We pick the local talent who made the most significant contributions to our year in entertainment.
1 FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS
The comedy pair's big break into their own show on American primetime was the Kiwi showbiz success story of the year. Hey, we knew them before they were famous, when they were only "New Zealand's fourth most popular comedy-folk duo" and live, had a fine line in deadpan introductions and brilliantly funny songs which managed to parody entire genres in a single bound. No we couldn't quite see how that would work as a sitcom. Nor apparently could anyone in TV production here, and they're meant to have active creative imaginations. But there it was, Flight of the Conchords, a show backed by American telly giants HBO -about two Kiwi blokes and their guitars trying to make it big in New York being helped - well, in his own way - by Murray their manager from the New Zealand consulate.
Pity its timeslot and the company it kept - the awful local backpacker sitcom Welcome to Paradise on beforeheand - meant not a lot of New Zealanders have seen the best New Zealand comedy in decades, yet. But with a second series on the way, FOTC are on their way ... to becoming our third or even second most popular folk-comedy duo, at the very least.
2 HOLLIE SMITH
Having been the voice of hit song Bathe in the River in 2006, this year got even bigger for Hollie Smith when she released her debut album, Long Player, and signed a multi-album deal with legendary American label Blue Note. While her songwriting might not yet match her pipes, there are few voices as achingly soulful and unique in New Zealand and the world. She's in good hands for the future too because Blue Note knows its stuff, having singers like Al Green and Ella Fitzgerald on its books and more recently launching the career of Norah Jones.
3 TAIKA WAITITI
With his 2005 Oscar nomination for his short film Two Cars, One Night, ever-promising film-maker Taika Waititi faced some heavy local expectations on his first feature. Eagle Vs Shark wasn't meant to be that big important debut either. But the intended cheap DIY film inspired by the sweet deluded character of Lily - created by Waititi's partner Loren Horsley - kind of grew in scope. Waititi wrote a script, roped in acting mate Jemaine Clements (Flight of the Conchords) to play Jarrod to be Lily's equally oddball suitor and found the perfect suburban setting in Wellington's Titahi Bay for the film he defined as his "arthouse tragi-comedy". It also proved to be New Zealanders' favourite local movie of the year with its $900,000-plus at the local box office.
4 NEIL FINN
Even before Crowded House played their first reunion show in April or released new album Time on Earth Neil Finn was in the spotlight for his comments about government patronage of local music. In Real Groove magazine he said "it sort of makes me sick" that the PM takes so much credit for the success of the local music industry. He copped flak from the likes of Sir Howard Morrison and Ray Columbus but in Finn's retort in the Herald the following week he wrote "I will not be a nice little icon who just shakes hands and smiles at the camera". Then came that Crowded House reunion tour which played to thousands across North America and Europe brought it home playing a sold-out Vector Arena in October before heading to Australia and Up Over again. Having sold-out London's 12,000 Wembley Arena last Sunday, they added an encore show at the Royal Albert Hall on Tuesday.
5 ZOE BELL
The Kiwi stuntwoman stepped out from behind the Hollywood starlets she usually does the dirty work for to star in Quentin Taratino's Death Proof. Bell made her name in New Zealand doing stunts on Shortland Street and playing Lucy Lawless' double on Xena: Warrior Princess aged 18. Then in 2005 she scored the part as Uma Thurman's stunt double in Kill Bill II for which she won best fight and best stunt at the annual stunt awards. She first worked with Tarantino on Kill Bill and the star director created the Death Proof role especially for her. How many Hollywood actors do you know who you can throw on a car bonnet for a chase scene and expect them to act? That's our Zoe.
6 OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE - THE WRITERS
The cast of our best TV drama-comedy in aeons get the magazine covers and the acting awards on a frighteningly regular basis. But why we keep turning to the Wests - or why other countries are snapping up remake rights to the show which just finished its third high-rating series here - isn't just down to the performances. It's because the taut, twisty and terrifically funny scripts of creator-writers James Griffin and Rachel Lang keep nailing it episode after episode. It might be character-driven on screen but Griffin and Lang's words and stories are the V8 power under its hood.
Kora prove it's not just sunny reggae bands like Katchafire and the Black Seeds, and mainstream friendly acts like Atlas, who are selling truck-loads of albums. Although their music is rooted in reggae, their self-titled debut album is ambitious, crazed and twisted, which makes it even more remarkable that sales are approaching platinum status (15,000 copies). The band, made up of Whakatane brothers Laughton, Stuart, Francis and Brad Kora, and bassist/keyboardist Dan McGruer, released The Volume EP in 2004 and it had a more laidback reggae sound with single Politician the highlight. While the debut album took some time to appear it was worth the wait because it pushed musical boundaries yet still worked its way into our hearts.
8 ANNIE CRUMMER
Crummer, who many in New Zealand probably still recognise as the booming voice of 80s girl group When the Cat's Away, is the comeback queen of the year. And in Queen musical We Will Rock You she was killer.
Four years ago during the Melbourne season of the show, Crummer's voice cracked and while it came back shortly after, she lost her nerve. At first she turned down the chance to reprise the role she had played in the Melbourne production - the songs and the tough nightly show schedule had played havoc with her voice. However, after some vocal coaching she was back on the Civic stage as the evil leather-clad Killer Queen and stealing the show.
9 MICHAEL HURST
One of our most prolific actor-directors sees off the year nutty as a fruitcake, playing multiple characters in the gag-filled horror spoof The Mystery of Irma Vep at the Silo. Hurst started the year in great form, directing The Ensemble Project's Tis Pity She's a Whore, a bloody 17th century revenge drama. In August he played the black-clad interrogator in the Auckland Theatre Company's nerve-shredding The Pillowman. He's had less good fortune on the big screen in We're Here To Help and The Tattooist. But Irma Vep is the loopy triumph of the year he turned 50, especially when he winds himself up as the Mummy and tries to scare Oliver Driver.
10 THE SHORTLAND STREET SERIAL KILLER
After celebrating 15 years on-air, life on the Street was becoming a bit dull. Until a serial killer began stalking Ferndale. Receptionist Claire was the first to die, followed by Meg and Jay. At the time of writing, we're still in the dark as to the killer's identity. Three spoilers released on YouTube last week put forth three prime suspects - Justine Jones, Scotty and Dr Durville. But whoever it is, this year's cliffhanger looks the best since 1995 when Carmen died minutes after Guy had proposed.
- NZHERALD STAFF