Saturday, September 27, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "Dancing at Lughnasa" 1998

I just watched "Dancing at Lughnasa" for the first time. It is an adaption of a play that I have not seen so I can only judge or review the movie. I enjoyed the portrayal of five sisters in rural Ireland in the 1930's. The relationship between the sisters and others who interact in their lives is very realistic. The acting is strong, the music enjoyable and the story kept me interested in these characters. I must admit I'm not usually a fan of female movies but this one was different. Maybe it's my interest in Ireland but I really like this movie. The best scene is when to sisters let go and give in to the music and dance. It's a powerful moment.

I related to the story personally because my mother returned to Ireland in 1932 for visit and I imagined what it must of been like then with the introduction of the radio. My mother's family in Glanduff got the first radio in that part of western Ireland in the 1930's and I can see them in my mind sitting around this magical box called the radio. On my trip to Ireland and to my mothers house I saw an original battery that was used in the radio they had in 1930's and it was just like the battery Aunt Kate buys at the local store in "Dancing at Lughnasa" .
'In my mother's area of the country the Foxford Woolen Mills was a major part of the area and a major employer during the 1930's and I'm sure also transformed how labor was done.

The movie ends on less of an upbeat moment than the movie but it feels real. It's a movie worth spending 90 minutes of your time with.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Irish Book Review - Tis

"Tis" by Frank McCourt is the second installment of his memoirs that continues the story started in "Angela's Ashes". The story start with Frank on a boat to America. It's a story of his personal version of the immigrant's American Dream story. It's a not an easy journey as Frank struggles to survive and make a life as a teacher in New York City.

The story resonates for me as a first generation Irish-American. McCourt writes is his prologue about how he would fight with his brothers to keep his American dream his. he learned how to share it with his brothers. I am the beneficiary of my parents American Dream that brought them to these shores in 1928. There were many years that it didn't feel like a dream growing up or I didn't appreciate the American Dream that was given to me but I've come to appreciate it and be thankful for the great sacrifices my parents made.

McCourt and my life were different but I went through my own version of trying to make my way from being a high school drop out in the South Bronx through multiple factory jobs, a return to school with a GED and eventually studying in a MA program in Creative Writing at City College to a brief stint as a teacher in the Bronx to where I am today.

I identify with his struggle as a teacher and I found his story of his family life fascinating. I know the landscape McCourt writes about.

His description of his father and his relationship with him is tragic and yet very real. Having just recently connected with my family on both my mother's and father's side in Ireland I have made the reverse journey back to discover Ireland and family. It's been a great adventure and has served to connect all the dots in my life in a way I never expected.

His writing is candid and moving. "Tis" is a book worth reading. A reviewer wrote that he survived his life to tell his tale. I feel the same about my life and hopefully I will be able to tell an entertaining and interesting tale in my writing.

Reading "Tis" has refocused me and re inspired me to spend more time writing the autobiography I never completed for my MA program many years ago. So I'm going to start writing my story and I'm going to move on to read his next book "Teacher Man." I'm also going to listen to his reading of the book on CD so I can hear the language of someone who is a great storyteller.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Irish Movie Review - The Field "1990"

The Field is a powerful film worth watching for it's story, directing, acting and especially for it's portrayal of Ireland. I'm sure I would have enjoyed it whenever I watched it but I don't think it would have connected as emotionally as it did after my second trip to my mother's home in the West of Ireland in the mountains of Glanduff in County Mayo.

My cousin Tony suggested I watch the film after we took a long walk in the mountains behind my mother's home. My cousin John who lives in Ireland took us back to a home that was built of stones back in the late 1800's or early 1900's. It was amazing to see what they built and the land they cleared of huge boulders to survive in those hard times. It's so hard to imagine the daily struggle my ancestor's went through just to survive. We talked about how important the land was to everyone.

So when I watched The Field i felt how emotionally connected Bull Mcabe was to the land. The Field has a similiar story of sorts to the classic "The Quiet Man" with John Wayne. In both movies an American of Irish descent comes back to buy the land and a struggle occurs. The Field unlike The Quiet Man is not a feel good movie but a dark movie showing the harshness of rural life in Ireland. It makes you understand why so many Irish left for a better and maybe easier life.

The Field is the story of a tenant farmer Bull Mccabe who's son terrorizes the owner who rents the land to them. She decides to sell the farm at an auction to the highest bidder and of course Bull knows no one will bid against him until a newly arrived American does. The outcome is tragic but powerful.

The Field was Jim Sheridan's second directorial effort and he did a fantastic job. He is one of my favorite directors.

Watch this movie to appreciate the history of Ireland and the attachment to the land the Irish had in rural Ireland. It's a story of a proud, strong people. This movie helped me understand my history especially fo my mother's family who grw up in the mountains of Glanduff in a place very similiar to this movie.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Irish Movie Reviews - The Undertones


I watched this Documentary at a event of the Los Angels Irish Film Festival a few weeks ago. It was an interesting and enjoyable film about a band that was formed in Derry, Northern ireland in 1975. I had never heard of them and found myself enjoying the music. It is also an interesting look at a group of young people who had to navigate their way through the politics and hatred that engulfed Derry at the time. Their music appealed to both Catholics and Protestants. If you get a chance check it out....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "My Left Foot" 1989

Just finished watching "My Left Foot" after many years. Wow, what an amazing film. Jim Sheridan does a fantastic job as the director of this moving true tale of Christy Moore. It's an inspirational movie and Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the best performances of his career.

It's a great family story of Ireland and the love and hardship experienced by this family raising a son suffering from Cerebral Palsy. The story of Christy's overcoming his handicap and painting and writing with his left foot is truly a story that puts our normal life struggles in perspective.

A friend of mine Paul Heller was the Executive Producer of " My Left Foot" and brought us one of the best films to come out of Ireland. I recommend you check it out.....

Monday, September 8, 2008

Irish Movie Review - "The Secret of Roan Inish" 1994

I watched "The Secret of Roan Inish" years ago when it came out and remember enjoying it at the time. Years alter watching it again I still enjoyed the storytelling that captures the myths and faery tales of Ireland and mixes them with a story of a tough childhood in Ireland. It's a magical story of a little girl who goes to live with her grandparents who live by the sea across from Roan Inish. She discovers her long lost brother and reunites the family in a story that could only be told in ireland.
It's a great family movie to watch with your children.