Thursday, 30 August 2012

Paralympics: Whirling dervish

The London Paralympics kicked off last night with a dazzling ceremony that was heavily populated by disabled artists, athletes and performers. Opening with with Stephen Hawking, the tone was set for an exploration of art and science, with heavy overtones about human rights and inclusion in society. Much of it felt a bit dull - the music leaned to the classical side with the notable exception of Ian Dury's potent anthem Spasticus Autisticus, which kicked the event into a much more emotional gear. It was also notable that Ian McKellen performed scenes from The Tempest, providing a link to both Olympic ceremonies. And the closing performance of I Am What I Am by Beverley Knight was perfect.

Today I attended two events - sports I've never seen before. Well, I had seen wheelchair basketball immortalised in the terrific documentary Murderball, but I'd never seen it in person, and it's pretty intense! Then I watched two goalball matches, in which all contestants are blindfolded to equalise their sight advantage, then they throw a heavy ball with a bell inside it at each other trying to score. Amazingly, the scores are pretty low as the guys throw themselves in front of the ball. And it's made even more riveting by the fact that the audience has to be completely silent while the ball is in play.

CRITICAL WEEK: A wide variety of films screened to London critics this past week, and no two were in the same genre. Most appropriate to the Paralympics was Untouchable [aka Intouchables], a French drama starring the superb Francois Cluzet as a paraplegic who hires a rough urban type (the equally engaging Omar Sy) as his carer. The biggest film was the futuristic action remake of Dredd, which pretty effectively abolishes all memory of the Sly Stallone version.

For a comedy, we had Bachelorette, a silly comedy that plays like a cross between Bridesmaids and Sex and the City (I kind of liked it!). The indie drama was The Myth of the American Sleepover, a mumbly, mopey coming-of-age film that has moments of bracing honesty. For fans of wacky arthouse genius Guy Maddin, we had his new drama-comedy-thriller Keyhole, a typically nutty mix of arty references, surreal images and offbeat casting (Jason Patric and Isabella Rossellini lead the cast). And finally we had a doc, Room 237, in which a group of movie nerds geel out over Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, finding all kinds of clues hidden in each frame. It's a lot of fun.

This coming week, in between the Games, I'll see Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly, Thure Lindhardt in Keep the Lights On, Emma Watson in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the low-budget sci-fi thriller Love, and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. We also have the launch events for the programmes for Raindance and the London Film Festival, both of which take place in October.

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