Happy St. Patrick’s Day: beer and a movie

Here’s some Irish-related flotsam and jetsam to chew over today as you sit at work and wonder why you can’t be drinking at eight in the morning.

If you’re looking for a great movie to watch, this Geoffrey Macnab piece in The Independent provides a great primer to start. He writes passionately about what we could call trouble movies. Essentially, the struggle for Irish independence. It’s actually strictly about Northern Ireland, which is excellent. Many people tend to not understand the conflict which took place on the island between the Irish as a whole against Britain and then between Catholics and Protestants.

What is striking, too, is the range of that work. In the 1980s, film-makers like Neil Jordan with Angel (1982) and Pat O’Connor with Cal (1984) responded to the conflict by making lyrical, introspective pieces about characters caught up unwittingly in the violence.

Contrast the soulful melancholy of Cal or Angel with the outspoken polemics of Ken Loach’s thriller Hidden Agenda (1990), made to draw attention to the iniquity of the British “shoot-to-kill” policy in Northern Ireland. Alan Clarke made two extraordinary films set during the conflict. Contact (1985) was about a British platoon in “bandit country” in South Armagh. Much of the film consisted of imagery of the British soldiers crawling through fields and undergrowth in fear of their lives. Even more pared-down and startling was Clarke’s later film Elephant (1989), in which we see a series of murders committed on the streets of Belfast. No contextualisation or characterisation was provided. “Alan Clarke, out of all those directors [who have made films set in the Troubles], I revere and admire. Contact was stunning. Elephant was even bolder,” says [director Paul] Greengrass.

The article is also a nice interview with director Paul Greengrass, who in 2002, released one of the better conflict movies ever with Bloody Sunday. Intense is the only word to describe his recreation of that fateful 1972 protest march that ended in violence and bloodshed.

Other suggestions for watching include: Omagh (2004), The Boxer or In the Name of the Father (both by director Jim Sheridan and starring Daniel Day-Lewis), The Wind that Shakes the Barley (this is our choice!). There are several other movies mentioned in the article. Certainly worth reading.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

This film by Ken Loach, which won the Palm D’Or at Cannes, is an emotionally devestating movie about two brother caught on the wrong side of the Irish revolution. Starring Cillian Murphy as one such brother, you realize how futile that fight must have felt. This one comes highly recommended.

The film starts out with British soldiers killing an Irish man because he refuses to say his name in English.

oharastout.jpgOn a lighter note, Epicurious has a rundown of Irish beers you can drink. It’s pretty standard list including Murphy’s, Guinness, and Beamish, however, they do mention one new stout that has just been introduced to the American market. I’ll be looking for O’Hara’s Celtic Stout from Carlow Brewing Co.

They describe it thusly: “The pitch-black color and complex, roasted, almost winelike aroma are the first hints that O’Hara’s is bigger and bolder than most of the competition. It was a champion in its class at the Brewing Industry International Awards in 2000, and it has turned more than a few heads with a rich, substantial character that recalls the way certain Irish stouts once tasted. It’s dry enough for oysters, but sufficiently robust to be enjoyed with meat and cheese dishes.”

Here’s what the folks over at Beer Advocate had to say about it.

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