The Academy Awards always come right around St. Patrick’s Day, and some Irish holidays in Hollywood are better than others.
This year should be quite good.
Irish nominee Paul Mescal is getting all sorts of attention these days, and not just for his acting. He famously gave an interview at the BAFTAs in London a couple of weeks ago entirely in the Irish language, stirring up all kinds of Emerald Isle pride.
“Mescal’s viral clip appeared against the backdrop of the so-called Green Wave – also affectionately referred to as Ireland’s going Oscar Wild,” The New York Times noted.
“Twenty-five percent of this year’s acting Oscar nominees are Irish, according to The Los Angeles Times, and this is the first time an Irish language film has been nominated for an Oscar, with The Quiet Girl up for best international feature film.”
With that being said, allow me to look past the Oscar season, and past the young, beautiful talent from Ireland – Mescal and Jessie Buckley, and Kerry Condon.
Later this year, yet another movie version of Eugene O’Neill’s play Long Day’s Journey Into Night will be hitting screens. The big names in the film are not so young anymore – Ed Harris and Jessica Lange, as the doomed Irish American Tyrone parents, alongside Ben Foster and Northern Irish actor Colin Morgan as their children.
Why film yet another version of O’Neill’s play? At a time when movies overall are struggling to draw an audience?
As if to send a not-so-subtle hint, the showbiz gods have granted this production the luck of the Irish – all of it bad.
“One day after filming began on September 19, the lead producer, Gabrielle Tana, discovered that their biggest chunk of financing had fallen through,” the Times reported last month.
“I had to go to the set and tell them we were shutting down,” Tana added.
Money did eventually come through, even if filming has had to contend with rough weather, on set in Dublin.
Still, count me among those who might suggest that all involved take a hint.
I’ve been a New York City high school English teacher for 20 years. That experience strongly suggests that there are 50 other books and plays Brooklyn teens would be far more interested in before O’Neill’s epic.
In the end, these are rich, depressing white folks, talking and talking and talking, often in plummy accents, using big, fancy words. Can this actually be made to seem relevant to a large number of people?
Actually, in the end, I would say yes. And St. Patrick’s Day in 2023 America is just the right time to appreciate some of these points.
The Tyrone family, for all of their aristocratic airs, are haunted by poverty and starvation. They are Irish after all, and the family patriarch made lots of money in showbiz, but only after surviving the Great Hunger.
Then there’s Mom, hooked on drugs. One of the many things viewers of Long Day’s Journey need to learn is to look beyond surfaces, suspend judgment, and listen to the full family story.
Life is the same way.
These days, Republicans and Democrats listen to a story for about three seconds before they start screaming. And none of them have any use for complexity.
The world is split in two. People are good or evil. Immigrants are triumphs or criminals. That’s it.
So, some folks would look at the Tyrones and see privileged snobs whining about fake problems.
And others would see a bunch of addicts who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions, and probably should never have come to America in the first place.
Such fierce judgments have gotten this country right where it is today – seething with rage, far more interested in making our enemies look bad than figuring out how to solve any problems.
Because solving a problem requires patience. You have to listen to the talking and talking.
It might even take the whole day, all the way into the night.
(On Twitter & Instagram: @tomdeignan)