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Non-Review Review: Eurovision Song Contest – The Story of Fire Saga

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is a limp misfire.

There’s no doubt that the film comes from a place of affection and sincerity, reportedly inspired by writer and star Will Ferrell’s delight on discovering the camp weirdness of the Eurovision Song Contest. Indeed, The Story of Fire Saga has clearly been produced with the enthusiastic participation of the contest itself; the film uses a lot of branding associated with the event, features cameos from commentators like Graham Norton, and even ropes in a couple of past participants for its most endearing tribute to the surreality of the competition.

Marching on.

However, whether because it constrained by the official branding or simply by the limitations of Ferrell as an outsider looking in, The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t work. On a basic level of comedy mechanics, there are not enough jokes to sustain the indulgent two-hour runtime. On a more fundamental level, The Story of Fire Saga often fails to grasp what makes the Eurovision Song Contest such a beloved cultural institution. There’s a sense in which The Story of Fire Saga could be about almost anything else, and would be functionally the same movie.

This is a disappointment, particularly given that The Story of Fire Saga is being released in a year without the Eurovision.

A pretty weak ‘Vision.

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Watch Out! The James Cult Film Club is Doing Intermission, 18th June 2013, Dublin!

I’m a big fan of the Jameson Cult Film Club. It exists as an ode to classic movies, finding a way to stage beloved classics in a way which encourages audiences to re-engage with them. Transforming a piece of Dublin into a set from the film, hiring actors to bring certain key sequences to life, even serving appropriate snack food, these events are a joyous celebration of pop cinema.

Their next film will be interMission, which is one of my favourite Irish films of the past decade. It feels appropriate to celebrate the movie’s tenth birthday with a celebratory showing at a secret location in the cinema. It’s a great choice, and it’s always a good excuse to celebrate a quality piece of Irish cinema.


Anyway, we’ll hopefully have some tickets to give away in the next week or so to the showing on the 18th June. As with all the Jameson Cult Film Club screenings, the event is free of charge – which is quite nice, I have to say. Tickets are randomly raffled off, and you can sign up as a member at the Jameson Cult Film Club website. If you want some examples of their good work, we’ve got some photos from their screenings of The Blues Brothers, Silence of the Lambs and L.A. Confidential, among other things.

I’m normally quite wary of offering whole-hearted unqualified endorsements on the blog, but it’s really something I’d recommend that every cinephile should try at least once. And, if you’re reading this from outside of Ireland, feel free to check out interMission for a decidedly Irish piece of cinema. Only In Bruges really comes close to it – and that really falls into the quasi-ambiguous “Father Ted” category of “is it an Irish piece of entertainment?”


In the meantime, I’m off to make myself some tea. Maybe even with brown sauce.

Ah Sure, It’s Grand: Random Thoughts on Critical Reception to Irish Films…

It’s always a bit interesting when a major and well-received Irish film is released, if only because it typically involves a fairly large divorce between the critical and audience reception to these films. It has been suggested that film critics are too quick to shower Irish films with praise they don’t deserve, out of some misplaced sense of patriotism. As the Trinity Film Review succinctly sums up:

An overrated Irish film is not hard to find. Our tendency towards the inflated evaluation of domestic filmmaking is a self-perpetuating one, leaving audiences indifferent towards the hyperbole-gavaged, entry-level film geese trotted out by our native industry, and filmmakers and critics alike complacent in the immutable, self-congratulatory expository routine the utter nakedness of which nobody seems inclined to comment on.

I have to admit, I’ve seen this in effect quite a few times, and it really bugs me – if only because it makes it harder to spot when a realgem of a film comes along. I honestly don’t think that this sort of attitude helps anyone.

I'm not down with that...

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Non-Review Review: Wide Open Spaces

I don’t know what it is about Irish cinema, but it’s very hard to get excited about. Most of our best talent seems to work overseas, which is why it’s great to get the guys behind Father Ted to come back. But it just… it doesn’t feel right. Wide Open Spaces is a perfectly average film. It isn’t side splittingly funny, but it isn’t dreadfully unfunny either. There isn’t much going on, and there are points when it feels like it’s trying too hard, but it isn’t the worst film of the year. It’s just… not very good, to be honest.

Two actors in search of a good script...

Two actors in search of a good script...

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Irish television…

Why can’t RTE produce a standard thirteen-part drama once a year? I am a huge television fan and I can’t wrap my head around it. I know they aren’t the BBC – nor should they or could they – but it’s incredibly hard to justify given that the station has possibly the best current affairs department in the world and an above-average record with comedies (though they never should have passed on Father Ted).

I flick over to the ever-reliable Beeb and I see any number of highly-watchable drama shows that run once-a-year every year – Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spooks, Hustle, Ashes to Ashes, New Tricks to name but a few. Wow. And for my irish television licence, what do I get? Raw. A show about a restaurant that is reviewing terribly. Still, we get a second season, so that’s good, right? Maybe they’ll commission a second season of something good.

(Very) Raw talent

(Very) Raw talent

We have the talent in the country – The Abbey and The Gate see to our acting talent, many of whom emigrate to find work; there’s a rapidly emerging Irish film circuit that provides the directors; we’re a nation highly respected as writers – so why hasn’t it happened yet? I have dozens of TV shows on DVD, but not one of them is Irish, save the crappy Reeling in The Years compilation RTE produced. No Irish drama. (And the show is amazing… due to rights issues, the DVD less so.)

We have room in the schedule – a disturbing proportion of RTE’s broadcasts are imports – and we also have the money, we’re just spending it wrong. Why do I need RTE to show Lost when I can see it in higher quality on Sky? What’s the point of getting Desperate Housewives on RTE when there are 101 other boland import-filled channels on my digibox? Sure, it might garner ratings and advertising revenue by acquiring exclusive rights, but what’s the point of having a state broadcaster to do that for us?

It made sense before the internet allowed us to see anything anywhere almost simultaneously. It made sense before digital made it possible for ordinary households to see anything we wanted. What is the purpose of a public-service broadcaster that doesn’t offer anything we can’t get anywhere else? Even if you could argue that Irish drama isn’t financial lucrative, there’s a reason we fund the public arts. And it’s not to see 30 Rock (awesome as it may be) a few weeks early.

Sure, you counter, RTE does original programming. I’ll give you current affairs. I love Prime Time and I want to run away and marry Brian Dobson. I’ll accept comedy like Bachelors Walk, as it is high quality entertainment. Hell, even the one off drams can be good (Whistleblower), but they can also be so bad it’s horrible (Butter Sweat). I am disgusted with the amount of crass reality television knockoffs we produce as a nation. I makes my physically sick. Sure, every other station in the world does it, but the good ones offset it with something good and smart and brave (or at least better and smarter and braver), instead of patting the audience on the head with some American sitcom.

I want to love RTE, I really do. It’s all there, ready and waiting to be used. They don’t seem to be willing to use it though. And that really ticks me off.

I’m going to go watch the BBC.