Hacks Britannica: Reviving an Olympic Tradition of Crapness

OlympicsvoldemortRafil Kroll-Zaidi on the Olympics' opening ceremonies, in Paris Review:

The world’s foremost English-language newspapers seemed unanimous in finding the opening ceremony a triumph of quirkiness, but within the New York Times’ apparently laudatory account of Boyle’s show as a plucky celebration of postimperial, midrecession British eccentricity was this assessment: “[A] sometimes slightly insane portrait of a country that has changed almost beyond measure since the last time it hosted the Games, in the grim postwar summer of 1948.” This tinge of insanity lay on the surface of a broader, pervasive, and telling incoherence that might have been predicted by anyone familiar with Boyle’s directorial career, which comprises the following feature films: Shallow Grave, a nimble though slightly dated thriller; Trainspotting, one of the best films of its decade; A Life Less Ordinary, a kidnap road-romance typical of the shaggy ensemble-cast Hollywood productions into which enfants terrifiques are seduced for their second acts and that Boyle himself has characterized as cut-rate Coen brothers; The Beach, a lemon of a Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle; 28 Days Later, an excellent postapocalyptic zombie movie; Millions, a twee story about children in possession of stolen millions; Sunshine, a suspense-horror spaceship plot that comprehensively rips off two other films that were already ripping off Kubrick and Tarkovsky; Slumdog Millionaire, a lively, mediocre film that (for mass-psychological reasons I will not bore the reader by describing in detail but that had a lot to do with the financial crisis, terrorism, heavily publicized reverse-verisimilitude, and that year’s presidential election) achieved a terrifying popularity; and 127 Hours, the tense true story of a climber who has to amputate his trapped arm with a dull knife.

If you watch these films, you will begin to perceive, loosely uniting most of Boyle’s generically diverse projects, a sort of claustrophilia: characters’ extended constraint in cabins, apartments, spaceships (a.k.a. submarines), taxis, crawlspaces, crevasses—even on the beach, there obtains a sort of cabin fever; there is, too, usually fairly tight editing and a disciplined tracking of narrative lines.