Or why we oughta give Mark Kermode his anger back*
Bit of a hybrid this one, two thirds podcast to one third book, but then in this delightfully digital day and age who’s to say that isn’t the way we should be going anyway?
I love Mark Kermode. Not in the same way that I love my girlfriend or pandas, but he is one top notch reviewer – a man in an industry that even
he admits is mildly pointless. Cleverly Kermode has always said of critics that they’re only here to give you their own opinion on something, not tell you what your opinion should be, and it’s up to you to decide if you agree with him or not; which I think is a very magnanimous self-description by a critic. I’m sure there are a fair few who would consider themselves the be all and end all of opinion (of course no such pretentious appear here on The Flaneur). But I digress. Mark Kermode vents his critics arm on a weekly show on 5 live with Simon Mayo. They review films, interview actors and film makers, and generally rant about the state of modern cinema – and my word it is compelling listening.
They start with a whizz through the Box Office Top 10. One word reviews that are usually fired by Kermode as Simon Mayo reads out the name of a film and follows it with a listeners review. More often than not I’m definitely on Mark’s side of the equation, and I think on balance they choose a slightly larger percentage of people who agree with him. As nice a guy as I’m sure he is everyone likes an ego boost. The rest of the show is a mix of in depth analysis from Mark Kermode, responses from the listeners, and a couple of interviews based around films being released that week. The podcast i’m listening to right now features Lynn Ramsey, director of ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin‘ being very, very Scottish and very, very intelligent about film – and between them Mayo and Kermode conduct a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable interview. Mark’s reviews are often far more hilarious than criticism needs to be and a lot more direct and to the point than you expect. He’s never nice about something he doesn’t have to be, and I think that it’s the right way to criticise.
The only part of the show I sometimes get stuck with is Simon Mayo. I say ‘part’ but I’m sure he’s really ‘the other half’. They’ve been doing it ten years this show, on Radio 1 and now on 5 Live, and they’ve clearly got a very natural relationship; winding each other up and picking holes in each others grammar. But I am just often left cold, or worse, disjointed but Mayo’s input. There is very much an element of me wanting Mark to be allowed to just get on with it, and Simon to be part of the interviews and leading the section. But hey, I haven’t been a radio broadcaster for 10 years, and my opinion clearly isn’t shared with listeners or BBC bosses, so I shall have to whinge to you about it (something, for the record, I choose to believe Mark Kermode would enjoy a great deal).
The podcast of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review show on 5 Live currently takes up a good chunk of hard drive space on my computer, and I am absolutely happy with this. Differences from the regular show include, of course, no music (I’m all in favour of the PRS getting it’s dues, musicians’ gotta eat y’know) and more often than not an extra couple of reviews and rants on the end. Just like Dave Gorman’s Absolute Radio podcast they’ve given us a reason to download as well as listen live – and it’s important to make up for the inability to be directly involved with the show by giving us something extra. Which it must be said they often do.
Just as an aside Mark’s recent book ‘The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex – What’s Wrong With Modern Movies?’ is a bit of an expansionof the radio format, but for some reason I found it much less entertaining. And, more unfortunately, less engaging. Whereas on the radio show we get pithy, to the point-points about whether a film is good or bad, what should be done with 3D (destroy at all costs, for the record) and a million and one other issues around cinema, in the book things seem a bit laboured. I found myself agreeing with his chapter’s conclusions, but not being particularly knocked sideways by them. They were functionally accurate shall we say. Whilst he still writes very well and talks beautifully of childhood cinema, only a couple of the points he ended up at really set me thinking. I admit that this could the cause of listening to the podcast every week and getting used to being given a dozen or so news opinions, but it just felt like i’d heard it all before.
However the way I had heard it all before was shouted, angry across a studio at Simon Mayo for somehow missing an oxford comma whilst speaking, and telling off a listener for liking Pirates Of The Carribean. That’s how I like my film criticism.
Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews is a weekly show that goes out at 2pm every friday on 5 Live – and is then podcasted forever on the BBCs excellent podcast network – available on everything from iTunes to Zune and even as a direct download from here.
*NB there is absolutely no need to make Mark Kermode any more angry. Whatsoever.