Monday, December 11, 2023

Peter Jackson's life through a lens

You see it in all the crowds, any time there is something marginally interesting happening in front of you - an ocean of phones, as people film fucking everything that is happening. It doesn't matter if it's a school play or a big rock concert or a very fast car, we've all got our devices out.

I do think it's nice that there is some kind of documentation, even if 99 percent of these videos will be posted to social media and never watched again. But there is some truth in the idea that you're missing the moment by focusing on the footage, and I saw it happen to one of the world's great film directors with my own eyes.

As a New Zealander, there are obviously complicated feelings about Peter Jackson - he's a truly talented filmmaker who has made some incredible cinema, and also a total rich prick who always gets what he wants. I've had loads of friends employed by his companies, which is nice; but also loads of them have faced workplace abuse, which is fucking awful.

The films speak for themselves - I saw Bad Taste when I was 15 and thought the comic timing of the exploding sheep was absolutely exquisite. Even after that, Braindead was a goddamn revelation as things gorily escalated, and Meet the Feebles was genuinely disgusting. Heavenly Creatures is obviously divine (and I saw it in a cinema a few kilometres away from where the murders took place), and I was not surprised that he took on Lord of the Rings, because I knew what he'd done to get his first movie made, and that kind of ingenuity always scaled up well.

Those Rings films still have power, man. They're on Sky TV all the freakin' time, and I'm always getting dragged into it for half an hour. Oh shit, they're about to go into Moria? That's my afternoon fucked.

But as less people felt comfortable saying 'no' to the director, the art suffered. King Kong was baggy as hell (although not everyone can agree where that extra baggage is); The Lovely Bones is grossly earnest; and the Hobbit films are smeary mess with tiny moments of great brilliance.

As a journalist, I've tried to interview the dude for a multiple of publications over the years, and never got past his assistant, who was always an absolute legend in deflection. Not even when talking about a passion outside of the big budget movie world, like his devotion to WW1 aviation

But I did end up standing near him at the local air show, where some of the planes he had restored took to the skies above Marlborough. I wasn't close enough to tell him that 'I kick arse for the lord!' is truly one of the greatest moments in cinema, but close enough to see him as this massive spectacle unfolded, with powerful planes swooping down over the crowd.

And Peter Jackson, at the absolute height of his powers, watched the whole thing with his head down, looking through the view screen of his high-grade camcorder.

I'm sure he got some fantastic shots, but he was really missing all the thrills, including one particular fly-over because he as fucking around with the camera. He'd put a lot of effort and even more hard cash into the spectacle unfolding around him, and it was all reduced to 1080p.

So maybe don't feel bad about whipping out your phone at the next gig you go to, even some of the best people to ever us film cameras miss shit too.

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