Part of what inspired me to start this blog was my love of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s wonderfully witty and engaging weekly film programme on BBC Radio 5 Live (also available as a podcast). Kermode shows that there’s more to film criticism than just a critical mind and a knowledge of cinema. His passion and opinionated outbursts are so entertaining they frequently usurp the entertainment value of the latest Michael Bay drivel he’s reviewing. Although, I don’t think Kermode would take that as too much of a compliment.
Mark Kermode embarks on his nationwide tour in support of his new book: The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex. As Kermode points out, it’s impossible to ignore the way the multiplex cinema experience has altered the way we view films. Projectionists have become redundant (see my recent rant after a painfully pathetic viewing of Fright Night), ushers are either useless or absent entirely, and costs are cut at every opportunity despite prices soaring insanely. I remember curiously checking Leicester Square cinemas when HP7b was being released, only to find it cost around £25 to view in 3D! £25 for me to sit in a seat and you to project a film! Do I get a massage with that? And if you want a popcorn (which you shouldn’t because popcorn’s made by the devil) then you might need to sell Granny’s wedding ring too.
This was the first gig on his tour, taking place at the dazzlingly beautiful Ritzy cinema in Brixton, a great place to visit and a place I look forward to returning again. Kermode began his one man show with a noisy reception befitting of any great, quiffed skiffle-star, although rather than emerging from somewhere backstage he instead glamorously emerged from something that resembled more of a storage cupboard. But it was an amusing entrance that set the tone for this fun evening of wit and entertainment. And quite a lot of film chat too.
Rather than any relaxed chat, sitting down with a glass of wine between presenter and critic, Kermode instead takes to the stage on his own, stands up and chats away about what’s wrong with the modern cinema viewing experience and how we can put it right. He’s a natural and reels off anecdote upon anecdote, going off on vague tangents which ramble like a particularly enraged Danny Dyer, but he’s the kind of person I would happily listen to for hours (and sometimes do, with every episode of his film review programme since 2005 stored carefully on my hard drive – WARNING: I might be a fan).
The show is split into two halves, half tales of cinemas and multiplexes and half audience questions. He always feels relaxed with his audience, presenting the illusion of someone who takes himself very seriously (“my job is to tell people why they didn’t really enjoy that film they thought they really enjoyed”), but really he’s very keen to engage and makes some serious points about film while having a bit of a joke.
Perhaps those not familiar with Kermode’s work may feel a little lost by some of the in-jokes, bizarre impressions and audience members making greetings to an absent Jason Isaacs (hello). But for the many of us familiar with Dr K, even rants and anecdotes previously heard (such as the one about THAT screening of the Zac Effron movie) are worth savoring yet again. New anecdotes (including one about Harvey Keitel which is quite frankly UNREPEATABLE) guarantee to shock and make you laugh. Kermode ends the gig (spoiler alert) with a rousing call to arms against the multiplexes, to fight back and not just accept their sub-par service and blockbusting bile we’re forced to digest. Support your local independent cinemas (the few that remain), complain when a film’s not being shown properly and for the love of God – if a film’s rubbish then let it be known. Oh, and don’t indulge in 3D.
It’s a fun show, a show that proves critics can and should be more than just po-faced quasi-intellectuals. I was particularly relieved when Kermode claimed no one can call themselves a film critic if they haven’t wrongly been accused of only liking poncy arthouse films at least once. Maybe I’m doing something right?
Mark Kermode’s book tour continues over the next few months. Tour dates below. His book, ‘The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex’ is out now.
Oh, and why not read Kermode and Mayo’s cinema Code of Conduct – available in the toolbar above. Read it and obey.
The Little, Bath: Monday 12 September, 7.00 0871 902 5735
Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge: Tuesday 20 September, 7.00 0871 902 5720
Harbour Lights, Southampton: Saturday 1 October, 7.00 0871 902 5733
Duke of York’s, Brighton: Monday 17 October, 7.00 0871 902 5728
Exeter Picturehouse: Monday 31 October, 7.00 0871 902 5730
City Screen, York: Monday 7 November, 7.00 0871 902 5726
Cinema City, Norwich: Monday 28 November, 7.00 0871 902 5724
Picturehouse at FACT, Liverpool: Tuesday 29 November, 7.00 0871 902 5737