Friday, August 17, 2012

THE U.K.’S OLYMPICS STILL AN UGLY SPECTACLE


Well, first I want to address some of the mail I’ve been getting in my private email regarding my outright criticism of Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremonies fiasco. 

It seems that some of you have had very strong feelings about anyone who would take the opportunity to point out that what occurred at both the opening and closing ceremonies was not a celebration of British culture per say, but nothing short of a debasement of British heritage in general, reconstituted as apologetic and apocalyptic tripe and a dismantling of British nationalism in particular. I stand by these opinions. The show was terrible!

The Olympics are not an excuse to cramp as much major – or even minor – homegrown talent into one gargantuan street concert that basically takes the postmodern ironic (or rather moronic) approach to poking fun at everything. They are an opportunity to celebrate the very best that a society has to offer in support of the Olympic spirit in general and the current games in particular. 

Mr. Boyle’s Olympic ceremonies were loud, obnoxious and frankly, disappointing. Occasionally, they veered dangerous close into Tim Burton-land – especially during the extended London Children’s Hospital ménage that would have given any tiny tot nightmares. There, I said it. Go ahead and criticize me for it. Frankly, I don’t give a damn.

Nor will I address any of the overtly rude sentiments in particular that were lobbed at me for simply offering a critique of the way I thought the events unfolded. You’re all more than welcome to freak out on this blog about what you believed to be my ‘jealousy’ over a ‘rum good show’; although I suspect only with a quart of good rum might I have remotely enjoyed the ceremonies as they occurred myself!

Be that as it may, I intend to address one young lady who wrote me from Brisbane and said “Who do you think you are? I can tell you who you are – nobody! And a nobody should keep his mouth shut when talking about a world class talent like Mr. Danny Boyle. Do you honestly think you could have done better?”

Apparently this woman was not only angry with me but also a censorship Nazi.  My opinion differs from hers so I have no business sharing it with anyone else as far as she is concerned. Well, to answer your question, madam – yes, I do think I could have done better.

But to put my money where my mouth is I see I shall have to prove it by basically re-orchestrating the whole opening ceremony from the ground up. So what follows is the British Olympic opening ceremony according to yours truly. This is exactly how I would have staged a fitting tribute to the British Isles and to the traditions of the Olympic Games; remaining faithfully respectful to British history and culture and the history of the games themselves. 

You may have other thoughts on the matter. But telling me to go to hell or drop dead does not count. Belligerence is inexcusable. I don’t intend to start tolerating it now!

So, my opening Olympic ceremony would have begun with a ‘Parade of Monarchs’ accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic, St. Paul’s choir and the London Philharmonic Choir appearing center stage on a slowly rotating platform, so that at one point or another they would all be facing virtually everyone in the crowd, thus giving the audience ample opportunity for optimal photo ops throughout their performance. 

The musical program would have kicked off with some 16th and 17th century ballads such as Martin Parker’s ‘When the King Enjoys His Own Again, Men of Harloch, R.L. Harrison’s ‘King Arthur’, ‘The Brisk Young Lively Lad’ and ‘Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor’.  

Virtually every one of England’s once reigning kings or queens would have entered Olympic stadium in their coronation gown or robe, appropriately accompanied by a vista of their courtiers, knights and royal guards to the pomp and circumstance of Rule Britannia until they had formed a massive circle around the outer parameter of the stadium floor.

This circle would continue to march proudly around the stadium while the rotating platform containing the orchestra and choirs slowly moved to one corner of the stadium as they continued to play. A gigantic crown would rise from the center of the stadium floor, its full height towering over the crowd and gleaning in a lightshow of rubies, emeralds and diamonds. 

Eventually, the rim of the crown would part to reveal Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in a horse drawn carriage, flanked by the Buckingham Palace Royal Guard on either side as the orchestra and choirs broke into a patriotic rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’ – at which point the other pretend 'monarchs' would all halt their procession and stand vigilant to honor the present sovereign liege.

As Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip made their way to their box in the stadium an army of jousters on horseback would charge center court. We would be treated to a ‘Camelot’ styled spectacle of dueling, conquering, brawling and championing, signifying the struggle and victory of battle and sportsmanship in the era of knights and their ladies fair.

Suddenly we would hear and air raid siren and the explosion of bombs in the distance signifying the darker moments of world war. But from this deluge we would also hear the strains of ‘Amazing Grace’ and then ‘Jerusalem’. 

The British Armed Forces would enter in a display of military might, sporting an ensemble of various uniforms worn over the decades by their personnel from the beginning of the Armed Forces creation to its present regulation uniforms worn by those who currently serve. Each group would carry a portion of a massive banner into Olympic stadium that gradually formed the words “for Queen and country”.

This show of military might would yield to members from the various London Theater Guilds all dressed in various costumes from Shakespeare’s most celebrated stage works. Renown thespians like Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh, Rufus Sewell, Nicholas Farrell and so on would recite various famous and inspirational sonnets and speeches, the center stage made up of a sort of pointillist overhead shot of the bard’s famous bust, creating a stipple effect in rising spires.

From here, other actors impersonating their favorite authors would transfer their recitations to increasingly more contemporary British authorship that has impacted the world. Quotes from the likes of Charles Dickens, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll, J.M Barrie, Robert Lewis Stevenson, Noel Coward, Agatha Christie, A.A. Milne, P.L. Travers and their like would be accompanied by incarnations of their literary creations. 

For example, we would see characters from Great Expectations, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities and so on, surround the person receipting Dickens.  A.A. Milne would have been accompanied by Winnie the Pooh and other adorable members from the Hundred Acre Woods. P.L. Travers would have been surrounded by fresh faced Mary Poppins and sullied chimney sweeps; Robert Lewis Stevenson by the cast of Treasure Island; Lewis Carroll by a cortege from Alice in Wonderland – you get the picture. Enough said. I would have extolled the victors rather than the villains of British lit; the literary creations that warmed our hearts and inspired our souls.

This mélange would yield to a tribute to Britain’s immeasurable contributions to the silver screen. A cavalcade of makeshift movie screens would be driven into the stadium for form a giant circle in the forecourt onto which projected likenesses of gone but not forgotten actors would appear.

We would see Rex Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, David Niven, John Mills, Noel Coward, Jack Hawkins, Michael Redgrave, Claude Rains, Roddy McDowell, Richard Burton, Lawrence Olivier, John Gielgud, Richard Harris, Peter Ustinov, Alec Guinness, Ralph Richardson, Vivien Leigh, James Mason, Charlie Chaplin, Alan Bates and so on at their finest hours.

From an invisible porthole in the middle of Olympic park, with a projecting image of a rotating movie reel cast onto the floor, there would rise a veritable who’s who of current living British talent on parade, including Julie Andrews, Maggie Smith, Peter O’Toole, Angela Lansbury, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Michael Gambon, Sean Bean, John Cleese, Hugh Laurie, Michael Caine, Colin Firth, Ian Holm, Ben Kingsley, Jim Broadbent, Ralph Fiennes, Kate Winslet, Bob Hoskins, Alan Rickman, John Hurt, Christopher Lee, Joan Plowright, Julie Christie, Anthony Hopkins, Albert Finney, Daniel Day-Lewis and so on. You would have felt the full weight and presence of all that glorious talent Britain has given the world of film throughout the 20th century.

Next the orchestra would strike up John Barry’s immortal James Bond theme. An army of men and women, dressed entirely from head to foot in blue, red or white would rush in from all corners of the stadium to form a living emblem of the Union Jack. A cavalcade of cars made famous from the James Bond franchise (Goldfinger’s Aston Martin, The Spy Who Loved Me’s submersible Lotus Esprit and so on) would drive around the stadium and another small army of women evoking the various Bond girls would come in.

The Union Jack performers would part down the middle as six of the most easily identifiable cars in the Bond film franchise drove into center court and all of the actors who had ever played Britain’s most amiable super spy – Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig – emerged, one from each vehicle, to stand side by side in their dapper tuxedoes and utter the famous line, “My name is Bond. James Bond.”

The evening would conclude with Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire; the stadium plunged into blackness as the Philharmonic begins to play. 2100 men and women dressed in black from the waist up to conceal them, and only from the waist down dressed in glow in the dark white tights would race around Olympic stadium in ever constricting circles until they had formed the Olympic rings with their racing feet. 

This Busby-Berkeley-esque pattern would break with the men and women forming one gigantic circle within many circles, still running, in intermitted clockwise and counterclockwise patterns as the floor beneath them slowly rose in staggered increments to build a massive circular pyramid of racing feet rising upward to the sky.

At one point theses circles of runners would begin to run in place, the side of the pyramid yielding to a massive stairway. The final runner in the Olympic torch bearer journey would race into Olympic stadium in full spotlight, up the staircase to the top of the pyramid and thrust his or her flame into its apex, thus revealing the Olympic torch that would burst into flames shooting high into the night sky, with a fanfare of fireworks exploding high overhead as the orchestra concluded its performance.
   
And that’s how I would have paid homage to Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games. It may not be your cup of tea, but frankly it would have been mine and enjoyed with a warm cup firmly in hand, pinkies up, biscuit nearby, and with a smile, a tear and a sentiment for all things great and small – the subtleties as well as the spectacles of life kept in checks and balances without an overflow of gush, slush and goo that Mr. Boyle’s contributions had in spades! 

You might have different plans and/or ideas about all of this and that’s just fine and dandy. But urinating on mine isn’t very productive. So, who’s jealous now?

@Nick Zegarac 2012 (all rights reserved).