Amoeblog

Fantasy Ireland: Where John Boorman's Cinematic Whimsies Come Alive

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, March 17, 2013 02:05pm | Post a Comment
zardoz guns penis sean connory fantasy post apocalyptic county wickelow ireland film location excalibut john boorman director filmmaker green flying stone head
"Your God gave you the gift of the Gun. The Gun is good. The Penis is Evil." - Zardoz

 
Sick of honoring Saint Patrick's Day by celebrating your Irishness or affinity for Irish culture by going out to drown your innards with copious amounts of Irish spirits? Stay indoors, save some green money, tuck into your own whiskey stash while marveling at the natural beauty of the Emerald isle as framed by British filmmaker John Boorman in such films as Excalibur (1981) and Zardoz (1974) -- could two films made in the same location, directed, produced and written by the same person be more different? I think not.
 
excalibur john boorman nichol williamson helen mirren king arthur legend film fantasy gabriel
Gabriel Byrne and Nichol Williamson as Uther and Merlin in Excalibur 
 
And yet one gets the impression that even in within the context of Boorman's adaptation of Arthurian legends the sword Excalibur represents a goodness not unlike that of Zardoz's "God-given gun" while the "evil" penis serves naught but to wreak havoc upon Camelot's carefully constructed peace what with all that adultery and incest going 'round the round table. But Zardoz is one of those films that I find myself thinking about more than I probably should, perhaps that's because no matter how many times I've seen it it completely freaks me out. It is such a strange film that it's almost impossible to believe it actually exists.
 
sean connery john boorman excalibur zardoz science fiction fantasy film ireland
Sean Connery in Zardoz
 
It does exist, of course, and looking past Sean Connery's adult diaper-looking red short-shorts, matching bandoliers and thigh-high leather boots costume -- not to mention the plenitude of naked women that flesh out the cast -- to digest the core of the penis vs. gun debate in this most extravagant of dystopian science fictions is only half the fun. But I digress, and I really shouldn't attempt to mold Excalibur to its freaky, art house contours. Though both of these films were made in Ireland, largely filmed on Boorman's own estate (must be nice!), Zardoz doesn't pack the same atmospheric punch that Excalibur does, but then Excalibur isn't trying to sell viewers on the concept of giant stone God heads that fly around distributing arsenals of firearms to the people down below by ejecting guns by the dozen from it's gaping mouth-hole. Excalibur's magic is a softer, more subtle stuff. Personally, I think it's the best movie of it's kind ever made.
 
excalibur john boorman nichol williamson cheri lunghi guenevere nicholas clay lancelot helen mirren king arthur legend film fantasy
Nicholas Clay and Cherie Lunghi as Lancelot and Guenevere in Excalibur 

There is a seemingly excessive use of green lighting used to fantastic effect throughout Excalibur, highlighting what I've always assumed to be the suggestion of magical elements at work within the story (see the green glint on the sword pictured above), and spotting the use of unnaturally green light throughout the film seems worthy of a drinking game. Unlike Zardoz, Excalibur's more unbelievable moments are enveloped within an oft-told mythological narrative so well known that when when the audience is presented with, say, an awkward, huffy-puffy sex scene between a nude actress (Boorman's own daughter, Katrine as Igrayne of Cornwall) and a fully-armored knight (Corin Redgrave as Cornwall, or is that Gabriel Byrne again?) it's not all that surprising. Shocking? Maybe a little, but plausible. Just about as plausible as the Lady of the Lake (featuring Boorman's other daughter, Telsche), whose scenes not only make an argument for her existence showcase some of the more beautiful of Excalibur's Irish locations.
 
excalibur john boorman nichol williamson helen mirren king arthur legend film fantasy
Nigel Terry as King Arthur approaches the Lady of the Lake
 
All in all, there are plenty of other fantastic fantasy films made in Ireland (Princess Bride is a standout favorite) so if you're stuck inside the house this St. Paddy's Day, or are just plain loath to go out and mingle with the greenery, get a little Irish film fix with either of these Boorman classics. Also, be on the lookout for the Excalibur documentary, Behind the Sword in the Stone, currently in production and featuring interviews with Boorman himself and many cast, such as Nigel Terry, Patrick Stewart, Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Cherie Lunghi and Charley Boorman who played young Mordred in this so-called "Boorman family picture." Check out the trailers for both Excalibur and Zardoz (if you dare) below.
 
 
 




"Dublin" Theme of This Year's "Vibe For Philo" Honoring Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott

Posted by Billyjam, January 3, 2013 09:09am | Post a Comment

Thin Lizzy "Dublin" (1971) song + Dublin slideshow

Tomorrow, January 4th 2013, marks the 27th anniversary of the death of Thin Lizzy front-man Phil Lynott who died from complications of an apparent drug overdose at age 36. It also marks the 27th year back in the artist's Dublin hometown that the beloved legendary Irish rocker will be honored again with the big Vibe For Philo celebration. Begun as a humble, heartfelt low-key gathering by fans and friends to mourn his tragic passing in the days following his January 1986 death, Vibe For Philo morphed into an annual event that has steadily grown over the years. It is now a three-day, mini festival like celebration with a slew of Thin Lizzy tribute acts that draws Lynott and Lizzy fans from all over to the Irish capital of Dublin. Coincidentally the theme of this year's Vibe For Philo, which begins today (Jan 3rd), is "Dublin."

According to Vibe For Philo organizer Smiley Bolger this Lynott-hometown named theme was inspired from the song "Dublin" off the 1971 New Day 7" EP on UK Decca. "Philip got it spot on when he wrote: How can I leave this town that brings me down, Has no jobs, is blessed by God and makes me cry. Dublin." Indeed considering the current dire economic state of the recession era Ireland (one that makes today's US economy look almost robust) this 2013 Vibe For Philo theme is most fitting.  

Like the early 1970's era Dublin with "no jobs" that Lynott sang about the current dismal Irish economy is back at that same unfortunate place. The once boisterous Irish economy took a double whammy of a blow when it crashed and burned about five years ago. After enjoying the almost surreal dozen plus years of the bubble that was Ireland's so-called "Celtic Tiger" (1994 - 2007) it crashed hard and fast. To make a bad situation worse this economic collapse coincided with the global banking scandals that brought down other countries. Currently Ireland, which during its Celtic Tiger years was for the first time experiencing an influx of immigrants, is now back to its old status when emigration (usually to the US, UK, or Australia) was the only option for survival for many Irish. So high were those numbers (76,000 for the 12 months leading up to April 2012) that they are now at the highest point since the devastating Irish potato famine of the 1800's.

The Late Phil Lynott Further Ups His Iconic Status with Dublin Exhibition Dedicated to the Thin Lizzy Legend

Posted by Billyjam, May 11, 2011 11:43am | Post a Comment

At any given time, diehard Phil Lynott fans can find good reason to visit Dublin, Ireland -- but recently the incentive to visit the late great Thin Lizzy singer's hometown has increased greatly due to the ongoing Philip Lynott Exhibition, an impressive, large scale and reverential expo dedicated to the iconic Irish rock figure.

Since his premature death 25 years ago Lizzy fanatics (and there are many) have been making pilgrimages to Lynott's grave in Saint Fintan’s Cemetery in Sutton (8 miles north of Dublin City centre on the Howth Peninsula) and placing flowers and sundry Thin Lizzy memorabilia by the singer's headstone which, fittingly, is designed by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, whose traditional Celtic designs graced the covers of many Lizzy records such as Vagabonds of the Western World and Johnny The Fox.

Another major attraction in Dublin for Lynott/Lizzy fans is the life size bronze statue (above with temporary Amoeba sticker) of Lynott leaning on his guitar outside outside Bruxelles pub on Harry Street just off Grafton Street -- a high foot traffic Dublin city centre thoroughfare. Since it was erected six years ago the statue's draw has matched that of monuments and statues dedicated to key Irish historical figures. Similarly, Phil Lynott's figure at the Dublin Waxwork Museum is one of its most popular attractions. But it is the ongoing exhibit, which runs through next month, that has been the most rewarding shrine of all for the legions of visiting Lizzy/Lynott fanatics.

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The Roots of the Irish Disco/Dance Club Scene

Posted by Billyjam, March 17, 2011 06:10pm | Post a Comment
Paul Tarpey (Cheebah crew, Limerick, Ireland)
In keeping with the theme of Saint Patrick's Day for today's Amoeblog, I invited my good old friend, fellow Irishman and longtime fan of hip-hop and electronic music Paul Tarpey to be a guest Amoeblogger. For this post Paul, who is a Limerick-based DJ, photographer, & writer from that Irish city's Cheebah crew (who throw amazing parties and run the Cheebah and All That website), has sketched out a history of the Irish dance music club scene. Nowadays dance / electronic music and clubs are an integral part of the Irish music landscape. But it wasn't always that way; on the contrary. Long resistant to both hip-hop and electronic dance music, the homeland of U2 and countless other rock bands was for the longest time supportive of rock to the point of being discriminatory against disco and later dance/beat driven genres, something the guest Amoeblogger calls "rockist."

Tarpey said he felt compelled to research and write this piece when he "realised that the period before 1993 was overshadowed by the rockist history of the Irish music scene and that these early days merit some sort of record before memories fade and we forget about that scene’s pioneering activities." Here is what the Irish hip-hop/electronic music historian had to say:

Assemble any metropolitan club history, from the Paradise Garage in New York to The Hacienda in Manchester, and the same details are arrived at: innovative DJs within a specialised environment create their own rules to soundtrack a communal experience while being spurred on by a dedicated crowd. These classic night spots build slowly and peak after a few influential years, leaving behind them reputations and energy flashed memories. The Irish files to be dusted off from this period contain sections marked Flikkers and Sides. In remembering the history of these Dublin dance clubs, we consider the roots of an Irish dance movement that is as important in its own place as those overseas mythical dance palaces with their own associated cultural legacies.

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Easter Weekend In Ireland Is Synonymous With Hip-Hop's Four Elements: Amoeblog Report On The 2010 Community Skratch Games & The 3rd Annual All City Tivoli Jam

Posted by Billyjam, April 6, 2010 04:16pm | Post a Comment
All City Tivoli Jam 2010

For the third consecutive year, two excellent, true skool hip-hop festivals took place over the long Easter weekend in Ireland-- the DJ themed Community Skratch Games in Galway in the West of Ireland and the graffiti & b-boy themed 3rd Annual All City Tivoli Jam on the opposite coast in the country's capital, Dublin. Both were highly successful and relatively intimate-scale events, drawing a few hundred die-hard hip-hop heads between the two bi-coastal gatherings. Of course, having two similarly themed events taking place in a country as small as Ireland, where hip-hop happenings like this don't occur often, presents a dilemma for fans who are forced to choose one over the other since they happen at the exact same time on opposite coasts of Ireland. Hence, to properly cover this past weekend's two events for the Amoeblog, I hopped on a bus and headed cross country to Galway to attend the Community Skratch Games while my man, and frequent Amoeblog Irish reporter, Tall Paul Lowe, stayed in Dublin for the All City Tivoli Jam.  Community Skratch Games 2010

Now in its fourth year, the aptly named Community Skratch Games (CSG), which features several DJ based showcases and a scratch DJ battle over the long weekend, is truly all about community with a genuine emphasis on fun & camaraderie rather than on competition & seriousness. In fact, the prize for the winner of the CSG's annual DJ battle is not a trophy (a la the famed DMC or ITF battles) but a big bag of Irish breakfast meats (rashers, sausages, black pudding etc., all supplied by the local butcher) that the winning DJ traditionally shares with the other participants in a big breakfast cookout on "Skratch Monday" after all events are over. At this year's DJ battle on Saturday night (dubbed the "Community Skratch Open Freestyle Battle Royale"), ten turntablists went head to head, scratching for 16 bars each. To help mark the end of each 16 bars, drummer Tony Higgins dramatically crashed two cymbals together to the obvious entertainment of the packed crowd.

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