"It's what we do in New Zealand," said my friend, "we take an idea from overseas, and then just make it a bit shit."
He was referring of course to the move by Wellington Airport to construct and erect a giant "Wellywood" sign on the Miramar hills. A move that seems almost universally without support or merit - although Sir Peter Jackson seemed amused by the idea - and in the Backbencher last night the opposition was extremely vocal.
I'd been discussing the idea yesterday afternoon when we touched down in the Capital. Wallace Chapman said he agreed it was "tacky", and I ran through a hypothetical discussion between a local and a bemused (which, for the record, means "puzzled", not "sort of amused") Visitor from Germany:
"So you have a sign which says 'Wellywood', why is zis?"
"Well you know, we make movies here."
"Oh yes, and vich vones did you make?" (Sorry, I don't have a very good German accent)
"Well um, Lord of the Rings.... King Kong... um, Avatar... yeah and um, a couple of others."
"So five movies?"
"Oh yeah, and Eagle vs Shark."
"And zis is sufficient for a giant sign?"
"Well yeah, it's kinda an in-joke..."
"Yes, and vat is zis joke?"
"Well you know. It's like Hollywood. But with Wellington..."
"Hmm. I see."
And it's not just because he's a German that he doesn't find it funny; the whole concept is lame.
[EDIT: Inevitably, a rather more famous German has already has his say on Youtube - hat tip Hugh]
We asked our taxi driver what he thought should be there instead. It affects him more than most, his house is right near where the sign will be. "MIRAMAR," was his prosaic suggestion. Okay, maybe not, unless we're going to start throwing up massive signs announcing every suburb, but what about a big Lord of the Rings sculpture of some description. Gollum is pretty iconic, although he's also pretty ugly, but there must be something. Or a huge King Kong perched on the hillside, swatting at the planes as they land at the nearby airport.
Or maybe, just maybe, nothing. Tourists don't come to New Zealand for tacky gimmicks and references to our film industry. They come here for unspoilt beauty - so why spoil it? Why not a bit of greenery for its own sake; nature, uninterrupted? Absolutely. Postively.
Sticking with the movie theme for a bit, how 'bout those Oscars eh? I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised that Hurt Locker beat Avatar in two main categories. The former is an effective example of war porn delivered largely without message, and IANAS (I am not a soldier, can I coin that one?) but I thought there were some fairly spectacular examples of how soldiers wouldn't behave throughout the film - leaving oneself vulnerable to sniper fire throughout a protracted hunt for more ammunition being one obvious example; while Avatar is yes, flawed, but you still walk out going "wow!"
So on that note, Dominic Corry of Herald on Sunday and bFM fame (in his role as Fabian Fanboy) and I are trialling a wee project, doing video film blogs for this wee website, you may have heard of it, nzherald.co.nz. They could do with your support, so go and check it out - the first one, our Oscar picks may be a bit redundant now, but feel free to watch it anyway, and there should be a new one up in the next day or two.
PS: I'm going to the Pixies tonight. And again tomorrow. Stoked.