Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Tis the Season

Happy Christmas (Grafton St.)
As the days continue to count down and the shops get wilder, the streets more congested and people more frazzled, 'tis the season to start thinking about curling up with your family with a warm blanket, a steamy cup of old cocoa and a great Christmas film. 

This is the first Christmas I'll be spending away from my family and in a completely different country. Although I technically don't celebrate Christmas it has always been one of my favourite times of year and I can say with certainty that I am usually at my happiest, most light hearted and little-kidish around the holiday season. I love the lights, the snow (I'm Canadian and we get TONS of it), the hot chocolate, the carols..It all adds up to big smiles and fond memories for me. 

O'Connel St. Tree.
I'm celebrating Christmas in Dublin, Ireland this year, and don't get me wrong, the Irish have a superb knack for doing the season up right. They have some great traditions and I've already been to a few carol services, one of which was held in Trinity College's chapel by candlelight - beautiful to say the least. There are Christmas Markets galore and tree lightings and decorations strewn about almost every street in the city center. I do miss home though - it's the season that really does it - and I remember all the things I love about celebrating at home with my family. Enjoying the time off and spending time with the ones I love.

This year as I settle down to start relaxing and soaking up the time I have off from everyday busyness I started to think about all the times I've curled up on the couch at home with the lights glowing off the Christmas tree as my dad and I popped in our favourite holiday movies. I'm sure everyone does this, it's sort of a holiday tradition I think, but there have always been those select few movies my family and I watch without fail every year. I though it would be fun to do a little rundown of the ones I love best in memory of my family at home if only to keep the tradition alive in some small way while I'm here. 

So, without further ado:

I think everyone can agree that Home Alone is a great movie to watch at Christmas. As a kid I can remember being so enamored of Kevin's big and overbearing family, the huge house he lives in and the way he defends his territory against the bandits that try to rob his home by setting awesome traps around his house to ward them off. This film never fails to cheer me up and make me smile.

Miracle on 34th Street, I was introduced to the magic of this movie through the 1994 remake. Yes, I know, maybe I should have watched the original first, but I have to say that I was going through a faze where I watched Matilda on a regular basis and was pretty obsessed with Mara Wilson at the time. So my dad bought me this movie and we watched it together and I quickly fell in love with Richard Attenborough's Kris Kringle and the way he brings the Christmas spirit to a disillusioned mother and daughter over the holidays. Love it to this day!

Jack Frost, another classic in my house. Again, my dad is the one I watch most of these films with and he was the one who bought me this film as a Christmas gift one year. 

A snowman comes to life? The snowman ends up being Charlie's  dad come back to spend one last Christmas with his son after a horrible accident claims his life the year before? Yep sounds kinda cheezy but it's really so good. I watch this one without fail every year and always cry at the end. Plus it stars Michael Keaton - really isn't that reason enough to watch it?!

I think everyone loves this film! Love Actually is awesome and has a stellar cast and brings a smile to my face every time I watch it. I think I wait all year to be able to pop this one in again and tend to get the urge to watch it as soon as December hits. I try to hold off as long as possible and this year I've been pretty good. I think it'll end up being a Christmas eve treat :) Honestly, who doesn't love this film?? You get to watch Hugh Grant and Colin Firth and the ever gorgeous and Irish Liam Neeson all on one screen. Then there's the fun of discussing with friends and family which story you love best. 

 This film is a special one for my, A Christmas Story will forever remind me of my dad. He always brings up this movie without fail every year and it always makes us double over in laughter whenever he does an impression of the famous line in the film. When Ralphie Parker decides all he wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB Gun, he is told again and again as he tries various schemes to get his gift that the gun is too dangerous. "You'll shoot your eye out!" everyone insists, but Ralphie is desperate and so the film continues until Christmas morning when Ralphie opens his gifts to find the prized BB gun among his new toys. Predictably the first time he tries to use the gun, one of the bullets ricochets and catches him in the eye. It's a very cute and funny film, classic 80's. I don't know if it's because my dad and I have laughed over this film so many times or if it's because he brings it up each Christmas, but little Ralphie now reminds me of my dad - in the best possible way :)

So, these are the favourites. I'm sure I could go on and on, but I stuck with the five I remember the fondest.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and Merry Christmas or as they say here in Ireland, Nollaig Shona Duit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Docklands Christmas Market

 Christmas Tree Lighting at Trinity!

Christmas Market -
bitterly cold but nice and wintery. 


 Chestnuts roasting!

 Nothing like Mulled Wine and Hot Buttered Rum to keep you warm on cold winter nights...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Dinner with James Joyce

Last night, one of my classmates Liz invited us all for a pre-Chrismtas dinner at her house.  She told us she lived by the seaside, in a lovely terrace home. Then she told us that she lived in James Joyce's old house! And what a house it was. Beautifully maintained with a perfect view of the Irish Sea and the green cliffs outside her balcony window. A roaring fire in the hearth - one of many in the home - upstairs in the sitting room. Champagne, Irish stew, plates full of desserts and lots of drink. It was a great evening and although it was bitterly cold, some of us who went along early still managed to get in a brisk walk along the shore - as James Joyce suggested to his character in one of his novels - good for the constitution you know! We sat down to a lovely dinner in the dining room described in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and I felt very grown up indeed. 

When we came back from our walk, Liz told us that she had just received a letter in the mail from a film studio. Apparently all next week famous Irish director and writer, Neil Jordan (The Crying Games, Interview with a Vampire etc.) will be filming scenes for his new film Byzantium in the home next door. I'm debating whether to come stalk Liz's house next week to catch a glimpse!

It was a wonderful evening and I have now decided that I want a house like this one. We were laughing that this would be the perfect house to write a first novel in - but maybe we'd need to write the first novel to afford a home like this to then write our second novel in! Seems more likely.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

An Intimate Concert with Glen Hansard - Dublin is for Dreamers.

On Friday I had the most amazing opportunity to see Glen Hansard, singer, songwriter, Oscar winner, poet, and all around genius, perform live in Dublin. It was an intimate concert held at a small theater in the heart of Temple Bar with only 60 people in attendance. The concert was only supposed to last 45minutes, but Glen sang his heart out for two hours. It was honestly one of the best experiences I've had in Dublin so far.


For those who don't recognize the name, Glen Hansard was the visionary behind the 2006 film, Once, he played a Grafton Street performer in Dublin who meets a woman, also a singer who comes into his life unexpectedly, to question him about his music and push him to greater depths. The film is shot in documentary style and travels across Dublin. One scene is actually shot in the neighbourhood I currently live in! Both Hansard and Marketa Irglova who play the main guy and girl characters are musicians in real life and Hansard is a very popular folk singer in Dublin who since the movie has gained more and more notoriety. He and Irglova formed a band after the movie - The Swell Season and Glen is now the lead singer of the band The Frames. The song Falling Slowly from the film Once was the 2006 Oscar winner for Best Original Song. 

In all honestly, his songs are like beautiful, haunting poems, listen to any one of them and you'll see what I mean. Hansard sings from the heart, his husky voice hitting the high screaming notes one of the greatest things about his music. 

During the concert on Friday evening he played a variation of songs, some covers he's performed before from R.E.M to Van Morrison, but the best songs were those he is currently working on, raw and in constant transition that he was gracious enough to play for this audience. One song in particular brought chills and tears. No exaggeration. Glen Hansard's music is the kind that makes you believe in music.

 Playing the guitar made famous in Once.

One of the songs Glen performed was a track he was asked to write for a soon to be released film. He started to talk about it and mentioned that it was based off a book. The book was The Hunger Games.
He described the story for those who hadn't read it and then described the scene the song would be used for. The song will play during a pivotal scene in the arena, where a dominant character - my guess is Katniss - is faced with the horror of being lifted into a game that pits her against 25 other children knowing that only one of them will survive. He described the circumstances, the kids having to race to the water, struggling to gain supplies and survive the horror they are facing. It was wonderful to hear the scene described in Glen's own words, but even more so to hear the beauty of the song itself.
Played on a fiddle, the song is slow and melodic and truly hauntingly beautiful. 
Having read the book, I know the scene he was referencing and having scene the movie trailer I know a bit about the style of the film. All I can say is that when the audience sees the moment Glen described played out of screen, the film will fly. The song fits the scene to perfection and only raised my confidence that The Hunger Games will be brilliant.

Never thought that a night like this one would happen so spontaneously as it did, but seeing Glen Hansard, a native of Dublin and fantastic musician play live in the city I live in was more than I could have ever expected or hoped for of my experience here. Dublin has such an amazing and underground art scene and it was amazing to be a part of it for one night. A city for dreamers!

Here's a taste of Glen - one of my favourite songs Fitzcaraldo