Fran O'Sullivan: Lighten up and be proud of our Kiwi winners

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Ignore the party-poopers - The Hobbit is a success, so we should be enjoying it.

The world premiere of The Hobbit drew plenty of barbs but Sir Peter Jackson and co should be celebrated for creating another blockbuster. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The world premiere of The Hobbit drew plenty of barbs but Sir Peter Jackson and co should be celebrated for creating another blockbuster. Photo / Mark Mitchell

To me, The Hobbit premiere has provided obvious proof that the philosophy of picking winners is hardly dead in New Zealand. John Key's deal with Warner Bros and the Hollywood moguls ensured the film epic would be made here.

The big - and unanswered - question is what other industries and sectors could flourish here if they had the same kind of government help that Sir Peter has had?

On Facebook and Twitter, journalists and commentators have been scoffing at the news coverage of The Hobbit premiere: Too fawning. Gormless. Fatuous. Excruciating. You get the drift.

"Anyone else appalled at the cringe-makingly sycophantic over-the-top TV coverage of The Hobbit premiere last night?" said one Christchurch journalist on the Kiwi Journalists Association (KJA) page.

"A commentator on NewstalkZB reckoned the TV reporters on the red carpet were so excited they were wetting their pants - couldn't have put it better myself."

Another bitched: "Yes, Key's Hollywood junket and all schmoozing before and after was a scorching embarrassment. At least most skint countries with daddy issues and no self-respect sell themselves to drug cartels and arms dealers. Or China. Not movie studios. I find it embarrassing when journalists interviewing visiting international stars try to fish for compliments about New Zealand."

An Aucklander chimed in: "But why do we have to be the only small country with small-country syndrome? I'm sure Danes or Finns don't pee themselves every time their country gets noticed."

Haven't all these party poopers heard of the "off" switch if they so dislike the coverage?

With this mass outpouring of scorn, I'm probably risking a right royal pasting by admitting I rather enjoyed it. Particularly, the wonderfully sly interview by One News reporter Joanna Hunkin with that rather handsome Irish "dwarf".

It was with some relief that I scrolled down the KJA page to find this comment: "I would rather watch a journalist able to show a bit of emotion than a straight-laced, no-fun grump reporting what should be (and was) a happy occasion for Wellington - and NZ.

"I'm all for impartiality and remaining dispassionate - where it counts - but in my opinion the red carpet should be a celebration of the hard work the cast and crew put in and fair enough that the media treat it as that - a celebration."

This tendency in the New Zealand psyche to get straight into the post-mortem before even celebrating the birth of a wonderful new venture like The Hobbit has always perturbed me.

Sir Peter Jackson's mates from his Bad Taste days were particularly churlish in their comments to the Herald.

Top unionist Helen Kelly's vitriol was poisonous as she ripped into the Prime Minister on National Radio claiming he had lied over the shenanigans with Warner Bros. Give it a rest, Helen, we know what you think.

At least the Labour Party politicians were not so troubled by their own obvious hypocrisy that it stopped them enjoying a traipse along the red carpet in downtown Wellington.

And why not? Down among the crowds in Courtenay Place, it was a wonderfully joyous feeling. Just like those fabulous moments when South Auckland rocked down to the Auckland waterfront for the Rugby World Cup opening event or when Aucklanders lined the harbour to watch Russell Coutts triumph in the America's Cup regatta.

There is much to celebrate about the successes of these special Kiwis, who have managed to be "world-famous from New Zealand".

Sir Peter's blockbusters are truly huge. Half a billion dollars of hard cash has been invested in The Hobbit series alone.

It is truly great that a film-maker from a country of a mere 4.4 people million can, with a bit of Government help, pull this off.

He is not the only Kiwi to reach world-class standards.

On Thursday, Air New Zealand's outgoing chief executive, Rob Fyfe, talked via video to a business dinner about how the company's staff had set out to be the "best in the world" at what they do.

The upshot was Air NZ's recognition as the world's best international airline.

Again, a feat worth celebrating. But as Fyfe observed: "New Zealand needed to learn to wear black without the depression that sometimes comes with it."

Others have big ambitions, like Fonterra's Theo Spierings (a Dutchman), who wants New Zealand to be the "the dairy nutrition capital of the world".

All these flourishing businesses have had a helping hand from the Government.

The film industry's tax subsidies are seen as necessary for NZ film-markers to compete internationally.

Air New Zealand was bailed out by the taxpayer, and the Helen Clark Government introduced legislation to ensure two competing dairy companies could merge to form a quasi-monopoly.

The current Government wants to legislate so that SkyCity can put in more pokies in return for funding a convention centre.

Picking winners is part and parcel of the New Zealand fabric.

- NZ Herald

Fran O'Sullivan

A columnist for the NZ Herald

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