Irish Eye on Hollywood:
Irish Film Festival Favorites

By Tom Deignan, Contributor
October / November 2015

Autumn means two things in the movie business: lots of film festivals as well as prestigious movies aimed at snagging Oscar nominations, which are traditionally announced in January.

Among the films earning praise at the Toronto Film Festival was Louder Than Bombs, starring Irish thespian Gabriel Byrne as well as Irish American Amy Ryan, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Isabelle Huppert, and up-and-coming Milwaukee native Rachel Brosnahan.

Reviewing the film after it was screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Variety magazine noted that Louder Than Bombs “asks audiences to bring their brains, eschewing grand catharsis in favor of subtle psychological nuance, resulting in a film that runs both slender and cold on the surface, but rewards the arthouse audiences willing to give it a deeper reading.”

(Byrne will also return to the New York stage soon, in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.)

Byrne remains busy for the big screen, with several films planned for 2016. First there’s an adaptation of the play No Pay, Nudity starring Byrne alongside Nathan Lane, Frances Conroy and Irish American Donna Murphy. After that for Byrne is a thriller entitled Lies We Tell.

Also at the Toronto fest was the movie based on Irish journalist David Walsh’s exposé of famed cyclist Lance Armstrong. Now titled The Program (formerly Icon), the film stars Irish actor Chris O’Dowd as Walsh and Ben Foster as Armstrong. Supporting talent in The Program – which does not yet have a U.S. release date – includes the legendary Dustin Hoffman as well as Irish actresses Elaine Cassidy (Felicia’s Journey) and Laura Donnelly.

Finally at Toronto, and then later in New York, there was The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz, in a dystopian film set in a future where finding a lover is (literally) a matter of life and death.

Late September also saw the first-ever “Irish American Movie Hooley” in Chicago, a celebration of Irish cinema, including the documentary Name Your Poison, about an unlikely, Mafia-linked murder plot against an Irish immigrant during the Great Depression. ♦

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