Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Moving Pictures

NZ on Screen has compiled a list of NZ's top 10 films. All due respect, but I beg to differ with their conclusions.

I first learned the power of public persuasion through the art of film. Not long after accidentally watching Peter Weir's head-fucky The Last Wave at the precocious age of seven, the author as a child witnessed Sleeping Dogs at the movie theatre as well. Futures were changed.

Around a decade later, in the '80s, I discovered the fulcrum of one. I had given the old man a Footrot Flats poster for Xmas; the one with Wal as successful duck shooter, with Dog nagging him about the orphaned ducklings. Then-journo Genivieve Westcott used the poster to frame Trev's opposition to film subsidies as then-Revenue Minister in a Close Up special, seeing how the Footrot Flats movie was going through the art of funding at that time.

My argument was more nuanced than the old man's, and I let him know it. The arms race of film subsidies is a game we can't win. And don't get me started on the laws of Hollywood quantum accounting methods. The best we can do is tell universal truths through our specific NZ qualities. If it reaches a larger audience through striking the right chord, woohoo.

But there's no point in blowing a subsidised bubble only for it to burst, shattering the illusions of an industry. Hobbit and Avatar tax breaks are just SMPs for the already-wealthy and wise. It feeding money into the wrong end of the film beast.

I agree with six of NZ on Screen's choices: Goodbye Pork Pie, Smash Palace, Utu, Vigil, Once Were Warriors and In My Father's Den. But the Piano? Oscar, schmoscar. Here's my top Five NZ films not included on NZ on Screen's list, in no particular order.

1. Sleeping Dogs - Duh. Years before I read Orwell, Sleeping Dogs was a mad reflection of Muldoon's idea of NZ. One of Don Brash's redeeming features, seeing how he helped fund it. Watching the DVD is worth it for getting a taste of the sparse Kiwi conversation on the so un-Hollywood Director's commentary. Worth a reboot, if for no other reason than token Yank Warren Oates arrived so close to filming, he was holding his script as a prop.

2. The Quiet Earth - NZ's only hard sci-fi film. Bruno Lawrence at Eden Park in a tutu.

3. Christmas - Seasonally appropriate look at the painful tradition inflicted upon NZers by their baby boomer nut job parents. The Royal Tenenbaums watching Bad Santa.

4. Bad Taste - Peter Jackson before the bloat. Splatter comedy with Caesar Romero levels of satire, at a fraction of the budget. I lived around the corner from the Hataitai house they used for Brain Dead, Feebles will always splat Hobbits, and Heavenly Creatures was well crafted enough, but Bad Taste was something new.

5. Stickmen - Wellington's answer to Guy Ritchie. The windy city has villains too, y'know.