Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Case for Net Networking

First off, I found it rather ironic that, for my viewing of the Social Network, through people having seen it previously, being occupied or otherwise uninterested, I ended up going by myself. Not that I was alone, as the Reading session was well attended. When the film got underway though, I forgot my crowded solidarity, and got myself completely engrossed in what is a really good film.

The first thing about the film that I will mention is that Mark Zuckerberg has the loudest footsteps on the face of the planet. Honestly. As he runs through Harvard at the start of the film, I couldn’t help but notice that the falling of his feet was most prominent noise on campus, no matter his distance from the perspective of the camera. Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg has got to be fit, as that run takes a few ice ages to finish. But then, that is about the only time his character spends outside, so perhaps they needed him to get all his fresh air then.

The second thing I will mention is that the rumours are true: almost all the characters are profoundly annoying. Most of the men are b@st@rds, one way or another, having led lives of relative privilege and lording their (supposed) superiority over others in the most irritating way possible. That level of arrogance could be almost unwatchable were it not for the talent of the director and scriptwriter, who have turned almost every conversation into laugh-out-loud condescending exchanges. The most hilarious of these, in the Harvard Dean’s office, would be completely mortifying were it to happen in “real life”, but in the context that it happens between a whole bunch of fairly unlikeable characters, it all seems completely hilarious. The fact the most condescending of characters remarks that he dislikes being condescended to himself… well, as I said, the script writer (Aaron Sorkin) and director (David FIncher) are very good, and capture the follies of arrogance really well.

But, let’s face it, Zuckerberg (the film version anyway) is ridiculously smart and, obviously, incredibly successful. On the flip side, the film portrays him as petty and (as other characters fairly accurately sum him up) a lot of an @rsehole. Similarly, most of the other major characters (the twins; that of Justin Timberlake (who must have taken some antidote for his usual box office poison affliction); the aforementioned Harvard Dean) are all written as complete d!cks despite their obvious successes (and occasional failures) in several areas of their respective lives.

Getting past the egos (which is admittedly, very hard), the film itself is fascinating. It is factually true (to avoid being sued), so a lot of the duplicity and legal wranglings must be based on fact. The film left me wondering if the actual transcripts of the events (should any exist) would reveal anything as witty as what was displayed in the film. Something tells me they would not: the characters talk as if they were on some evil male version of the Gilmore Girls, and even the lovely Lauren Graham admitted that the dialogue on that verbally obese show was not how normal people talked.

So, the film is really well written, with some great actors pulling off some quite awful characters. Only the female characters (except the psycho ones, granted) are actually likeable, balancing their intelligence with dignity and a good dose of standing up for themselves – it’s hard not to feel profound respect for Zuckerberg’s “girlfriend”. And the film’s two hour plus running time flies by, though when it ended, I kind of felt I needed a long, hot shower to cleanse myself of something...

Verdict: As a well written spin on historic events, the Social Network is riveting fiction about some fairly horrible characters getting just desserts. However, stepping back, I had to tell myself that, despite the film seeming to suggest that we are meant to be appalled by most of these people, the fact remains they still made millions if not billions of dollars for themselves, and they now receive widespread adulation and respect for those efforts. As Betty Finn once said, “Nice guys finish last”, and this film does nothing to disprove that observation. 990,000 out of 1,000,000 Facebookers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Case for HP 7.1

I think it is a bit cheeky turning Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two films, considering how some of the longer books have been crammed into a 2 hour long movie running time, and especially considering a lot of the 7th book is spent waiting around and hiding. But then, the movies, like the books have evolved over time, and from the light and bright first movie, told with wide-eyed wonder and childlike innocence, the final (bar one) movie is a much darker and adult affair.

Despite the increasingly serious tone, the story still feels like a kid’s book because only the children can save the day. Adults all tend to be either evil or ineffectual. This is not a criticism of the movie or the book, just an observation because, really, the film is quite good, with scenes of action, revelation, animation, and even a smidgeon or two of romance. But it is incomplete.

The film takes its sweet time developing and evolving, and at times it feels like it is deliberately dragging its feet to make up the running time. Most of the stupendous scenes in the previews do not occur in Part 1; the major battle scenes are all destined for the final instalment, which should make it a complete cracker of a battle. That leaves Part 1 to set that final showdown’s scene, though it doesn’t really do a whole lot of that either. Nothing really happens between Harry, Ron and Hermione, and the fabulous adult characters (Alan Rickman’s gloriously dry Snape, of course; and the pink Predator that is Delores Umbridge is still one of the scariest creatures in the whole series, if not all of moviedom) only appear briefly.

But, despite the slowness and the not much actually happening – and probably also because of it – the sense of dread and despair that is evoked in the world of Harry Potter is fabulous. One walks out of the theatre with a sense of doom and gloom and a “what will they do now?” sensation. Which is wonderful – though the 7 months between the release of this film and the next is bound to dull that somewhat.

Verdict: A brief review on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 as, really, I would only be judging half a film. On its own, I don’t think it would really work as nothing really happens and no character is really introduced or developed. But, as part of the almost decade-long series of films, this works as a stepping stone towards the final battle royal. Here’s hoping the final instalment lives up to all the promise, and the expectations. 2 Deathly Hallows out of 3.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Case for Sayonara SG1

Well, after not being able to stand watching this show on free to air, or even on SKY, I have now successfully traversed all 10 series of Stargate: SG1, thanks to the wonders of the DVD age and a friend who had purchased them all.

And the thing I will miss most about the series? That awe-inspiring theme tune.

Really, that opening title theme is awesome - a huge orchestral adventure, reminiscent of the classic Star Wars opening, and it always managed to get me primed for a story of wonder and mystery.

Of course, the stories themselves seldom lived up to the promise of that opening opus. There were lots of obviously cheap to make or rather uninspired episodes, Richard Dean Anderson's more pompous moments as O'Neal and Michael Shanks' bouts of overacting left me wondering whether their heads would be able to fit through the Stargate, and some of the storylines seemed to come and go with little thought to how it fit in with the Stargate universe as a whole. This suspicion was apparently confirmed while watching the commentary on the final "normal" episode ("Unending") when the writers made a huge change to the Asgard because they though it kind of fit with that story, whereas I think it would have been more honest if they had said it was for the development Stargate: Atlantis - or at least, I would have hoped it was for that.

There was of course the big cruising lull around the 7th season, with the winding down of RDA's unmulleted involvement before the installation of Ben Browder into the team leader role. There was also the strange "brain replacement" season, when Michael Shanks was replaced by Corin Parker Lewis Nemec, and then was hastily (and sadly) removed from the team when the powers that be decided Daniel needed to come back.

But there were moments of brilliance. Claudia Black's Vala brought a regular dose of insanity to the proceedings in later series, replacing the warm hearted centre that Don Davis had provided as General Hammond in earlier seasons. The characters mocked themselves ("Indeed") as often as not. The value of Earth-style machine guns over the alien staff "blast" weapons was demonstrated in such a convincing way that it had me rethinking my "why don't they just use the energy weapons?" incredulity. And, try as I might, I can't go past the wonderfully mad episode "200" which brought wonderfully realised (and mocking) supermarionation to SG1 (check it out on YouTube here - it is hilarious), and also a brilliantly bizarre reference to Browder's and Black's old show, Farscape.

It was a fun ride and I was glad I finally got to watch them all. But I have to say, I was not convinced to go out and get the series for myself. I may attempt Stargate: Atlantis, though I may need to take a break before I try that one. And as for Stargate: Universe - well, I watched season one, and the jury is out on that one, though so far, the verdict does not look promising. Speaking of which:

Verdict: Stargate: SG1 was fun, though the invention of the fast forward button assisted in skipping through and over the bits that were not so. And it did manage to make it all the way to 10 seasons, which is a remarkable achievement, though one that is also shared by Smallville, which is dreadful, despite me being addicted to it. But I digress: 5 chevrons out of 7.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Case for Being Touched by a Barge Polanski

Finally, I have seen a movie at the Lighthouse Pauatahanui, the last (I think) cinema in the region at which I had to see a film. It is a bit out of the way, and the movies shown there tend to be an odd mix of family friendly stuff that I would rather see on the BIG screen, or else more (but not too) arthouse fare. It was for the latter that the effort was made, for the Roman Polanski film Ghost Writer.

NotKate has already described this somewhat
, but I will add my own few cents worth here.

The film itself is really bleak, cloudy, windy and depressing. That depression is not assisted much by any of the sets (the main house is a harsh concrete prison block of a modern lego mansion) nor by the actors themselves. Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Kim Cattrall are all on their most serious behaviour (Cattrall's quasi-British accent fluctuating wildly, I thought), but Olivia Williams manages to rise above the overwhelming glumness to deliver a captivating performance, though my fondness for her might be influenced by the fact I adored her as Adele on Dollhouse. There are also some fairly superfluous "odd domestics" characters, apparently in the film to provide light relief. I say "apparently", as the humour is painful and obvious, and, as their inclusion is almost irrelevant to the plot, just ends up making Polanski look like a bit of racist to add to his already extensive list of "-ists".

And what is going on? Briefly, it's "what if Tony Blair" type story, with Brosnan as former PM Lang, whose role in a foreign invasion is called into question around the time that his memoirs are being written with the assistance of a Ghost (McGregor). As War Crimes allegations are levelled against him, he finds he is forced to stay in the USA to avoid extradition to the War Crimes Tribunal. The parallel between this and Polanski's own "exile" to France to avoid extradition is interesting and I couldn't help wonder if (I shall try and be obscure here to avoid giving away anything) "how things end" is a reflection of how Polanski feels he should or will be treated.

Anyway, as the Ghost, McGregor gets involved in trying to ferret out the truth of the allegations, and as soon as he goes off on his own, I found myself beginning to nod off. His detective work is slow, dull and, in some cases (and as NotKate has pointed out) more than a little dumb. There is not so much investigation as discovery, coincidence piling on coincidence to get to the final reveal of the underlying truth - and, in the end, that truth had me less scratching my head in puzzlement and more throwing spoons at the screen, crying, "how is this relevant!?!" It's not so much that the ending makes no sense, it's more that... well, I didn't really care (as its nothing really to do with the war crimes)? This great letdown is then followed up with a ridiculously lazy ending that again was spoon worthy and had me rooting for the bad guys because, as the great Dark Helmet once said, "Evil will always triumph because good is dumb".

Unfortunately, had I had any plastic spoons in the cinema, I would have wasted my culinary ammunition on one of the more rowdy members of the audience. Before the film settled into its underwhelming middle and pathetic end, the odd moment of levity had one half crazed movie goer barking in laughter in a way that indicated she may have sat through the tedium before. It could be that this woman was a caution that multiple viewings of this film (for anything other than Williams' performance) would cause brain damage, so I will heed this implicit warning and stay away from re-watching this any time soon.

Verdict: From the above, the rating for the Ghost Writer has to be low. On the plus side, the film is well shot and well acted and occasionally amusing. On the bad side, it is deathly slow and seems to be written for terminally stupid people, and I, for one, don't really appreciate that kind of things in my thrillers. 3 Caspers out of 10.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Case for a Meaty Breakfast

The NZ Herald is reporting that Breakfast, without Paul Henry, is on a ratings slide. Well, of course it is.

Part (and I would imagine most) of the fun of watching Breakfast must have come from what shock jock Henry would actually say. Without his mouthy, unpredictable presence, there is less reason to tune in, as the bland and banal opinions and stories that normally fill the normal Breakfast show are no longer as interesting now there is not someone to offend guests or well known celebrities.

Now then is the time for action. Rather than just sitting in sanctimonious judgement, I am actually going to be proactive. My suggestion: rebrand Breakfast and make it an extremist piece of early morning television. But who would be the ideal person(s) to host this show? There are so many to choose from.

First off, I would have to suggest Mr Anti-Asia himself, Winston Peters. He may think he has some political life left, but let’s keep him out of parliament (please) and put him somewhere we he can do far more damage: the televisual medium. Imagine him interviewing the Prime Minister: no chummy-chummy conversations there – it would be constant attack and grandstanding, and perhaps the PM would get a word in from time to time. Political commentary in general would take a huge leap… somewhere. And think of all the anti big business antics / scandals / innuendo with the resulting hype that would generate? Plus, consider the built in Grey Power viewing audience? What would there be to lose, besides TVNZ’s dignity?

Secondly, TVNZ could try Brian Tamaki as lead anchor. He has years of experience on screen, is masterly groomed, and he could bring along his own off-sider in the form of his wife. He would hit the ground running, and run the sinners to the ground. Again, he would come in with his own built-in following, and he would have no trouble with the more tawdry aspects of having to hawk junk, so that could come over from the extended infomercial that is Good Morning. There may be a few problems with him interviewing guests, as would they need to be told whether to call him “Mister”, “Pastor” or “Bishop” (the latter could get confusing and/or tricky should he be interviewing the Anglican or Catholic clergy) or perhaps just “Bri”, but just imagine what he would say around Chris Carter’s antics or how he could offend the Pope! And, should Pippa or his wife be unavailable, adding the recently half-outed Alison Mau to the presenting line up should add an air of tension that would make riveting television viewing.

Speaking of “the Chairman”, Mau is another option for the role, as she has been known to get up on her pedestal for a self serving rant or two. She is everywhere on One at the moment, and so would make the perfect accompaniment to yet another programme that I don’t watch but love to complain about.

Another option is to get back to New Zealand’s (mythological) “traditional grass roots hero”, as Andy Hayden is a sporting icon who has had a dabbling with media controversy recently. His mouth may be big, but so is the man himself, so where verbal sparring lets him down, I am sure Hayden could just smack a guest over. Who wouldn’t be entertained by him and Guyon Espiner coming to literal blows discussing politics? And of course the Rugby World Cup itself gives extra weight to Hayden’s claim, considering how all out TVNZ will go with the coverage and random connections to the sporting festivities, and it would give Hayden plenty of opportunity to share reminiscences of his sporting past, his opinions on the game, women, and anything else that may pop into his mind.

Following on from the “violence begets ratings” tack, there is of course prodigal son Tony Vietch out there, slowly being rehabilitated into media society. A spot chairing the Breakfast table would be a way for him to put his talents to good use… well, to use anyway. With years of history at TVNZ hosting several shows and hobnobbing with sporting legends, Vietch would bring a huge amount of experience to the role and connections that would serve Breakfast well, especially in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup. And, from memory, there are no stairs on set.

As a master of bright attire, and a man familiar with dancing on television, Rodney Hide could be another contender. A man of bubbly enthusiasm also renowned for the odd bout of foot in mouth disease, he may not have Henry’s media experience but he is a survivor (kind of) of the slings and arrows of the political arena, which should hold him in fairly good stead, and I am sure he would relish the chance to lay into politicians and bust their perks from the safety of the patented TVNZ Double Standards Interviewer’s Throne (The TVNZ D-SIT™). There would also be the extra tension around whether or not Hide will drop his Breakfast partner on their head.

The Mad Butcher would be an outside choice. Sure, sport would tend to be dominated by League news, but he has plenty of conviction and a quite distinct television personality. I am not altogether sure how well his kind of yelling at the camera would work with a co-host though, but we would always know which cuts of meat are on special.

For someone I would actually watch, you could not go past Georgina Beyer. Ex MP, ex Mayor, and ex a lot of other things too, she is an incredible speaker, passionate, intelligent and would come with a point of view that would be fascinating, shaped by her experiences and, I would imagine, would be the exact antithesis of Mr Henry. But, as I write this, I realise how unlikely it would be: while any interview with those of redder necks could turn into a battle of wills and wits (my money would be on Ms Beyer 9 times out of 10), the level of intellectual discourse might be a bit much for the early morning audience who might just prefer tits, arse and retarded jokes instead.

Verdict: I think I have this casting thing down pat and will be offering my observant eye to the makers of the Hobbit to find the perfect fit-for-role cast for whom expensive makeup would be kept to a minimum. TVNZ has the chance to really grasp New Zealand’s untapped Fox News market by rebranding Breakfast as the place for offensive opinion in New Zealand. TVNZ does not need to hide behind any “it’s what New Zealanders are privately thinking” nonsense, but rather embrace the concept of employing a controversial figure specifically to generate ratings, and to do so unapologetically. I probably wouldn’t watch the show any more than I do now, but at least TVNZ and those watching Breakfast can be honest about why they are watching and making the show. 7 “Fair and Balanced” Fox News Alerts out of 10.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Case for Sonny Dispositions

There has been a change of Rugby Union’s pin up poster boy.

Have you noticed (and I think it would be hard not to) how many articles and advertisements feature Sonny Bill Williams (SBW) these days? Almost every day on Stuff or on the NZ Herald site, there is an article focussing on the league convert’s perspective on life with the All Blacks, one the other day drawing attention to how SBW is “forced” to “swat” over the All Blacks play book, a story revealing: a) that the All Blacks actually have set moves, b) that SBW can read, and c) that the editorial staff were so blinded by SBW’s photo they did not spell check the article (it was later changed to say “swot”, though perhaps the original "swat" was a reference to SBW’s "hulk smash" tendencies or boxing past) – pretty much all of which are fairly non-stories, though this was a headline item.

Now, what is it about SBW that makes him so special, and has knocked Daniel Carter (D-Car) from his underwear selling billboard? In one online story, D-Car took it upon himself to bear the burden for the failure of the All Blacks in Hong Kong, but the aforementioned SBW literary revelation was deemed the more newsworthy, not a call I would make myself.

SBW is everywhere at the moment, appearing in almost every other commercial break that the All Blacks as a team are not trying to hawk something, and of course the news shows have him as normal, sports and quite possibly weather headlines. (You think I am joking? Check out this Stuff slide show on the "All Blacks" which ends up a big love montage to SBW)

He hasn’t done a huge amount of playing for the All Blacks (he has to read the rule book first, of course), but he has been taken on jaunts to Hong Kong and now to the UK, and of course has had the chance to change outfits and make employees swoon at Rebel Sports outlets, all for a fairly impressive sum, I am sure.

Articles have been written about his suitability (or otherwise) to wear the All Black jersey, and how even more spectators are now appearing at matches in which he can show his skills. I am sure his athleticism is superb, though I haven't really seen him play, but something tells me there is something to his appeal besides the way he handles a rugby ball.

Is he that good an athlete, though the fact a lot of the interest is only loosely based on his sporting prowess would seem to prove otherwise? Is it SBW’s novelty, as D-Car has been the All Black headliner and lead shirtless wonder for quite a few years now? Is it SBW’s bad boy image, with his tempestuous career earning oodles of cash in different codes and sporting arenas, while D-Car remains the clean cut kid as puritanically white as his Bendon boxers?

Perhaps it is the idea that SBW, with his fairly mercenary approach to sport (and why not? If people want him for vast amounts of money, or he can increase his brand by “slumming it” (pay wise) with the All Blacks for a year, then he is just playing the game and power to him) won’t really be around (the All Blacks or New Zealand) for very long and will head off for more lucrative fields once the World Cup is done next year, so he needs to be maximised now, whereas D-Car (should Nikon, god of photography, one of the many gods to whom D-Car is sworn, permit) will be with us for many moons to come (even if Missrability, occasional commenter, seems fairly indifferent to D-Car's fate)

Again, as with most things that strike me, it is not necessarily SBW and D-Car who are the more interesting players in this particular match, but rather how these two talented, good looking young men are perceived by and the influence they have over New Zealanders – with the added interest factor of which of these two wields the greater factor, and why.

Verdict: SBW may be a short term thing, and by gum, people are going to make the most of him while they can. This means D-Car may fade from the spotlight for a little bit, but he has a wedding to plan (and get paid for by sponsors so it might actually end up with him making money on the marriage – just imagine him and his girlfriend taking their vows wearing only Bendon clothing…), so he may not mind. Either way, rugby is becoming even more prominent in New Zealand. What next: Richie McCaw’s spread in Cosmo? 12 degrees of Rugby fever out of 15 – and rising.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Case for Seeing Red

No, this is not the Red from the wonderful Three Colours Trilogy (that would be Rouge).

This RED refers to a bunch of older actors who are (not quite) Retired but Extremely Dangerous, with the glorious Mary-Louise Parker (worship her quirkiness) and the wrinkled (i.e., “serious”) forehead of Karl Urban along for the ride.

The people in the front seat of this vehicle are Bruce Willis (on “quiet strength” mode), Morgan Freeman (playing dependent), John Makovich (loving his wildly unhinged role) and Helen Mirren (obviously relishing the chance to play a gun toting super assassin). The vehicle is of the comic book variety, meaning the story is all ridiculous and full of overblown caricatures of people, but that has never stopped a movie from being fun before, and it doesn’t act as much of an impediment here.

[Speaking of which, a sidebar note to the Val Morgan preshow programme people: there is currently an advertisement playing that shows a new telecommunications company driving around the country and bringing their knowledge, expertise and high speed internet to all New Zealanders. One of the technicians sagely nods to himself while driving, saying matter-of-factly that their network has no impedences. I am sure it does not, as there is no such thing ( can’t find a definition), which is a huge relief to those who would use the network, but an impediment for those who want to take the advertisement seriously]

The star wattage of the cast (plus my soft spot for Mary-Louise Parker) meant that I was totally won over by what was happening on screen, but even I felt the running time tick by. Willis was in his preferred element of smug, wise cracking tough guy, but his machismo was not able to overwhelm the performances of those around him, with the resulting quite balanced effect. Urban got to do a lot more than I thought he would, though character development for anyone took second fiddle to the amount of time and energy spent on guns firing and things exploding.

It was also quite interesting to note that the various attempts at humour struck different parts of the Readings audiences at different times, one joke resonating more with those irritating people texting through most of the movie to my right, while those in front to my left found one joke uproariously amusing while the rest of the theatre watched in stony silence.

Afterwards, I can say I enjoyed it, but not to the same extent of, say, the A Team. But then, with the whole “retired assassins” part of the story, it stood to reason that Red would have a more relaxed and dignified atmosphere about it – well, as dignified and relaxed as a brainless action movie can be, at any rate.

Verdict: The cast shows what good thesping can bring to what is otherwise a very run of the mill and pretty predictable kind of action movie. And looking into Mary-Lousie Parker’s big doe eyes is bound to make anything seem painless. Red scores 65 retirement age years out of 100.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Case for Cracking Nuts

Christmas time is rapidly rolling around, which means that it is also time for the shops to bring out all their Christmas desecrations (well, there are only 2 months to go) and for the pantomimes and ballet companies to get their offerings for the season ready. And it was to the traditional ballet presentation associated with this time of year, The Nutcracker Suite, as interpreted by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, that I began my countdown to Christmas.

I was a little worried going in to the St James, it has to be said. While an incredible dinner at Le Metropolitain had calmed most of my concerns about the ballet, there were still the odd nagging sensations that nipped at my heels, warning me that the ballet may be as boring as non stop tap dancing, But I was able to kick those pesky little pests to the curb, and entered the St James unhindered.

There was no tedious waiting around, as we had arrived about 10 minutes before the show got underway. The 6.30pm session was attended by a broad spectrum of Wellington society: from proud parents with budding ballerinas, to a line of young ladies who looked liked they would hit the town hard after the show, to a few burly looking guys who had either had psychic visions of the fate that would befall the All Blacks battling the Australians in Hong Kong or else found that all their manly strength was nothing compared with the might of a partner’s steely will (or else they just liked the ballet), to the more “expected” grannies and daughters and women eager to see a good show performed well.

The lights went down, and the music flared up. It took a while for the audience to settle, with conversations finished at a leisurely pace, and people all checking their mobile phones as requested and turning them off, or at least setting them to vibrate. The overture seemed to take a long time, but finally the curtain went up and the dancing to the music began.

And it was all spectacular. Sure, the mugging to the audience was ridiculous, some of the moves barely gelled with the sense of the moment or the storyline, and the sequence leading up to the toys coming alive seemed to drag on for an eternity, but there is no denying the grace and power of the dancers. Walking around on tip toe for twenty minutes would never make it into a Powerade commerical, but something tells me the All Blacks would need more than a electrolyte-charged bottle of scented water and a black bottle of Rexona antiperspirant to make it through that kind of physical exertion with any dignity.

The comic transvestite drew pantomime level laughs, but the show was really all about the power and grace of ballet, all set to Tchaikovksy’s magnificent music. I visited the musical genius’s grave when I was in St Petersburg, and from afar I thanked him again for some of the most recognised pieces of classical music. It therefore should not have come as a surprise when the solo performances to the
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the other recognisable tunes (which I can recognise but, for the life of me, not name right at this moment) could not really live up to the grace of the music, restricted as the dancers were by the limited vocabulary of the dance form. Still, they put on a fantastic show, though for me the real joy in their performances came in the bigger ensemble dance pieces, with the men and women of the corps prancing all over the stage and missing bumping into each other by the narrowest of margins.

I was informed later that evening that the story itself was “tweaked” a bit, the setting changed to a hospital and there were no dancing teddy bears or jack in the boxes, but had I not been told, I would not have known. It may explain why some bits seemed a bit duller than others, but then, as I know so little about the ballet, I may have mistaken the “real” parts as those not in the traditional version.

Come the final curtain (which came far more quickly than I had expected), I felt my normally reserved kind of applause and adoration did not really give enough back to the performance I had just witnessed. But then, there were one or two things that had dampened my spirits – mainly some of my fellow ballet attendees.

Right, a new taxonomy here: annoying people to sit in theatres with:

1) Lookatmoylookatmoylookatmoy-ers

The main problem for the lookatmoi-ers is that, in the darkness of the theatre, looking at them becomes very hard. Solution: get loud instead,a nd by “get loud”, I mean laugh like the only one who gets the humour and comment like nobody else could see the show.

2) The Rustlers

Okay, now this is something that could be fixed by the venue being a bit more creative and discriminating with what they sell, but there are some people in the world who cannot for the life of them open a plastic bag in anything less than 10 minutes, and have to rummage around said bag – noisily – for the next half hour while they slowly devour whatsoever the bag contains. It is incredibly annoying, and part of the reason I do not tend to take consumables in with me.

3) The Bigheads

Again, something the proprietors of an establishment could address, but there are certain people who are tall, or have hairdos in the style of Marge Simpson, and for people behind them, this can be damned annoying. These are closely related to…

4) The StevieWonders

Some people look with their necks, their pupils staying firmly in the middle of their eye sockets, leaving the neck muscles in charge of following what is going on at the front of the room. A Bighead/SteveiWonder is therefore one of the most irritating things to have in front of you – unless you aren’t really enjoying the show at all.

Verdict: The Royal NZ Ballet put on a brilliant performance, though, at the end of the day, the score beat the dancers. All credit to both sides though as, as a whole, it was a brilliant event. Not to say that I am now converted and will attend every ballet out there, but it definitely did not put me off. 9 tiaras out of 10.