Coming up on the one-year mark of the start of the pandemic, many of us are pausing a moment to reflect on the ways in which our lives have changed, taking note of the simple things we once took for granted, and questioning how we will continue to move forward with all the challenges still facing us. For me, one important, undeniable, and momentous question has conquered all the rest: How am I supposed to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year?
When it comes to a holiday that is usually observed by drinking green beer at your favorite bar, celebrating on a Wednesday in the middle of a pandemic presents some challenges. You could still eat corned beef, pinch anyone in your house not wearing green, or get drunk and shamelessly cry to "Danny Boy," but beyond that, your options are limited. That is why this year, I would like to present all my fellow friends reminiscing on St. Patrick’s days of the past with alternative options to whatever your usual traditions are: seven great Irish movies, and the best drink to have in your hand while you watch them. (Please drink responsibly)
The Departed (2006)
Why Jameson? Because Irish gangster movies are like the hard liquor of Irish movies, and like Jameson, The Departed is the best one.
How much Jameson? Enough to make you wake up as sweaty and perpetually hungover as Alec Baldwin looks in all of his scenes in this movie.
The Departed might not be an Irish movie, but you would be hard-pressed to find a movie that is more Irish-American. Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, and Jack Nicholson, the movie tells the story of an undercover cop in an Irish gang, and an undercover Irish gangster in the Boston police. Many of the performances are over the top and the plot is so intricate that it borders on confusing, but the end result is a movie that expertly captures the soul of Boston on screen.
The Departed also recaptures Scorsese’s style in movies like Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, where he depicts life in its grittiest, messiest reality. As much as I love Goodfellas, Casino, or The Wolf of Wall Street, they all glorify the protagonist's life of crime. In The Departed, Scorsese depicts the lifestyle of the Boston Irish gangsters and cops as less alluring than having a regular nine-to-five. The difference is that in most of Scorsese’s crime films, he depicts the rise and fall of the anti-hero; the glitz and glamour before they inevitably fly too close to the sun and fall. In The Departed, the characters start the movie in a downward spiral, and like watching a train crash, it’s impossible to tear your eyes away.
In Bruges (2008)
Drink: Stella Artois
“I had five pints of beer and six bottles, no, six pints of beer and seven bottles, and you know what? I’m not even pissed!” - Ray (Colin Farrell)
There’s a lot of quality movies centered around Irish immigrants. In America, Gangs of New York, and Brooklyn, just to name a few. But, if I have to choose a movie about Irish fish out of the proverbial water, it’s going to be In Bruges every time. And while I’m not suggesting you try and match Ray drink-for-drink, what better to sip with a story about two Irishmen stuck in Belgium than the most popular Belgian beer in the world?
The darkest of dark comedies, In Bruges is a modern masterpiece. The story follows two Irish hitmen after a botched assassination, Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), who settle down in the historic Belgian town of Bruges to await their fate. The movie manages to stay funny while juggling some of the grimmest themes that a movie can address, and will have you questioning everything you know and cracking up in the same five minutes. Colin Farrell is undoubtedly one of the great Irish actors of the 21st century, and with help from Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges stays a sad but stunning spectacle until the moment the screen goes black.