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It's Only a Movie (Book Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000128209
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 12/4/2010 09:46
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    It's Only a Movie

    10 / 10

    Through his appearances on television and radio and as a critic in The Observer and Sight and Sound, Mark Kermode has established himself as one of the leading film critics in Great Britain for his outspoken and controversial views on films, film criticism and censorship. Always seen in a dark suit and with his trademark quiff, he has become great listening on BBC Radio 5 Live and has fantastic on-air rapport with Simon Mayo. His views on the Pirates of the Caribbean films and assertion that The Exorcist is the greatest film ever made often see him out on a limb but his rants have become the stuff of legend and the way he picks facts out of thin air from his seemingly encyclopaedic knowledge are incredible.

    In this book he journeys back to his childhood in London where his formative years were spent in cinemas and he recounts what films he saw and where he saw them, even down to the seat. Mark Kermode always strikes me as someone who is extremely passionate about film and this book does nothing to persuade me otherwise. As someone who spent his life writing and broadcasting about film, he travels the world going to film festivals, interviewing directors, actors and filmmakers and his passion for film comes to the detriment of almost everything else so he doesn't know, nor care, about sport or almost anything else that doesn't involve film.

    In these pages he recounts how he became a film critic by accident during the halcyon days at Manchester University where he gained his Ph.D. in literature, writing his thesis on horror literature and becoming, as one of his fellow students tagged him, a doctor of horror. From writing about film whilst at university, he went on to write for Time Out where he subbed for another writer and accidentally found himself with a radio spot. From there, the only way was up and he describes travelling with Nigel Floyd across Russia to the Ukraine in search of a director and an international film when it would have been easier to fly straight from the UK to Kiev (geography has never been his strong point) and flying to New York in order to get to Los Angeles.

    As someone who listens to the Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode podcast every week, I expected to enjoy this book so read the prologue thinking of getting a gist the book and then put it away but found myself hooked and had to read the whole thing until the very end. I couldn't stop, it was simple as that. The passion that comes across in his radio broadcasts is there in the prose, and there are many laugh out loud moments and others that you need someone nearby so you can just read out parts of the book as you are going.

    This is a very funny and engaging read that feels much shorter than the word count and page count would have you believe. Chapter titles like I Shot Werner Hertzog seemed slightly far-fetched that makes sense once you get to the end and realise that it makes sense.

    I loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who listens to the podcast, whether faithfully or just from time to time. If you don't even need to know who Mark Kermode is to appreciate the book as he writes with such passion, natural comedy and joie de vivre that you can't help but love the writing and I would challenge anyone not to enjoy the book. It has become something of a running joke that Simon Mayo's only managed to read the bit where he is featured and it is his loss that he hasn't managed to finish the entirety of It's Only a Movie.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    I really liked Pirates 1 & 2, I'm not trying to elevate them to the level of art, but for a fun popcorn movie...
    posted by Robee J Shepherd on 12/4/2010 11:01
    I didn't like the first one at all hated the second to such an extent that I haven't yet brought myself to watch the third instalment.  I just don't care what happens and it will will be a travesty if a fourth gets made.

    Putting Pirates of the Caribbean to one side, the book is a great read and there isn't much about these films in the prose.  Mark Kermode is a great personality can write fluently and with great humour which is why the book is such a wonderful read.
    posted by David Beckett on 12/4/2010 11:15
    I cant wait to read this.
    posted by Curtis Owen on 12/4/2010 17:06
    I thought the first two films were un-necessarily convoluted, despite some fine performances (principally from Depp). I sat next to Kermode on a flight from Southampton to Edinburgh last month. I thought the guy looked like him, only older, more grey, and much much taller. Then he took out a file with a hand written 'Mark Kermode' sticker on the front and started reading press releases (yes-like the one's we reviewers get). He seemed to be reading them all with great care...more than I do I must confess. I felt like I should speak but he seemed too engrossed and the moment just passed. I like his passion about movies and his refusal to follow the party line. We have a complete disinterest in Star Wars in common ...just for starters. I'll get this book next weekend. I had wondered if it would be worth a punt.
    posted by Stuart McLean on 12/4/2010 20:28
    If I was on the flight he probably would have gotten very little work done as I would have loved to talk all things Exorcist and Pirates of the Caribbean with him.

    Did you at least get an autograph?
    posted by David Beckett on 13/4/2010 07:38
    I liked the first one, although in fairness I thought it was pretty much a stand-alone film at that point.  Took me a long time to watch 2 and hated it, and then only forced myself to watch 3 either last Christmas or the Christmas before (can't remember which) when I was asked to buy someone the complete boxset.The thing with 1 was that it was, as RJS says, a fun popcorn movie, but by 2 they had pretentions of something bigger and by 3 it was obvious that they were attempting a piratical LOTR, abd as such it was direr than dire...
    posted by Si Wooldridge on 13/4/2010 18:56
    The Matrix Syndrome... make a perfectly serviceable movie, complete in its own right, entertaining, worth the popcorn calories, but then some suit looks at the receipts and realises that they have a hit on their hands, and studio bosses, a.k.a. accountants demand a franchise. The Matrix was a great movie, but it had a beginning, middle and end, and when it came to creating more, they simply had nowhere to go. Hence the mess of the sequels. Same thing happened with Pirates.
    posted by Jitendar Canth on 13/4/2010 19:09
    Good point, well made.  Only like the first Matrix film as well...
    posted by Si Wooldridge on 13/4/2010 19:22
    Autograph? That would have been embarrassing. He's hardly a hero of mine, though he does a fine job. The only autographs that I have are ones I treasure due to a genuine personal connection (William Burroughs, Gilbert and George, JG Ballard, Gerry Anderson, William Gibson, Michael Moorcock amongst them ... all of whom I admire far more deeply than Kermode who is, after all, just a critic of other people's work).
    posted by Stuart McLean on 13/4/2010 20:23
    He's also a published author!  I understand what you mean though.

    On the Matrix, wasn't it designed as the first in a Trilogy with that story from Joel Silver about the Wachowski Brothers coming into his office and saying 'we want to make a trilogy' at which point he said 'hold on, you've got to make a good first movie!'.  The trilogy does make sense if you look at Neo's interrogation in the first film which you realise, in the second, was being watched by The Architect on his myriad screens.

    I like what they were trying to do and Reloaded had some really interesting concepts but it felt as if they were trying too hard in the sequels and had almost disappeared up their own arses with the amount of philosophy they were trying to cram in.

    If you want my opinion, Bound is their best film!
    posted by David Beckett on 13/4/2010 21:42
    I tend to see the Matrix as a biblical allegory, with Neo as the Messiah, and in that light, the first film is complete with his sacrifice and subsequent resurrection. Also, he's immune to bullets, and can fly by the end of the film. It's why they had to find some sort of Kryptonite for the sequels in the form of "Upgrades!", and the need for him to be in two places at once.

    There were concepts and ideas that were undercooked, and it's why I  think that The Matrix was complete as a movie, and when it came to the sequels, the writers realised that they had written themselves into a cul-de-sac.
    posted by Jitendar Canth on 14/4/2010 12:35
    Just thought i would let you know David if your interested - Mark Kermode is going to be at the Hay on Wye book festival on the 5th June to give a talk about this book -

    posted by Curtis Owen on 9/5/2010 19:33
    I'd like to be there, but it's a bit of a trek and I'm not sure that I'd be able to attend.  I'll have to make do with listening to him on radio!
    posted by David Beckett on 9/5/2010 20:37
    If you have Sky Arts on the telly they do a special broadcast of the event on a daily basis - sure they will feature the interview. I was going to go to but wont be able to make it.
    posted by Curtis Owen on 9/5/2010 23:15
    I didn't know that -- I'll have a look in the TV listings and set it to record the lot so I definitely have Mark Kermode's bit recorded.  Thanks for the heads up!
    posted by David Beckett on 10/5/2010 07:27