An endearing and entertaining polemic from the BBC’s most curmudgeonly film critic.
Those familiar with BBC TV’s The Culture Show, BBC News’ Screen-time or Radio 5-Live’s Sony award-winning film review show with Simon Mayo, will know Mark Kermode’s chatty, irreverent informal style which regularly veers into full-on rants against the vacuousness of the Hollywood movie machine. Fans will not be disappointed by Kermode’s own reading of his second book, which is a seven-hour rant fest of everything he hates about the industry.
It’s been called “the book of his mid-life crisis” by a film critic of a quarter of a century. In it, he questions the point of his existence when Sex and the City 2 is a box office smash and the multiplex’s are rammed full of trashy block-busters, so that no one has any real choice of what to go see any more. There is the repeated assertion that critics cannot kill a movie (only distributors can).
We get repeats of familiar diatribes against 3-D, bad projection, Sex and the City, Michael Bay (Pearl Harbour and Transformers), Pirates of the Caribbean, Marlon Bando and Kevin Smith. Kermode notes aggressively that the UK is “a dumping ground for Hollywood’s most poisonous refuse.” Cleopatra, Heaven’s Gate and Waterworld get special mention in the analysis of Hollywood economics.
The book and the reading take a while to get into their stride; the opening rant against the expensive fast-food joint that is the modern multiplex (how I hate that word) is a little forced, convoluted and over-cranked. It doesn’t fully express Kermode’s ire, being the equivalent of the pre-title sequence of a Bond movie trying to open proceedings with a bang. Chapter one settle into a slightly rambling set of digressions, meat and potatoes to Kermode fans but probably irritating to everyone else. Then we get the potted history of cinema, projection, 2-D and 3-D and Kermode’s best argued version of why 3-D is rubbish.
It’s not until chapter three that we get a thumbnail sketch of a precocious wee lad who goes home after a trip to the pictures and begins writing copious film reviews in a notebook… and simply never stops. More of the sympathetic personal stuff earlier on would probably have hooked more readers, many of whom will have abandoned this long before.
His career as a critic, developing and refining his critical skills, begins with Dougal and the Blue Cat; a more warped and psychedelic cinematic experience is difficult to imagine. I value Kermode as a critic, even though I don’t always agree with him. I am also a regular listener to the 5-Live show. He rates the Exorcist as the greatest movie of all time. I find it risible tosh. Even so, I hastened to get hold of this book.
Off-beat, self-deprecating, scathing, witty, angry; I appreciated Kermode’s animated reading more than his slightly difficult prose. If you don’t already know what’s wrong with modern movies, you certainly will by the end of this. RC
The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex, what’s wrong with Modern Movies
by Mark Kermode
Audio book, paperback and hardback Random House, 328pp, £11.99
Random House AudioBooks 2011| MP3 128 Kbps | 427 MB