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Posts tagged ‘entertainment’

What has it got in its pocketses?

We were lucky to have won tickets to the first public screening of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. We were seated quite close to the front, but the free popcorn and coke were a nice bonus. Because really, who wants to pay for popcorn? Free popcorn really does taste better.

Meanwhile, some excellent spot prizes were given away*, after which we settled in. But for what were we settling in? Many people at this screening (at 12:01 am, 12 December) were very excited, and appeared determined to love the film. We were a little more ambivalent — were three films necessary for the very slim Hobbit? is the fuss over the frame rate warranted? what about its troubled start in life? could Peter Jackson and his team create the same magic again?

So, a few days on, having had some time to ruminate, here are some thoughts on An Unexpected Journey. As a warning, there will be elements below that may constitute spoilers. If you don’t like spoilers, perhaps it would be wise to stop reading here.

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On the red carpet

Everything reached its peak this afternoon, as 100,000 people (about a quarter of the Greater Wellington population!) gathered in and around Courtenay Place. Last night, the set up was in full flight, and quickly joining those who stayed out overnight, dedicated fans snapped up the barrier spaces so that by 7:00 am, all those spaces were taken. When I arrived, a  little before 3:00 pm, my first impression was one of wry amusement, overtaken quickly by a more generalised “good mood” – so many fans, looking so happy – it’s a nice thing to have seen.

The weather was exceptionally good. I should probably pretend (for those of you who’ve never been here) that it’s always like this, but the truth is, is often isn’t. Kia ora weather, kia ora. The trolls looked lovely, having already been seen at Comic Con in San Diego, and matched the Gollum statue at Wellington Airport and the enormous Gandalf above the Embassy Theatre itself.


The atmosphere was very relaxed, friendly and egalitarian. Hierarchy did not seem quite so important as fairness, and people were often willing to stand aside so everyone could get some pictures. The fans were very diverse – the people around me were from Romania, Germany and elsewhere – and I saw signs showing people hailing from France and Mexico.

Neil Finn performed, he quipped that this song was the reason he got the job. Nevertheless, it was his rendition of the Misty Mountains song (sung by the dwarves in the film) which roused the largest cheer.

After this, the stars started arriving, but I was some 300 metres down the red carpet from them. Instead the next highlight was the flyover of the Air New Zealand 777 (complete with largest decal ever!). It’s in the details!

Air New Zealand 777 Flyover

So, we waited patiently, for our first sight of the films stars. Before they made their way down from the beginning of the carpet, we saw instead some of the guests. Local actors, musicians, politicians, footballers. And then? Peter Jackson himself! Among others, there was Sylvester McCoy (the first Doctor I remember!), Elijah Wood, Martin Freeman, Hugo Weaving. Sadly, there was nothing to be seen of Cate Blanchett, Richard Armitage, or Barry Humphries all of whom I’d have like to see (albeit each for different reasons). Evidently there was more than one path down the carpet, meaning not everyone saw everyone – but that minor quibble aside, it was just with a little bit of excitement I snapped the following pictures

Wellington really knows how to turn it on for these events – and it’s great to leave this kind of impression on the world. Even if Wellington won’t be the Middle of Middle-Earth for much longer, it’s been a lot of fun. New Zealand might well be 100% Pure, but as I have said before, you can’t beat Wellington on a good day.


Photos by PJD, at the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. He had an unexpectedly good time, and would love to hear from anyone else who was there, or who wanted to be there…


The hours are counting down, and the preparation is proceeding at pace. The final touches have been made to the film, the actors have arrived, the red carpet is being rolled out, fans are already lining up. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey* is premiering tomorrow.

I was in Australia when the other movies provided Wellington with its last moment in the world’s filmy glare. No big deal. I’m here now. And trying to make the most of it. So check it out, the night before the night before the morning after.

Even my hard-bitten cynicism is being chipped away by enthusiasm and dedication.


Photos taken just now, minutes ago, by PJD, Wellington (the Middle of Middle-Earth).

* Not to say the first of unexpected parts

The Weeknd, live.

As I walked along the waterfront this evening, I came across this quite random chalking. “The Weeknd” looked great in yellow chalk, along the side of whatever wharf shed this was. It reminded me of Pitch, and though we’ve already mentioned how great Jessie Ware, SBTRKT and Gui Boratto were, we’ve neglected the Weeknd.

I first came across The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) when I heard a song on an NPR broadcast (Public Radio is a good thing!). The song, House of Balloons, included a sample from the Siouxsie and the Banshees song Happy House. The guitar was slowed right down, but I recognised it right away – a remnant from my mis-spent youth, appropriated from the mis-spent youth of the generation before me. I have, since then, become completely hooked.

I was lucky enough to download his three mixtapes before the release of the album Trilogy, which includes remastered versions of the tapes*. If you weren’t, it’s probably worth getting. Because it’s a m a z i n g.

Our friend and her sister are also huge fans, and at Pitch, we were all stupendously excited to see how the music we loved converted into a live experience.

We were not disappointed. It was not a flawless performance, and at times, the live sound struggled to capture the layered richness of his recordings, whilst the vocal performance was at times a little pitchy. But Tesfaye has awesome stage presence, and he had the enthusiastic Dutch crowd thrashing about in front of the stage in ecstatic rhythm.


Photos by CIA & PJD, Pitch Festival, Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam, July 2012.

* Mixtapes seems like an awful misnomer in the age of digital music.

Sometimes, I cannot agree more

Earth is a whack place to be

This is a little Utrecht graffiti.


Photo by CIA, Utrecht, the Netherlands, September 2012.


The ambitious narrative structure is what first caught me with David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. As I was pulled deeper into each part of the novel’s Russian doll-style story, it was the characters and their complex, interwoven state which sucker-punched me, and I as hooked. It appealed to my nature as a reader — the novel wove the stories of the characters together in a clever way, and Mitchell’s skill at pastiche* is exploited to its fullest extent.

Nevertheless, Cloud Atlas divides people. The London Review of Books, for example, suggested that perhaps Mitchell’s novel lacked a solid core, and that the novel itself, by working to demonstrate how small the world was (with the interwoven nature of past, present and future) worked towards a very conservative world view. On the other hand, writing for the Guardian, A.S. Byatt could not have been more glowing in her praise of the novel.

Regardless of the mixed critical reception, I loved the novel. I still do.

When the intended adaptation to film was mentioned to me by CIA some time ago, I pushed the thought far out of my mind: “you cannot possibly turn this book into a film; it’ll be awful!”. A year later, in the middle of a Reykjavík living room, we talked about the extended trailer, which my friends had seen, but I had not…

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An Australian, a New Zealander and a camera walk into a church…

It sounds a bit like a joke. It isn’t a church anymore, but Paradiso is a fine concert venue. We were reminded that Boy & Bear were going to be back in the Netherlands by reading a post on another blog. It was Rabbit Song that convinced me at the end that this was a band worth paying attention to.

And we were not at all disappointed. The greatest highlight for us, from this Australian band, was the cover of Crowded House – a Kiwi-Aussie crossover point that had us captivated.

My camera work is very amateur, so maybe it’s better to close your eyes.


Filming by PJD at Paradiso, Amsterdam; yelling at the end, CIA. Also, special mention of the Canadian guy who wouldn’t shut up until I told him to stop being a dick – “oh great!”, he said in the middle of the song, “some Canadiana!”. Way not to be cool, man.

That’s my favourite bit…what’s yours?

Sometimes on the train, I really just need some light entertainment. Lately, I have been playing FIFA 12. On my phone, it’s not always the smoothest game to play, but I really enjoy it. And besides, everyone is allowed a secret (or less secret) vice, right? Aren’t they?

On the way home today though, my phone battery couldn’t last the distance. I was instead listening to my portable MP3 player. Suddenly, out of nowhere I heard something familiar:

I first heard this song when a friend of mine sent me a link:

There’s more… I’m sure.  You know Crystal Castles, right?
w/ Robert Smith – Not in Love
Without Robert Smith – Celestica

For any of you who are also FIFA Soccer 12 (as it is also known, to Americans) players, secret or otherwise, you will recognise the song. It’s part of the title music in the game.

But they use the Robert Smith version.

Which is, frankly, and in spite of my past Cure fandom (another vice, how did this post end up so revealing?!), inferior*.

So, as I listened to the version in the YouTube video above, I was wondering what it is about one almost identical version that made it so much better than the other? I sensed that the non-Smith version was a little faster-paced; a little more relentless; a lot more compelling. The indistinct and heavily modified vocal adds a hefty dose of creepy. The “waa, waa” at 2:07 epitomises this feeling for me. The change of melody at 2:35 also draws me into the song, but then comes the best bit, my favourite bit, at 2:49 as layer after layer has accumulated to a delightful, synthesised overdose of musical goodness. I hope I get to catch Crystal Castles live somewhere sometime…I can completely envisage going crazy for this song in particular.

And that leads me to this last segue: what is it about certain songs that have certain moments that sucker-punch that gets you every time? (Think perhaps, of the gravelly baritone that opens up The National’s Fake Empire; or maybe when Cut/Copy’s Pharaoh’s & Pyramids shifts from odd funky number into dance floor killer, at 3:40). What is it about these kinds of moments that leads CIA to yell out “That’s MY FAVOURITE BIT”? And that make me to grin quietly on a train, as the person sitting across from me wonders what on earth is making me smile so much?

What other moments in other songs are there, that catch you out every time?


There is no photo to credit, for once. But I am in the habit of attribution now, so thanks, instasquid, for the links that led me here.

*I apologise for complex sentence structure, and will take this chance to express gratitude to those who keep reading regardless; this applies to all posts previous, and all posts future.

Anticipation @pitch

We must be brutally honest, and, without any disrespect to the other performers, on the second night of the Pitch Festival it was really all about Gui Boratto. Introduced to Gui Boratto by my Portuguese friend, CIA and I have since been fascinated by the elegance and simplicity of his electronic music. We were really looking forward to seeing him live, and more so given the extraordinary setting of the Gashouder.

As we waited for the Brazilian maestro, it became clearer that we were not the only ones excited.

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