, its beautiful realisation. Anyone who has read the novel has to be excited to see how that oppressive yet somehow ethereal setting could be imagined cinematically, and Abrahamson doesn’t just pull it off, he pulls it together, from the spine-tingling closeups of the opening sequence, to the almost stage-like interplay of the two lead actors in ‘room’, the place, as their strife and hope unfolds in devastatingly close quarters.

Congratulations to Emma Donoghue too, who masterfully adapted her original text into a screenplay that never once falters.

For Saoirse Ronan, it’s a return to the biggest stage of them all, as she enters the second phase of her career at still such a young age. In my opinion, Ronan’s films since Atonement have been pretty patchy up until The Grand Budapest Hotel. But true talents have longevity, and she has shown that developing a subtle and smart craft is something that will continue to be honed over the years, and as we seen in this instance, something that will also excel.

It’s also important to point out that these films are not happening in a vacuum. No longer are there years in Irish cinema where there might be one or two you’d bother to go to. Some of my highlights of last year’s cinema trips were to Irish films; The Queen of Ireland, Older Than Ireland, The Lobster, Song Of The Sea. And let’s not forget other excellent Irish films in recent years; Frank, One Million Dubliners, Glassland, Showrunners, Noble, The Stag, The Irish Pub, I Used to Live Here, Jump, What Richard Did, Grabbers, Good Vibrations, The Summit, and others.

Upcoming in 2016 we have Sing Street, The Survivalist, Grace Jones – The Musical Of My Life, Mammal, Love & Friendship, and others.

Today is a day that everyone in the industry here should celebrate, and one would imagine, a day when the international spotlight is very much on us. Getting a film made is an achievement in itself. Doing so to this level is absolutely fantastic. Congratulations to all.