Sunday, October 17, 2010


And may the scwartz be with you, Mr. Jackson. Wellington is nicknamed "Windy Welly" for obvious reasons. I'm sure this moniker was established a long time ago. In recent times the city has picked up a new title: "Wellywood". I don't have all the facts but the story goes something like this. Peter Jackson is from Wellington and shot the Lord of the Rings Trilogy throughout the whole of New Zealand. In the process he also created Weta Labs (or Workshop?), the high tech cinematic operation responsible for the fancy CGI's and costumes used in the films. The Weta Lab is here in Wellington and I have heard that this is where the stars of the movie based themselves throughout shooting. It is rumoured that sitings of Viggo Mortensen and Ian Mckellan drinking coffee in the local cafes were commonplace during that time period. The raging success of the movies put an international spotlight on New Zealand, and Wellington specifically, as an ideal location for shooting. Some other activity has taken place here since then(District 9/King Kong?), and it has now been dubbed "Wellywood".

So obviously, there has to be some way for the general public to enjoy Wellington's new found popularity in the film industry. Enter the Weta Cave. The Weta Cave is listed on as one of the top ten things to do in Wellington.  From their website:

Screen clipping taken: 10/16/2010, 11:31 PM

 It's listed as number 7. So according to this site there are only 6 other activities to participate in that are more enjoyable than visiting the Weta Cave. And if I had wheels I'd be a wagon.

The Cave has been on my Wellington activities list for several weeks now and as a mildly enthusiastic LOTR fan, I set high expectations for it. I arrived to find that it is nothing more than a gift shop. The entire facility is about 800 square feet. It boasts a "mini-museum" that is actually nothing more than a walk in closet sized cubby with a some replica swords and a bunch of figurines from the movie. There's a room that you can view a 20 minute featurette in, which I didn't even bother to stay for as I assume it doesn't show anything not released in the special edition DVD's (which I've owned since they came out). Everything else in the Weta Cave is for sale. To be fair I probably set my expectations too high. A couple of years ago I experienced the LOTR exibit at the Houston museum. Due to my consistent bashing of Houston, I feel obligated to take a moment here to recognize one of its finer assets. Houston does have a great set of museums not far from Rice University and the Medical Center that I frequented while living there. Anyway, the LOTR museum exhibit was phenomenal. It was absolutley massive and contained a smorgasboard of highly sought after paraphanaelia that was actually used in the movies. I half expected for most of this exhibit to now be housed permanently at the Weta Cave. I was way off, and more than a little disappointed. If this is the best "showcase" of Weta that Peter Jackson can offer to the public, then it is pretty damn weak. It's also preposterous for to list this place as a destination. To walk every inch of the Cave takes all of three minutes. Even if I had viewed and appreciated every item in there I still would have been done in under an hour. It's a decent place to stop by if you are in that part of town, but surely not a somewhere that you need to plan a visit to.

A couple years back a fellow music lover, whose opinion I value and trust, suggested I try listening to the Brian Jonestown Massacre. He also asked if I had seen the movie Dig. I told him that I had heard of BJM, but not Dig. He gave me a brief rundown of the movie and told me I should watch it and get the music. I proceeded to acquire the BJM album but didn't get around to watching the movie. Sometime after that I read a Rolling Stone article that listed the top rock doc dvd's of all time. The list was mostly standards that I would expect to see: Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz, Woodstock, Festival Express; but the big surprise for me was seeing Dig listed in the top 5. Once again my interest was sparked but I still didn't run out and get the movie.
I finally rented the double disc DVD this weekend. Dig tells the story of the tumultuous relationship between two rock bands: The Dandy Warhols, and the Brian Jonestown Massacre. But more importantly, it introduces the viewer to Anton Newcombe, frontman and co-creator of the BJM. I imagine that Anton Newcombe is what John Lennon would have been like if he hadn't been born in England and hadn't been in the biggest pop band of all time. He's an explosive egocentric character that keeps the viewer glued to his every move on screen. But's Anton is only half of the recipe that makes this a highly entertaining film. The rest comes from the sheer volume of raw footage that the movie is comprised of. Most rock docs are a series of live performances spliced together with recent interviews of various players associated with the subject. Dig was pieced together from over 1500 hours of amateur footage shot from the mid-nineties all the way through around 2002, I think. It's got all the good rock star scenes in it as well: the arrests, the fist-fights, the shouting matches, the road. And it's all pretty raw and uncut as well.  Dig easily lived up to all the hype that surrounds it and the beauty of it is that you don't need to really be a fan of either band to enjoy the movie.

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