A JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY IRISH & IRISH AMERICAN AFFAIRS
Winter 2020 / VOL. 20 ISSUE 1
No matter what you think, the Oscars this year produced something very unusual as it was the first time a foreign language movie won not just its own category (now called Best International Picture), but actually went on to win the biggest prize of Best Picture too.
Actually, Parasite, a South Korean black comedy directed by Bong Joon-Ho also won him the Best Director and Best Original Screenplay award, wins which were also unusual if not unique in the 92-year history of the awards.
Though it had already won many awards, Parasite still triumphed in a very strong category, beating out the multi-nominated The Irishman by Martin Scorsese, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s latest smash hit, and The Joker, which won Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix. It also bested WWI movie 1917, which took home three awards including Best Cinematography, and had been a favorite to take home Best Picture.
The ceremony itself worked very hard to highlight diversity after much controversy over the nominations – especially in relation to the lack of women and the lack of color among those who were in the running – and perhaps only partly succeeded.
Tarantino could only celebrate the expected Best Supporting Actor win for Brad Pitt and Best Production Design, while Scorsese went home empty-handed. There was disappointment too for 25-year-old Irish-American Saoirse Ronan, who expectedly lost out to Rene Zellweger playing Judy Garland in Judy.
Ronan had been nominated as Best Actress for her performance in Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, and she missed out at the recent Golden Globes too, as did Dubliner Andrew Scott, who had received a nomination for his performance in Fleabag at the Globes.
Just a few days before the Oscars was a very glamorous Irish event in Santa Monica: the 15th annual Oscar Wilde Awards. Held every year by the US-Ireland Alliance to acknowledge new and established Irish (or Irish-adjacent) talent, the event is a loose, fun night held at the Bad Robot Studios (home of JJ Abrams, a past winner, who has featured Irish locations in his recent Star Wars movies and is MC for the night).
This year’s winners included comedian Tig Notaro. Born Mathilde O'Callaghan Notaro, her great-great-grandfather was John Fitzpatrick, a former mayor of New Orleans), and she was named by Rolling Stone as “one of the 50 best stand-up comics of all time,” and she and her wife/writing partner Stephanie Allynne have just sold the screenplay First Ladies to Netflix.
Winning the “Wilde Card” Award (for new and rising talent) was actress Jenn Murray, who was recently on the big screen alongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Angelina Jolie in Disney’s Maleficent sequel The Mistress of Evil.
Born in Belfast, she has appeared in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and opposite Ronan and Julie Walters in the 2015 movie Brooklyn, which was directed by Irishman John Crowley and adapted from the Colm Toibin novel.
The event’s “honorary” Irishman award went to Norman Lear, the legendary veteran television producer of such groundbreaking sitcoms as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times and Maude – and who is still working today at age 97.
Lear’s refusal to make his most famous character, Archie Bunker, an Irish Catholic (even though the actor who played him, Carroll O’Connor, was Irish-American himself) was a notable one, and Lear wrote in his autobiography that he “refused to pin the bigot in Archie on any specific ethnicity or religion.”
Moving back into production in the North of Ireland, principal photography has begun on thriller Black Medicine, a story about Jo, a black-market medic who carries out illegal operations for the criminal underworld – but finds herself having to make a decision when she gives refuge to a young girl.
It stars Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Orla Brady (American Horror Story), Amybeth McNulty and John Connors, and is written and directed by newcomer and Lisburn native Colum Eastwood as his first feature.
More news from Hollywood in the next issue, but in the meantime, do check out Parasite – it was my favorite movie of 2019 and deserved all its accolades – or some of his other majority English-language movies like Snowpiercer and Okja – they’re all very different and entertaining.
Irish Movie News - Winter 2020
By: James Bartlett