Sunday, February 14, 2010
3rd World Olympics
Furtado having a beer in Vancouver.
THEY'RE BA-A-A-A-CK. I had no idea -- no idea! -- there would be so much to say about the Vancouver Olympics. So this post is just getting started. Call it the Opening Ceremonies. Speaking of which, I actually watched a lot of them with Mrs. CP, and after a lot of thought I've determined that the best way to limit my scorn is to fisk one of the more succinct reviews.
Vancouver Olympics Opening Ceremony: Best and Worst
Before we offer our usual playful take on the televised spectacular, we need to acknowledge the serious side of last night’s Olympics Opening Ceremony. It was dedicated to 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger from Georgia who died Friday after a 90 mph crash at the end of his final training run. When his seven teammates entered BC Place, and the crowd stood to applaud their decision to honor him by competing, it was by far the most moving moment of the evening. For many athletes who have no hope of medaling, walking in the Parade of Nations is their podium, which made the absence of Kumaritashvili, who was ranked 44th in the world, all the more poignant. The Olympics are about nations coming together to celebrate the human spirit; watching 82 of them pay tribute to Kumaritashvili’s and his countrymen’s was reaffirming. We'll have a lot more to say about this unfortunate eventuality later. Maybe today, maybe not.
Now, the show must go on…
Ceremony mastermind David Atkins spent somewhere between $30 million and $40 million on the production, roughly a tenth of Beijing’s budget. He wanted it to feel intimate and personal as the story of Canada unfolded before our eyes, starting with a welcome from the Four Host First Nations. He succeeded. Eh? No. He didn't. There was no "story of Canada." There was a story of political correctness, beginning with the pretense that Canada's history is a function of a bunch of IndianAboriginal tribes nobody anywhere has ever heard of. Which was so weird that it almost made us forget the bizarre performance of the Canadian National Piano Bar Background Music Anthem by the girl in the red dress who knew all 42 verses (and five minutes) of a song most of us think of as the drab 38 second beer jingle sung before NHL games. Color us surprised red-faced embarrassed for our northernmost 3rd world neighbor. But we forgot all about her when we saw the endlessprotracted, made up dance rituals of the Tribes of the Colors of Benetton (although some of the feathers were clearly by Armani), who are apparently solely responsible for the cultural nonentity of a nation that has no head of state (a governor-general from Haiti?), no common language, and no national emblem more enduring than a 50-year-old placematflag named after a suburban Detroit hockey team.
Best entrance: Snowboarder Johnny Lyall, who jumped through the Olympic rings after a stunning video-taped mountain run. Wrong. Other candidates? Nellie Furtado, widest-hipped pornstar with the most mediocre vocal cords in the Americas. Those strappy stiletto heels almost but not quite distracted attention from a pelvis so expansive it could have birthed a keg of Molsen without breaking stride. But it didn't, so no Best Entrance Stanley Cup for her. Bryan Adams, stupefyingly weird in his little black suit. Who was he trying to be? The blanding of the pop vampirism fad, Canadian style? The U.S. North American rocker voice of the New World and the aboriginal drums that gave us the Inuit backbeat of Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Young? Too confusing. No prize. The tattooed acidhead version of Michael Flatley whose supporting cast of sloppy Irish step dancers were somehow supposed to suggest, in their kilts and Harley conchos, the merging of French [stet] French (?!) and British cultures in Quebec? Eh? Sorry. Donald Sutherland, who intoned forgettable Canadian poetry that had nothing whatever to do with what was occurring onstage? But "no entrance" can't qualify for Best Entrance, can it? The half-man (face and waist to neck), half-woman (face and hips to thighs) androgyne who twirled in mid-air to the lyrics of the famed Canadian Lesbian has-been Joni Mitchell? No. If he'd been the only androgyne of the evening, maybe. But we're reliably informed k d lang showed up, too, (still in suitable lower case attire) long after Morpheus blessed us with healing sleep... Was it the fat YouTube star who plagiarized a beer commercial into what now passes for a Canadian Pledge of Allegiance -- unless it's really the confession of a nation-wide Inferiority Complex so deep and disturbing that none of its 33 million sufferers realize what a jackass they are to admit preferring "zed" to "zee" and claiming to have invented "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome." Bi-lingually no less (except for the "please," "thank you," and "you're welcome" part, which are definitely not French.) Can't be sure. Can a semi-literate viral fluke make a Best Entrance on a world stage? Don't think so. Who then? Gandalf. When he showed up and stomped his staff on the stage and lit up the whole floor with his light effect. That was the Best Entrance. Now if somebody could just tell us what the hell Gandalf has to do with the history of Canada, we'd be all good with it... eh?
Worst entrance: The fourth leg of the indoor cauldron that failed to rise. Nobody saw it. We were all asleep by then.
Best effect: More than 100 projectors were used to create the ceremony’s “landscape of dreams” theme. The orcas spouting across the ocean after the ice broke up = the night’s first rewind. Honorable mention: The faux precipitation that made Matt Lauer feel like he was sitting in a 60,000-seat snow globe. Noteworthy: The rising bear constellation that deserves its own Coke commercial. OOOOOH. That was the ice breaking up. WE thought it was the continents getting devoured by rising sea levels caused by Global Warming and the greedy planet-killing Americans not euthanizing their citizens with bad government healthcare. And we thought the bear was an endangered-- oh, never mind. We understand now. That's not so bad. We liked the orca effects too. But we've always liked whales. Never thought whale avatars swimming under faux snow would be the highlight of anybody's evening... until we remembered it's Canada we're talking about. Sure. Best Effect. Whatever.
Worst effect: The collective groan heard throughout living rooms in America when we found out we were about to hear spoken word. But slam poet Shane Koyczan’s Canada-defining, stereotype-defying “We are More” was better than expected. You felt the pride, and suddenly wanted to say “zed.” The transcript. Honorable mention: The disappointment at seeing the Mounties not on horseback. It would have sped up their walk with the Canadian flag, but I suppose they couldn’t risk a horse going potty on the floor, which was such an integral part of the show. Shane Kyczan? That was his name? At any rate, there is NO time when we'll ever want to say "zed." Sorry. You can call it "pride" if you want. We call it horseshit caribou merde. As for the Mounties, have to admit we didn't notice the no horses. What we noticed was the politically correct representation of the sexes. Not that female Mounties aren't an interesting idea. But they do beg the question of what sort of mounting is going on. Come to think of it, maybe some horses would have clarified things a bit. Still, does anyone really think that half of all mounties are smallish women with aquiline noses? Hardly the Worst Effect of the evening, regardless.
Best less-is-more performance: Proving the quality of the song was more important than the presence of a singer, Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” was the perfect soundtrack for the prairie tribute, which featured aerialist and Ècole nationale de cirque student Thomas Saulgrain walking, running, then soaring through fields of gold. Honorable mention: k.d. lang, who captivated the arena singing Leonard Cohen’s ”Hallelujah” barefooted, as the audience lit up the stadium. Noteworthy: Donald Sutherland’s voiceover. uh, still waiting for some mention of "best" candidates in this list. That tapping sound you hear is our foot, tapping. As we wait.
Worst less-is-more performance: Nelly Furtado and Bryan Adams, who failed to pop, even on a bare white stage, during their duet of “Bang Your Drum.” (Sarah McLachlan’s necklace saved her.) Honorable mention: The dancers in all white who lined the tunnel for the athletes’ entrance. Aside from the guy who kept doing the Molly Ringwald Breakfast Club move — he was at peak form during Spain and Tajikistan — their enthusiasm had a certain ebb and flow. Covered most of this already. Except for Sarah MacLachlan. Her necklace saved her? Hell. We thought it was a miracle she could sit upright at the piano wearing that series of quartz boulders around her neck. Of course, we've probably made it obvious to sophisticates that we are completely lacking in what Canadians would call "taste." Grace a Dieu.
Best trivia shared by Bob Costas and Matt Lauer during the Parade of Nations: It really is one of our favorite parts of the ceremony. They’re good when they’re sharing vaguely relevant information, like the fact that in 1964, a group of Mongolian cross-country skiers showed up unexpectedly at the Innsbruck Olympics but were allowed to compete anyway, or that Poland’s flag bearer has a museum in his hometown where he charges $2 admission to see his skis and bibs. They’re better when they’re riffing on the fact that Finland hosts the World Sauna Championships. We agree about the Mongolians. Everything else mentioned here seemed belittling and, well, trivial.
Worst trivia shared by Bob Costas and Matt Lauer during the Parade of Nations: New Zealand was largely responsible for the visual effects in Avatar. Reaching! You want "reaching"? How aboot this: That anything Bob COstas and Matt Lauer might choose to observe about anything is worth subjecting us to their self-satisfied voices.
Best outfit: Italy. Sleek and stylish jackets, but the athletes still looked comfortable and sporty. Honorable mention: Bermuda, which opted for Bermuda shorts. uh, the Italians looked like they were tuning up for the return of Mussolini. The Bermuda shorts won in a walk.
Worst outfit: Azerbaijan. Loud, loud pants, which caused Costas to joke that as president of the country’s figure skating federation, their flag bearer was allowed to make whatever sartorial decision he wanted. Honorable mention: The pants on the Czech Republic. Full agreement on the Azerbaijan excrecence. Don't remember the Czech Republic duds. Which suggests: see Italy above.
Best discovery: Split decision: Newfoundland’s punk tap dancing fiddlers or this rum they call Screech? uh, no. We liked it better (a LOT better) when the elf of Celtic Woman did it years ago -- without the poisonous Canadian moonshine.
Worst discovery: Jamaica did not send a bobsled team. Agreed.
Best reaction shot: Honestly, any one of Shaun White, but we’ll go with him and Louie Vito enjoying the aerial snowboarders during the tribute to the Rockies. Please. Just quit it with the Shaun White crap. He needs a haircut. Women who think a man with a Rita Hayworth hairdo is sexy are wrong. Period.
Worst reaction shot: Wayne Gretzky couldn’t hide the worry on his face during the mechanical malfunction. Fortunately, we’ll remember a different image of him: Riding on the bed of a truck through the streets of Vancouver to light the outdoor cauldron with people spontaneously running behind him. It was like a scene from Rocky. Didn't see it. As we said, we were compelled to give up when the Molsen beer commercial took center stage. If Gretsky was worried, he was almost certainly right to be. He's the only Canadian we like.
Your turn! How nice of you. In our humble opinion, the whole thing was a laughable, ludicrous bore, except where it was positively offensive in terms of its oafish political correctness ("aborigines," Lesbians, etc) and even more oafish Canadian resentfulousness of Big Brother U.S.A. We're sorry they have so little to boast of -- no female singers who like sleeping with men, no poets anyone's ever heard of, no history that doesn't require a mile of half-apologetic explanations there's no time for in a $30 million pageant (Dominion Day, the Queen who's too busy with her Corgis to show up, the flag(s), etc), no visible proof, even theatrically, that the French-British schism which will eventually destroy the nation has ever produced a blend capable of creating a distinct cultural identity that transcends beer, hockey, and forgettable TV stars. But there are things we were thankful for. Celine Dion didn't perform. (Vegas commitments? Or Branson?) Helen Reddy didn't either. Or Neil Young or Gordon Lightfoot. Don't ever accuse us of being ungrateful for small favors. Here's the best one of all. The Canadians who make their money down here in the U.S. go back to Canada when they have the opportunity to boast to the world how much better Canada is than we are. This was such an opportunity. Now -- if they would only stay there...
We'll get to the sports part later. And the NBC part. Count on it.