Last night’s Olympics kicked off with a spectacular mix of pop and pageantry under the artistic direction of Oscar-winning filmmaker Danny Boyle. From an American perspective, the opening ceremony in London seemed comprised of the best partsof an Oscar telecast, a Macy’s parade and a Super Bowl halftime show. In short, it was courtly and dignified but also wild and funny, altogether both odd enough and impressive enough to arouse a lot of talk and Tweets this weekend. To help lead the discussion, we’ve compiled our top ten highlights from the big event.

10. Celebration of Youth

From the children’s choirs around the UK to the dancing and dreaming kids in the NHS homage to the teenage athletes chosen to collectively light the flame, the night was filled with very young faces. Some are perhaps the Olympians of tomorrow, their presence a symbolic gesture of, um, passing the torch to our future.

9. Kenneth Branagh

There was surely no man more appropriate to read from Shakespeare than the director of numerous adaptations of the Bard (though he’s never filmed ‘The Tempest’). But his continued role as seemingly the supervisor of all of England – his portrayal was actually that of famous engineer and railroad pioneer Isambard Brunel – was the real treat if only because he appeared to think he was indeed proudly overseeing the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Are there awards given for best actor in an opening ceremony?

8. A Diorama to Die For

Modern British history unfolded before our eyes thanks to an epic interpretation that included real soil and grass laid out for an idyllicagrarian scene that made way for rising smoke stacks and an ironworks that doubled as a map of London. And plenty of overhead shots sufficiently showcased this magnificent marvel of stagecraft.

7. Tim Berners-Lee

The fact that commentators had to say, “Google him,” is a good enough reason why this man deserved a tribute and the spotlight in front of a billion viewers around the globe. He may be humble, but he really ought to be more famous for inventing the World Wide Web. “This is for everyone,” he typed out in the stadium. Well, let your next few cheers be for him.

6. Arctic Monkeys and Winged Cyclists

Sir Paul McCartney was fine and all, but we’ve heard him do “Hey Jude” a trillion times and it’s not really a song with much significance to the event. Arctic Monkeys, on the other hand, did a terrific cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” a tune that makes a lot of sense for a ceremony that unites the people of the world. Meanwhile the glowing, winged cyclists were enjoyably psychedelic. And maybe the band name inspired this connection, but did they remind anyone else of the flying monkeys of Oz?

5. Literary Nightmare

Move over Harry Potter, Peter Pan, and Caractacus Potts, because Mary Poppins has just defeated your nemeses! Though potentially nightmare-inducing itself, this skit involving great villains of English children’sliterature seemed almost ‘Avengers’-inspired in its assembly of Voldemort, Captain
Hook, the Child Catcher (technically not in the book of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’), the Queen of Hearts and Cruella de Vil for a hospital haunting eventually thwarted by an army of magical nannies. Can someone please adapt this mash-up into a movie?

4. Mr. Bean

You can’t fully represent Britain without showcasing the nation’s funny bone, and Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean character is probably as broad as they’ve got for appealing to the global audience. The double parody of both ‘Chariots of Fire’ and its theme song was surprisingly fresh and funny given the film’s age, though we don’t recommend the London Philharmonic keep Atkinson employed in the orchestra for any more concerts unless they want to become a comedy act.

3. Underworld

The electronic duo, which owes much of its success to Danny Boyle’s ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack, served as musical director for the ceremony, and they compiled a smashing medley of British Invasion, glam, punk, mod, 2Tone, newwave, techno, and what we here just call Britpop, from The Beatles to Blur and PinkFloyd to The Prodigy. And though not their doing, the costumes for dancing David Bowies and bighead pogo punks and dayglo ravers topped it all off. If only NBC didn’t cut to a commercial during the bold inclusion of The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.”

2. The Flame and the Fireworks

Nobody seemed to know exactly what Thomas Heatherwick’s Olympic Cauldron would look like when the seven torchbearers collectively lit the bronze petals of what appeared at first to be a big bonfire. Then the 205 petals, one each for every competing nation, rose up to create one the moststunningly original flame lightings we’ve ever seen, and it really looked amazing from above. The fireworks display that immediately followed was an incredible spectacle as well. We can’t imagine how great it all was in person.

1. Elizabeth II and 007

As silly as it was to think of the Queen actually parachuting out of a helicopter, the short film of Daniel Craig as James Bond and Elizabeth II as herself that preceded the stunt was truly remarkable, if only because Her Majesty is not commonly known to take part in such things. She and her corgis were delightful sports, while the sketch fit perfectly with the night’s trend of mixing British history and fiction for a fantastic celebration of the host country.

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