As devotees to the Church of Wittertainment, we figured it was about time to cover a few of Dr. Mark Kermode’s film books. He’s the UK’s leading film critic and runs a weekly BBC radio show on Radio 5 Live which we’ve listened to for going on a decade now! Always incredibly insightful, passionate, and funny, if you want to know about films this show is the place to turn to.
There are also some of his books you can read to enhance your knowledge, impress your friends, and get all snotty about. We’re recommending two here – It’s Only a Movie and the Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex. These two have disparate tones, with the former more about Kermode’s journey into film criticism, and the latter about movie history and how it’s evolved over the last century. What ho, then, let’s take a gander!
It’s Only a Movies: Real Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive
Released in 2010, this one is more of a comical look at Kermode’s career and how he went from a student in 1980s Manchester (when he famously walked out of Blue Velvet at the Cornerhouse) to the UK’s leading film critic. He’s famous for his sense of humour, so it’s an often self-deprecating account of how he made it all slide into place.
It’s a cinematic memoir, with his accounts of the likes of seeing the Exorcist (his favourite film) for the first time, meeting Linda Blair (of the Exorcist fame), being thrown out of the Cannes Film Festival, and interviewing Werner Herzog by the side of a road as the famous director got shot by a pellet gun. Nice.
It’s funny, it’s light reading, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. If you want some breezy entertainment from a gifted critic, then here you go.
The Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex
From 2011, we have this more analytical account of the history of film. This includes stories of the early days of cinema, when projectors were fuelled by petrol and it wasn’t uncommon for a cinema of the era to suddenly burn down in flames. Fun, eh?
Kermode then turns his wrath towards aspects of the modern industry he finds thoroughly unappealing. This includes verbally assaulting 3D cinema (wearing those glasses… it’s okay, we think – worked a treat with Avatar!), why so many blockbusters have become generic filler, and why film criticism remains essential in an era when we’re all critics.
This one is our preferred choice of Kermode books as it’s sharp, witty, and a savage diatribe of the foibles of the, otherwise, wonderful world of film. As film is wonderful, but when you’ve got Transformers, a perpetual stream of superhero films dominating events, and a perpetual series of remakes you do have to wonder why new ideas aren’t being used. Eh?
The Church of Wittertainment
As an addendum here, we always promote the Kermode and Mayo Film Review Show to movie buffs. You can catch it every Friday on BBC Radio 5 Live – it covers the latest film releases (independent and big old blockbusters) and there’s lots of fun chitchat and bickering along the way as well. Become a member. Join the Church. That’s an order.