My favorite things New Zealand

Having once spent a year living in Wellington, this one is easy:

1. Movie and movie director – Forget Peter Jackson and Lord of the Rings, I’ll opt for Vincent Ward’s The Navigator, where a group of medieval peasants suddenly emerges in late twentieth century Auckland.  Ward’s Map of the Human Heart might count as Canadian, but I love its surrealistic treatment of love and memory.  What Dreams May Come is sappy in parts but has Robin Williams doing a serious take on Bergman and Dante, doesn’t that sound strange?  Note that this category is especially strong – for instance Andrew Niccol directed the underrated Gattaca.

2. Music – The Kiwis have many good indie bands but Split Enz is the peak, buy their greatest hits.  Otherwise I’ll nominate the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience, if only for their name.

3. Fiction – Keri Hulme’s The Bone People or Janet Frame’s autobiography are both first-rate, catch the movie too.

4. Painter – Umm…things slow down a bit here.  The obvious pick is Colin McCahon, here are some images.  Here is my favorite, but I will admit some lameness in the category overall.

5. Food – Fish and chips is to New Zealand as barbecue is to Texas — tops in the world.  The best places are owned by Greeks.  New Zealand is also a first-rate locale for Malay, Cambodian, and Burmese cuisines.

6. City – Wellington is for me the single most beautiful city in the world, make sure you go to the lookout on Mount Victoria, here is alas only part of the panorama.  Wellington is also full of lovely Victorian homes.  I will Napier as an underrated second, here is some Art Deco, the city center was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1920s and rebuilt in that style.

The problem? I like New Zealanders so much, I wish there were many more of them.  Here is a brief photo tour, if you haven’t already decided to go. 


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