For St. Patrick's Day: Five Irish Movies You Need To See

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, when everyone's Irish, yadda yadda yadda.

How best to get ready for it? Watching a movie tonight would be one way. Unfortunately, a lot of the "great" Irish movies suck. The Quiet Man? Oy vey. Maureen O'Hara is nicely feisty, but John Wayne is as wooden as ever and the final fight scene lasts longer than Avatar.

Once? All about the magic of music....except the music was wimpy, godawful stuff.

Far and Away could not be any more cliched if it tried (Hey! A cliche!) and The Departed just went overboard as Martin Scorsese tried to make sure we all knew he was making a movie about Micks instead of guidos.

But all is not lost. There have been some very entertaining movies set in Ireland -- some are truly great, others just well worth your time. Here are five to get you ready for tomorrow's frat boys slugging green beer.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006)
If you're going to pick a movie about the epochal events of Ireland in the early 20th Century -- the fight for independence, the Civil War -- some would pick Michael Collins, with Liam Neeson as the legendary Irish rebel. It's not bad (great cast), but the whole thing seems to have been shot underwater (blue seems to be the only color in director Neil Jordan's palette), and the Julia Roberts love-triangle plot is forced.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley doesn't cover the same ground entirely -- it's focused more on the foot soldiers of the Civil War, rather than the leaders -- but it's an engrossing telling of the senseless fighting.

Bloody Sunday (2002)
Director Paul Greenglass has mastered the faux-documentary shaky-cam method in movies like the Bourne series and United 93. He got the Bourne series on the basis of Bloody Sunday, an unflinching look at the 1972 debacle where British troops massacred 27 protesters in the Bogside area of Derry.

Since most people think "Bloody Sunday" refers to a U2 song, here's a video that combines clips from the movie with Bono and the boyos.

Hear My Song  (1991)
Hey, not everything Irish is tragedy and violence.

Hear My Song is so slight a film it threatens to vanish in a breeze, but it's nicely entertaining throughout. Based -- very, very loosely -- on a true story, it tells of Josef Locke, a renowned Irish tenor who had to flee the country over taxes. A struggling nightclub owner announces the return of the Great Man -- partly to win back his girlfriend, whose mom had been involved with the singer -- but things go badly when an imposter gets involved. Funny stuff, and you and your significant other will never hear the phrase "vice versa" the same way again.

Here's the finale, as Locke returns despite the long arm of the law, and escapes yet again.

The Commitments (1987)
The trilogy made from Roddy Doyle's books have few detractors, but the first of the series is the best -- the sheer joy of American R&B as produced by Dublin's northside.

They sing some popular classics, but they don't forget the more semi-obscure tunes like "Dark End of the Street."

Odd Man Out (1947)
The Third Man is a classic film; before he did it, director Carol Reed tapped Belfast for this noir masterpiece. Details are never spelled out, but James Mason plays an IRA man injured in a bank robbery, who has to fight his way though the underground of the city to escape the police. Things don't get much more atmospheric than this film.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly