Our contributor Esther McCarthy selects her entertainment highlights of the year

Our contributor Esther McCarthy selects her entertainment highlights of the year

Films

It’s been an iffy year for movies, but the year has been bookended by some true diamonds in the rough:

Yorgos Lanthimos kicked off the year with the wicked and gleefully batty The Favourite, which gave Ireland a serious Oscars run and underscored him as one of the best filmmakers working today.

I loved The Irishman for being so epic in scope and scale and that “you’re late” scene between Al Pacino and Stephen Graham is my favourite of the year.

Marriage Story was terrific, an emotional watch but a scathing, funny takedown on lawyers too, with a note-perfect screenplay from Noah Bambach.

Pedro Almodovar’s Pain & Glory was a midsummer delight ina sea of sequels, a witty and melancholy tale of life and the choices we make. Antonio Banderas has never been better.

Gig

The Cure at Malahide Castle was a joy, and the natural amphitheatre was the perfect setting for what John Carney’s Sing Street so perfectly described as “happy sad”. Forty years of music rolled out on a summer night was punctuated by just a handful of delightfully droll comments from Robert Smith.

Music

It was a year of rediscovery for me. Younger me would have been fairly dismissive of country music, but after chatting with Jessie Buckley about the joyful Wild Rose, in which she plays a country singer, and hearing how she spoke of her newfound passion through research, I too went down that rabbit hole and Emmylou Harris has been on loop for much of the year since.

Radio

Tom Dunne’s late evening music show is getting better and better, and proving a valuable touchstone on emerging acts and existing ones I hadn’t discovered. It has also been an invaluable decompression following the scare at bedtime (but must-watch TV) that has been BBC’s Newsnight.

Other highlight

I was delighted to be asked by the Irish Film Institute to pick a movie for its Bigger Picture strand. After spending an indulgent amount of time dithering, I was sold on Fargo on 35mm.

To sit and watch Marge Gunderson do her thing with a mostly young audience, some of whom hadn’t seen the film before and some of whom were seeing their first movie on film, was something special. Being invited onto the jury at Cork Film Festival was also fun and I got to really get under the bonnet of its Spirit of the Festival strand.

Lowlight

The now-rampant use of mobile phones for scrolling and social networking in cinemas and at gigs. I would love to see venue organisers take more of a lead on this.

Most enjoyable piece you worked on

Chatting with a giddy Maeve Higgins and Will Forte for Extraordinary was almost as surreal and wacky as the movie itself. Kenneth Branagh is always a pleasure and I got to hear about his forthcoming Irish project, Artemis Fowl.

Niamh Algar and Jessie Buckley were grounded and sound — it’s a very exciting time for female Irish talent. And Edward Norton, articulate and wise on his film Motherless Brooklyn, was one off the bucket list.

Looking forward to...

I’m keen to see Lenny Abrahamson’s adaptation of Normal People for BBC/RTE and to see how he’s approached the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s much-loved novel.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Young Offender Alex Murphy take to the stage for The Lieutenant of Inishmore. He’s got a natural comic timing which I feel will really lend itself to Martin McDonagh’s writing.

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