New Zealand Film Commission

Two Cars, One Night (2004, Taika Waititi)

Trying to describe Two Cars, One Night without getting schmaltzy might be difficult. It’s sublime, gentle, tender, funny, brilliant, inspired, exceptional. Director Waititi’s just as phenomenal directing his young actors as he is at composing the shots to emphasize their experiences; specifically, how they perceive those experiences. The short starts with these two boys sitting in a car in front of a bar. They’re presumably waiting for a parent or two to get done hanging out in the bar. The little brother, Te Ahiwaru Ngamoki-Richards, is quietly reading a book in the passenger seat. The older brother, Rangi Ngamoki, is sitting behind the wheel and watching the adults outside the car.

Waititi does an amazing job subtly implying all these things going on around the boys, which they know are going on but don’t exactly understand. They also don’t understand they don’t exactly understand. Waititi sets up all these known unknowns before there’s the second car. Because amid this situation, where the boys are waiting outside a bar, in this isolated island surrounded by adults adulting, Waikato is going to unknowingly take the first steps towards adulthood.

And here’s why it’s hard to talk about the short without getting schmaltzy. While Waititi avoids sentimentality and instead focuses on his actors and how they convey the action, Two Cars, One Night is about Waikato teasing a girl, Rangi Ngamoki—who arrives in the second car, her parents also going in for drinks (there’s a whole other silent, subtle implication thing regarding the parents who come out first)—but it’s about these two adorable kids flirting. They go from tween and pre-tween (Ngamoki is nine, Waikato is twelve) fighting and teasing to—again—understanding their similar situations on a deeper level than they’re able to consciously recognize. Waititi’s real quiet about it too; he focuses on Ngamoki realizing he wants to talk to Waikato and not really understanding why. Because he’s nine. And she goes from being a grody girl to being worth trying to impress.

Little brother Ngamoki-Richards proves an intentionally bad, more intelligent and thoughtful, hilarious wingman.

Perfect performances from Waikato and Ngamoki. Waititi’s direction, on all levels, just gets more and more impressive throughout. The black and white photography, from Adam Clark, is great. So’s Owen Ferrier-Kerr’s editing. Both Clark and Ferrier-Kerr’s fine work contributes to the sublimeness.

It’s wondrous.

3/3Highly Recommended


Written and directed by Taika Waititi; director of photography, Adam Clark; edited by Owen Ferrier-Kerr; music by Craig Sengelow; produced by Catherine Fitzgerald and Ainsley Gardiner; released by the New Zealand Film Commission.

Starring Rangi Ngamoki (Romeo), Hutini Waikato (Polly), and Te Ahiwaru Ngamoki-Richards (Ed).

Black Sheep (2006, Jonathan King)

Black Sheep plays like a more discreet, larger budgeted young Peter Jackson. Less ambitious too (I’m thinking of Braindead as the comparison). Both Jackson and King are New Zealanders and so on. Weta, who works with Hollywood Peter Jackson, did the effects for Black Sheep, turning in–besides the gore–were-sheep transformations with heavy American Werewolf in London overtones. And an Innerspace homage (or rip)… whichever, it’s always nice to see something familiar one has to think about for a few minutes to get the reference.

The movie is part zombie, part werewolf, part Jurassic Park. There’s the people’s story, of course, about brothers squabbling about the family sheep farm–with a flaky animal rights activist and genetic experimentation thrown in (one’s to provide the romantic interest, the other covers the rational explanation). Lots of gore–everyone commented on the intestines–unfortunately, King’s just doing it to play for his intestine-seeking audience, not because the movie needs the violence. Actually, without any of the gore, without any of the obvious shots of the blood-thirsty sheep, the movie would have been a lot more effective. And funnier.

The actors are all good, particularly Nathan Meister as the lead. He’s got the biggest arc and handles it well. Glenis Levestam as the housekeeper also has a good time.

It’s kind of decent, but mostly not. One problem is with King as a director. He’s nothing special. He uses the New Zealand landscape beautifully, but it appears to be wonderful for location shooting, so he didn’t really accomplish anything. And he really doesn’t get comedy (he tries, in the script, so hard with Danielle Mason’s hippie, the jokes are old five minutes after she’s with Meister and King keeps them up another forty minutes).



Written and directed by Jonathan King; director of photography, Richard Bluck; edited by Chris Plummer; music by Victoria Kelly; production designer, Kim Sinclair; produced by Philippa Campbell; released by New Zealand Film Commission.

Starring Nathan Meister (Henry Oldfield), Danielle Mason (Experience), Peter Feeney (Angus Oldfield), Tammy Davis (Tucker), Oliver Driver (Grant), Glenis Levestam (Mrs. Mac) and Tandi Wright (Doctor Rush).

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