‘Argo’ Continues to Piss Off the Rest of the World

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Sure, Iran might be suing Hollywood over how much they hated Argo, but that makes sense as Iran doesn’t really come across as cool guys in the movie. But now New Zealand is pissed off. Yes, New Zealand, as a whole, is so angry about Argo!

Now, you may be thinking, "Wait, did New Zealand have anything to do with Argo?" That is what I thought! And that is part of the problem, it seems. You see, New Zealand is mentioned once in the movie—CIA agent Jack O’Donnell (Bryan Cranston) tells Tony Mendez (played by the film’s director, Ben Affleck) that "the Kiwis" turned the American refugees away, forcing them to shack up with the Canadians. (The Canadians, by the way, are also mad about Argo.)

Naturally, the New Zealand Parliament has passed a motion claiming that Ben Affleck ""saw fit to mislead the world about what actually happened":

The strong reaction in New Zealand indicates the country remains insecure about its own culture, said Steve Matthewman, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Auckland. People are prone to bouts of unwarranted outrage when somebody from abroad says something bad about the country, he said, and simpering enjoyment when they say something good.

"It’s touched a really raw nerve," Matthewman said. "We do seem in New Zealand to be oversensitive to how the rest of the world perceives us."

The movie’s New Zealand reference may not be totally fair but has an element of truth.

Some in New Zealand have taken those words – "Kiwis turned them away" – as implying the country did nothing to help. Published interviews indicate that diplomats from Britain and New Zealand did help by briefly sheltering the Americans, visiting them and bringing them food, even driving them to the airport when they left.

Yet those interviews also indicate that both countries considered it too risky to shelter the Americans for long. That left the Canadians shouldering the biggest risk by taking them in.

Lawmaker Winston Peters, who brought last week’s uncontested motion before Parliament, said New Zealanders are unfairly portrayed as "a bunch of cowards," an impression that would be given to millions who watch the movie.

"It’s a diabolical misrepresentation of the acts of courage and bravery, done at significant risk to themselves, by New Zealand diplomats," he said.

Soon, Austria will file a suit against everyone associated with Argo because it beat Amour for the Best Picture Oscar. And New Orleans will cecede from the nation, claiming Beasts of the Southern Wild was robbed. Afghanistan will be all, "Hey guys, can y’all just stop bombing us? Make movies, not bombs!" Switzerland will stay neutral, obviously, but will probably enjoy all of this.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Jane Campion Talks About Her New Zealand-Set Mystery Miniseries, ‘Top of the Lake’

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In a world full of Law and Orders and CSIs, the story of a pregnant twelve-year-old’s disappearance and the female detective obsessed with finding her isn’t a particularly shocking premise. What is surprising about Top of the Lake, a seven-part miniseries that premiered on Sundance Channel on Sunday evening, is the woman behind the project: Jane Campion, who is best known for films like The Piano, for which she received an Oscar for Best Screenplay and a nomination for Best Director. Campion, who co-wrote the series with longtime collaborator Gerald Lee, brings the mystical vibes of her native New Zealand to the West, and along for the ride are American actors Elizabeth Moss and Holly Hunter.

I spoke with Campion over the phone recently about her process as a director and how working in an unfamiliar medium allowed her room to explore a longer, full story.

What drew you to the medium of television to tell a story rather than a feature film?
It’s pretty simple: time and space. I think the current situation… I wanted to tell a story that would take about six hours, and I wanted the space to develop those characters and have longer scenes. The novel is probably my favorite form [of storytelling], and the idea of a six-hours series is as close to a novel as I can imagine. I also think there’s a lot of freedom right now in telling stories on television; we were commissioned by BBC 2, whose charter is to work with filmmakers and take risks and be adventurous. They kind of said to me, “Do it if you want and make it as long as you like!” So I told my writing partner [Gerald Lee], “We better do something wild!”

I know you’ve worked in television before at the beginning of your career. Did you worry, after dedicating your work to feature films, about returning to this format? Was it an easy transition?
I certainly felt more relaxed. I knew that what we were going to do, if we did our best, would be pretty good television, and I say that knowing that the bar is very high for TV these days. The most difficult thing for me, really, was the schedule. We had to do ninety minutes in about four and a half weeks, so it was very fast going. I’m used to taking twice as long. [Laughs] But my crew definitely helped me move along. We were just, like, running the whole time. I didn’t have time to chat with the crew; we worked together for several weeks and I have no idea what was going on in their lives!

Was it the same amount of time you’d usually spend on a two-hour film project, only with a seven-hour series?
What was interesting to me is that we were pretty divided and working on different parts. My co-director, Garth Davis, was there doing his episodes, which gave me some time off. Even though there was a fast schedule, we still had time to take breaks. What really puts me off doing television in general is the horrible schedules and the fact that you can’t produce anything interesting in that time because you’re trying not to fall over. I think that’s the problem with most TV—shooting is so fast, that’s the standard.

The strange thing with television is that there’s a very broad idea that a series creator wants to pursue, but a story can go all over the place in such a collaborative environment. Was having a second director working with you a challenge?
It was a bit scary! [Laughs]

To put your story in someone else’s hands like that?
Yes. But the thing with Garth is that he’s a very enthusiastic, great director. I learned a few lessons from him. I’d watch him and think, “Oh, that’s awesome!” He loved the material, and that made me feel great, and he also said in such plain terms, “I’ll do anything you want. Tell me how to divide the work up and I’ll do anything you tell me.” There was no ego. I did want to look after him, as well; he hadn’t done much drama. But I do think he’s one of the best commercial directors in Australia. He’s got a great personality and sensibility. He is also a fantastic photographer—we gave him a lot of landscape work because no one can do it better. To answer your question more directly, I was a bit nervous about how he might handle the more complicated tones of the piece. But we workshopped quite a bit and I was comfortable that he wouldn’t make it too broad and keep it very real.

The setting became its own character in a way. In American culture, there’s not much of an awareness for New Zealand beyond The Lord of the Rings, in which it’s more of a stand-in for a more fantastical world. Did you want to bring an awareness for New Zealand to a wider audience, to see it existing as the way you see it?
In a way, yes. I thought Peter Jackson did a great job with those films. I certainly love the wilderness and that area of the world—it’s sort of the end of the earth. I’m very affected by it, the atmosphere of being there. I think a lot of the crew even felt a culture shock when they got back to the rest of the world. I’ve been to Iceland, too, and there’s a similar feeling there. It’s quite a similar culture.

It reminded me a little bit of the Pacific Northwest, even with a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe to it. I thought it was an interesting place to set the series since it sets a tone even for the characters’ personalities, as well.
They’re people on the edge: people who like to run the world themselves. They’re outsiders. It’s also the mentality of grasping for a paradise. Everyone is very sensitive to the beauty of the place, no matter how raw or rough it is.

After working on a larger narrative like this, do you plan on doing more longer projects? Do you want to balance this sort of work with shorter, feature-length films?
I’m ready to get back to those shorts. [Laughs] In terms of directing, yes, it’s a lot of work. I don’t know how to do things at half-pace. Even a three-hour film is a lot of work, because once you’re done shooting you have to do all the post-production. But I was thinking that I would love to work with Gerald again. We had so much fun writing this, and I’d love to work on another project together, and maybe I wouldn’t direct it or would only direct one episode. I also enjoyed working with Gus, and I can see the opportunity of working with other directors quite happily. But for now I’m really thinking of taking a break. [Laughs]

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

New Zealand Man Out to Make Internet’s Job Harder

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In a world where natural resources are scarce, ideas are few, and there is generally very little to be gained, the currency of our times has become the cat video. Just kidding, it’s money. It’s still money. Unless you live in a place or situation where the barter system is used. In which case you could trade for cat videos. 

Per usual, a cat-related story has been all over the Internet this week, but it’s not Tard the Grumpy Cat on the Today Show or Colonel Meow looking angry. Economist Gareth Morgan prompted a cat-aclysmic reaction when he suggested a ban on domestic cats in feline-crazy New Zealand (Kiwis own more than 1.4 million cats, which doesn’t seem like a lot but keep in mind New Zealand is a pretty small country and only has about 4 1/2 million people). His website, Cats To Go, suggests in a series of adorable but very serious infographics, that cats are a detriment to local ecosystems and the furry killing machines have been responsible for threatening already-fragile indigenous bird species. The site leads with the phrase, "That little ball of fluff you own is a natural born killer," which sounds an awful lot like something from The Oatmeal

Now, seeing as I’m not a cat owner (and generally particularly indifferent about cats, but you do you), not a resident of New Zealand (although apparently it’s lovely) and not a conservation expert (got nothin’), I’m not in a position to tell you how to live your lives or to get rid of your cats. And the combination of general global apathy w/r/t sustainability issues and the fact that people love their pets and will have difficulty telling their kids that they can’t get a new cat to replace the gaping, Fluffy-shaped hole that remains makes this measure seemed unrealistic, well-intentioned as it is.

But think of the cultural implications if this were ever to become a thing. With a decrease in the domestic cat population, think of what we could accomplish. The tired, antiquated and pretty sexist "crazy cat lady" trope would slowly fade away. I’m not saying we should get rid of cats, or that you should part with your beloved Kitty Sanchez or Catticus Finch, but maybe we could scale back on the cultural cat-worship a little teensy bit. And, you know, also care about invasive bird species. Although let’s be real, if cats didn’t occupy this space in pop culture, and Internet culture in particular, some other animal would. Corgis, probably. 

Here’s an NBC News report about Morgan, in which you’ll get a quick overview of the debate, some points and counterpoints and lots of images of little four-legged fascists skulking around looking for prey.

Stage and Screen Actor Lee Pace Talks Shop

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Lee Pace had me at “Hello.” Or, rather, the film equivalent, which was 2006’s The Fall. Spectacularly strange and visually arresting, that movie made an instant devotee out of me. Though the tall, dark, and handsome actor had been in the biz for a few years prior to this weird and wonderful discovery, I’ve followed the 33-year-old’s trajectory ever since—and re-watched The Fall more than a few times.

Fast forward to 2012, which has been especially packed for Pace, featuring roles in Lincoln, Breaking Dawn: Part 2, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Indeed, it’s safe to say that he’s had a good year, especially considering all three titles hit theaters (for all intents and purposes) simultaneously. This triple whammy of sorts simply must bode well on the success scale. 

From indie flicks like A Single Man and Ceremony, to blockbuster franchises, this guy’s got that special something that attracts casting directors and keeps crowds captivated. Beyond the big screen, New Yorkers can currently catch Pace as Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini in Terrence McNally’s Golden Age, a play directed by Walter Bobbie with performances through January 13 at Manhattan Theatre Club. Age audiences are granted a backstage pass to listen in and look on, taking in behind-the-scenes goings-on during opening night of Bellini’s last opera, I Puritani, at the ThéâtreItalien in Paris. Part comedy, part drama, the two-and-a-half-hour-long performance paints a living picture of what it might have been like to be there. 

The charming and approachable Pace was sweet enough to take time before taking the stage recently to talk about a few things. From his privileged yet hectic career to memorable moments, from his stance on New York to his “heartthrob” status, Pace provides a refreshingly sincere look at his life. 

So, you’ve had a super busy year…
It has been a busy year. I’m really feeling it now that the year’s coming to an end. These movies came out this past month and now we[’re] doing eight shows a week [for Golden Age]. It’s been a lot of work, so I’ll to be looking forward to a quiet new year. But, it’s been great. It’s good to be busy. There’s nothing I like more than being busy. Good characters to play and good people to work with. There’s been a lot of that this year, so I couldn’t be more grateful.

Is there any reprieve during the holiday?
Theater schedules through the holidays are relentless. I guess I figured we’d still be doing eight shows a week, but it’s tough. There’s so many shows. But, it’s good. It’s a privilege to be able to do the show for people. That people want to come is awesome.  

Given your recent roster, are there any standout moments of 2012?
Shooting scenes with Steven Spielberg in the Congress (sic) [for Lincoln], that was pretty incredible. Big scenes, lots of extras, a couple cameras moving. You really feel like, Wow, I’ll remember this. It kinda doesn’t get better than this. Then, I went to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit for a couple months. To be on those sets, which [were] equally incredible, and to collaborate on and play a character that is the product of so many people’s imaginations—Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and the costume designers—[was] very, very special. 

Any funny stories that you recall?
Funny things happened, but I always forget them. I am such an idiot. 

[Laughs] Okay, any instances on stage where you feel compelled to burst out laughing?
We really like each other a lot. All of the guys [in Golden Age] shar[e] a dressing room. We have so much fun during the half hour, talking. Ethan Phillips is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and he keeps us going all through the half hour, so there are times I’ll look at him on stage and remember a joke he told and I have a hard time not laughing. 

I can imagine. What’s it like portraying a real life character versus a fictional one?
Both Fernando Wood [of Lincoln] and [Bellini of] Golden Age are based on real men. You want to have a certain respect for who they were. You want to find a connection to the real person. Understand them from an actor’s point of view, which is different from a historian’s point of view and different from a writer’s point of view. 

For sure.
In Golden Age, it’s a character. It isn’t a biopic of Bellini. This is a work of art. Terrence McNally is using the character to tell a story. I see it as my job to connect the dots between Terrence and me and Bellini, who wrote this beautiful music. I tried to figure out what it was about him, who he was, the details. There’s so many things that go into making a character.

I bet. Your Bellini also displays distinct mannerisms, tending to twitch and putter a bunch…
[Laughs] Twitch and putter. I’ll remember that tonight when I’m twitching and puttering. [Laughs]

It’s not intended as an insult!
No, he is very twitchy and putter-y. Where I started with my research was listening to the music and really trying to understand that music and believe that that music was coming out of me, that I’d written it. Before I started, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to create something like that, to write music as complicated as this music. Just trying to get myself into that headspace, being backstage listening to it, that’s where I really started working out the physicality and how I moved. It kind of grew from that, so that the nervous energy finds its way into keeping the beat with the opera. He’s not a neurotic man. He’s concerned about how this artistic effort is going to be received by a discerning audience of people that he respects. He wants to do something that will be meaningful to them. It’s all about the music. He takes this opera that he has created extremely seriously. 

As you do your own work…
On the good days! No, I do. When you work with people like Daniel Day-Lewis, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, you see how they take it seriously. It’s meaningful. They’re so talented. On set with Steven Spielberg, everyone felt how much that story meant to him, the story of the 16th president. Everyone on that set felt it and [was] inspired by it. And that’s how we all found ourselves on his page, because he’s inspiring. 

Wish I could have been there! So, theater versus film? Is there one you prefer?
They’re very, very different. I can’t say I prefer either one because I love both for different reasons. In film, you have very little time to get it right. And it’s not even about getting it right, because it’s important to let go of that way of thinking about it. You get what you get and move onto the next setup, onto the next scene. On stage, George C. Wolfe, who directed me in [the play] The Normal Heart, called it the actors’ revenge, because you have to step onstage every night and tell the story yourself. You just have to do it yourself. 

In a movie, you turn over your performance to the director and the editors to edit and to layer in sound and everything else that makes the performance emotional or funny or whatever. In theater, you have to land the jokes yourself. You have to understand what’s funny about it. You have to kind of feel the audience. What they’re about on any given night. With a movie, you don’t have that. You can’t do that. In The Hobbit, we can’t feel what the house is going to be like before we do it. 

Of course not. So, onto something still loftier, what’s been the greatest challenge of your career?
If I could name a challenge, it would be laughable compared to the challenges so many other people face. It’s the “funnest” job in the world. I guess the biggest challenge I could say these days is just taking it seriously. When you’re in your thirties, the parts get good for men. You get really interesting characters. That’s what I’ve noticed. Complicated men dealing with complicated things. Seeing that there’s so [much] more to investigate about the way people are, and communicat[ing] those things to an audience, that’s the challenge. You want [the] stories to be good and you want them to be truthful and that’s a challenge. 

Seeing as this is an NYC-centric outlet, where exactly are you based?
I’ve been living here while I do the play. But, I live outside the city now. I live up in the country. It was a new move. I’d lived [in New York City] for a long time, since I was 17. 

How do you like living off-island?
I like it a lot. I love New York City. I’ve spent my adult life in New York City. I have a really complicated relationship with New York City, as every New Yorker does. You can’t go through almost 15 years [here] and not have a complicated relationship with it. Part of that relationship is, I’m going to take a little break and live in the country. [Laughs]

I hear that. Lastly, any thoughts on being considered by some to be heartthrob, a sex symbol?
Oh god no. What does that mean? I have no comment about that. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s news to me. 

Inside One Of New Zealand’s Premier Luxury Lodges

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When partners Hall Cannon and Miles Refo decided to take off from their life in Manhattan, where Cannon had been working in real estate development and Refo in marketing, they gave themselves a year to travel and find a community and a lifestyle that was smaller and more intimate than the rush of New York living. They settled on Otahuna after spotting it during a three-month driving tour of New Zealand, spent four months learning the ropes on the property, and then embarked on a massive renovation that landed them in the pages of Architectural Digest, as well as on the rolls of travel experts Virtuoso, and a Category 1 listing on New Zealand’s National Historic Places trust. Now, owner & Managing Director Cannon prides himself on the elegant, intimate property they’ve created at Otahuna Lodge.

Where is your hotel located within your city?
We’re in New Zealand, in the central part of the South Island, 30 minutes from the city of Christchurch and the airport.

How long have you been with the property?
My partner and I bought it in 2006 and opened it in June of 2007, so about five years. Part of it was a very personal journey; we decided to leave New York and find ourselves elsewhere, and really fell in love with New Zealand. The superlodges here are among the best in the world but we knew this place was really different because of the age—it’s a 116-year-old house and had so many compelling stories surrounding it. The gardens were planted in the late 1800s and we grow a whole array of our fruits, nuts, and vegetables, which is something we do differently.

How would you characterize the overall feel of your property?
I think it’s very personalized, very warm. Guests are most often greeted personally by us, the owners: They’ll take a tour of the lodge, meet the chef in the kitchen, who they’ll speak with at each course—we want people to feel that this is their home.

What are some of its unique design features?
The most important is the house itself—it’s an 1896 Queen Anne mansion, considered the best example of High Victorian architecture in Australasia, a very historic place. It was important that the interiors be more comfortable and contemporary while playing up the heritage; we very much wanted the inside to make sure that our guests had the modern amenities they were after, and that it not feel like a museum. The art collection is fantastic, comprised exclusively of work by New Zealand artists commissioned for the lodge’s collection. There’s a lot of original stained glass, 16 wood burning fireplaces, and in our dining room, it has the original wallpaper on the walls. It feels like a period room there.

What’s the best dish on the menu?
I really enjoy the salmon ceviche, using local salmon, and Jimmy McIntyre, our executive chef, uses coriander and currants grown on the property, and almonds that we grow on site. You can’t come to New Zealand and not have lamb, and we raise our own sheep, chickens, and pigs, so it’s certainly something to try. And it’s hard to go wrong with a fantastic crème brulee.

Which room or suite is your favorite, and why?
We have seven suites, all within the homestead building. The two standouts are the Rhodes suite and the Verandah suite, our master suites, with fantastic outdoor areas reserved for those guests, very spacious bathrooms, large rooms, fireplaces. Guests are pretty evenly divided: in the summer they love the outdoor porch of the Verandah, whereas our return guests love the master-bedroom feel of the Rhodes suite, which is larger inside.

What’s a special amenity or service guests should be aware of?
When we say we want it to feel like home, we mean that very seriously. There are no hidden charges, no bill until checkout, a wine flight is included and paired with each meal and things like laundry and bikes are included and always available. We always want to know as much about them as possible—we will plan quite elaborate itineraries, and they really should know that we can do anything they request. We do a lot with helicopters right off the front lawn to a private beach, we have access to some amazing natural experiences, like a harbor with the world’s smallest dolphins, and there are fantastic winetasting experiences nearby.

Where do you send guests for a great night out?
Typically guests will stay in in the evening—they spend all day exploring so they’re tired out!

What’s coming next?
We’re always expanding our garden operations. They were planted in the late 1800s, and our goal has been to restore them and continue to grow them, and new parts come online each year. We’ve also unveiled a whole array of new food products grown on site—we have pineapples coming up for the first time, and lots more vegetables. We’re also really excited right now about our Three Perfect Days program, where we really plan three ultimate days during their stay, incorporating everything from a visit to a sheep station to cooking with our executive chef.

What’s one of your favorite memories of the hotel during your time there?
We had guests who had flown in privately from the US with their family, and they wanted to dine in a different location each evening, so we effectively constructed a different dining room around every area of the lodge, including a private dinner party in their own room, in the Rhodes suite. They didn’t have a lot of time in New Zealand and really wanted to see as much as possible during the day, and we arranged some really amazing journey, including taking the Trans-Alpine train just one way to the ocean, with a helicopter pickup on the other end that took them to a picnic lunch on a glacier overlooking the Southern Alps. Its great to see their happiness at having such a unique experience, and to see our staff’s hard work pay off.

Tour Operator Exploits Fake Native People

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First those Russian ice dancers paint themselves brown to perform a “tribute” to Australian aboriginal culture and now this. A tour group operator in New Zealand has been hiring Europeans and Israelis to impersonate Maori natives for cruise ship passengers.

(‘DiggThis’)Terina Puriri, director of the Discovery Heritage Group, says she had to hire Euros and Israelis because real Maori are too lazy to “promote their own heritage” (read: take pictures with cruise ship passengers for a few bucks.) “Some of our Maori are too slack to promote themselves. Some of our Maori are too lazy to get out of bed to do that,” she said.

The fakes seemed to have stopped short of blackface, but at least one performer used a marker pen to draw a Maori design on his face. On actual Maori people, such designs are normally etched into the skin by tattoo. Cruise ship passengers were charged about $3.50 to get a photo taken with the pseudo Maoris in traditional garb, who have since been banned from the ports. Seems like if you’re going to exploit the native culture to lure the tourists and their money, you better at least use real natives.

Find Love On Your Next Flight to New Zealand

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Just yesterday we were ogling the sexy painted Air New Zealand crew, and now there’s yet another reason to hop a flight down under on Air NZ because they’re launching the first ever matchmaking flight. The flight goes wheels up October 13th, leaving from LAX and touching down thirteen hours later in Auckland. Before the flight even boards, there will be a pre-game party for the singles to mingle, and if you really want to get a head start on things you can create an online profile way in advance of the trip so you can put some feelers out about who you’d like to sit next to you in flight.

The flight itself will feature “themed food, drink and games,” which sounds a bit like a lame birthday party, but who knows, everything is a little more awesome with booze. Upon arrival passengers will be taken to a singles-only party. The flight will run you $780, which isn’t bad for a flight, but it’s a lot more expensive than Match.com. But can Match.com deliver you love and New Zealand all in one go? I think not. Get your love on here.