Declan Burke (Professional Writer) – Movies and the Masses

Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

This week on Movies and the Masses, we’re honored to welcome aboard professional writer Declan Burke. He’s an Irish freelance arts journalist covering film, books and theatre. He is also the author of three novels: Eightball Boogie (2003), The Big O (2007) and Crime Always Pays (2009). He lives in Wicklow with his wife Aileen and baby daughter Lily, and hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays. He also keeps a Twitter page (@declanburke), as anyone who’s worth a damn does these days (I, by the way, do not keep a Twitter page).

All of Declan’s novels are available on Amazon, so why not pop over and check them out? Eightball Boogie, for example, has been called a “wild ride worth taking” by Booklist, and Ken Bruen, author of London Boulevard, said “I have seen the future of Irish crime fiction and it’s called Declan Burke.” We do get a small commission if you head over and buy Eightball Boogie from our link, but it’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Now let’s talk a little cinema…

OGM: What’s the first movie you remember seeing?
Declan Burke: I have a very vague memory of seeing the Disney version of Peter Pan, when I was about four years old, although I can’t remember much about the movie itself. I presume it was an afternoon matinee. The memory has to do with being amazed at looking out over the balcony and down onto people’s heads. It was a very old-fashioned cinema, with plush drapes and velvet seats…It’s long closed now, sadly.

OGM: If you only had a few hours to live and could do nothing but watch five movies, which films would you select?
DB: I’ll cheat a little here and say that one of the movies would be an extended reel of highlights from home movies. For the other four, I’d go for Casablanca, Cinema Paradiso, Amadeus and The Big Lebowski.

OGM: What’s your favorite movie?
DB: That can change on any given day, but I guess–on the basis that it’s the movie I’ve watched most often–it would be Casablanca. I think it delivers everything a great movie should, in spades: a good story, interesting characters, intrigue, killer dialogue, humour and a dash of doomed romance.

OGM: What’s your least favorite movie?
DB: I’ve never really thought about that, and it’d be hard to pin down one. I suppose any of the torture-porn flicks–I don’t believe they have any redeeming features.

OGM: Do you subscribe to an online rental service like Netflix or Blockbuster Online? Why or why not?
DB: I don’t, I’m afraid, mainly because one of my gigs as a freelance writer is as a movie reviewer, so I’m at the movies most days of the week. Some days I watch two and even three movies.

OGM: In 50 years, which modern movies do you think will be viewed as classics?
DB: That’s a tough question. I wouldn’t think that the producers of Casablanca, for example, were under any illusions that they were making a ‘classic’–that was a textbook studio production, and theoretically no different from 50 or 100 others that were made that year. So it’s hard to say what will endure. I think The Road is a contemporary classic, though. I think The Big Lebowski will endure, as will others of the Coen Brothers’ canon. But given the way cultural values are changing ever more rapidly, that’s a very difficult question to answer.

OGM: If you see a movie based on a book, are you then more or less likely to read the book?
DB: That would largely depend on how well the movie was made. The movie of The Remains of the Day, for example, turned me on to the book, which was terrific. The same goes for Trainspotting. In saying that, sometimes you come across a movie that’s not great, but you can tell that the book it was based on was interesting, and go look for it on that basis. I’ve never seen a truly satisfying film version of Lord of the Flies, for example, but it’s a marvelous book.

OGM: Who’s your favorite celebrity?
DB: If by celebrity you mean famous actor, then I’ll go for George Clooney. He’s a handsome guy with the classic matinee idol looks, and could quite easily have coasted on that if he’d chosen to do so, but he makes interesting movies, as an actor, director and producer. He can also handle comedy and drama equally well, he’s got a very convincing range. Plus, he’s seriously cool.

OGM: Is there any actor or actress whose movies you actively avoid?
DB: Sarah Jessica Parker makes me want to scratch my eyes out whenever I have to watch her movies.

OGM: How do you feel about all the remakes of older and classic films?
DB: Again, it would depend on how well they’re made. There’s an argument in favour of remaking Nightmare on Elm Street, for example, because there’s a whole new generation that has grown up since the original was released, and may not be aware of why it was such a ground-breaking movie–although, that said, the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street isn’t such a good example. Would I personally want to see remakes of The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather or Citizen Kane? No. By the same token, The Magnificent Seven was a remake, and that’s not a bad movie.

OGM: Which actor or actress do you find most attractive?
DB: George Clooney and Brad Pitt are handsome chaps, although what I like about them is that they’re handsome chaps who aren’t scared of taking on roles that don’t depend on them being handsome. Scarlett Johansson is a beautiful woman, as is Natalie Portman, and I’d watch Marisa Tomei all night long–a very sexy woman. I also have a thing for Catherine Keener that I haven’t fully explained to myself yet.

OGM: Do you read movie reviews? If so, what critics do you read most often, and why do you like them?
DB: I tend not to read movie reviews, because I’m a reviewer myself, and I think it’d be a bad idea to read anything that might influence my own opinion of a film–it’d be like cheating, in a way. That said, I think Donald Clarke in the Irish Times is a terrific film reviewer.

OGM: What type of people annoy you when going to a movie theater?
DB: The type that don’t have any respect for other people in the theatre, basically. The people who insist on talking through a movie, eating and drinking as if they’re at a trough, and refuse to turn off their cell phones. That’s really not an issue for me, because I see movies with other movie reviewers, and generally the theatre is as quiet as a church. But on the rare occasions that I go to see movies with the general public, I find it hard to believe that people can be so socially ignorant.

OGM: Do you consider movies to be works of art?
DB: In theory, yes. Film is an art form, at least. Most don’t reach the standard of art, but some do and some try, and it’s hard to fault a movie too much for trying and failing. Most movies, though, aren’t conceived as an art form, they’re simply cash cows designed to be milked.

OGM: What type of candy or drink do you consider essential to your movie watching experience?
DB: Neither. I just don’t get the impulse to graze while watching a movie. It’s a classic case of social conditioning. People don’t bring food and drink to the theatre to see a play, and very few people would think to bring munchies to wander through an art gallery. So why all this nonsense about having to eat something while watching a movie?

Thanks to Declan Burke for taking part in this week’s edition of Movies and the Masses. If you have a chance, please show your appreciation to Declan by either buying one of his books, or, at the very least, checking out his excellent blog. Until next time, here are a few more links you might be interested in:


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