Wednesday 12 February 2014

Mark Kermode has always been my favourite film critic. I follow his reviews on the radio and have heard him speak in a number of lectures at my university; one was on Disney, the other on The Exorcist and the last was a general chat with a couple of my lecturers. Upon spotting the book in Waterstones, I gushed to my parents about how much I wanted it and was pleasantly surprised when it turned up under the tree on Christmas morning.

This is Kermode's third book (I'm not counting the BFI Modern Classics on The Exorcist and The Shawshank Redemption). His first, It's Only a Movie, was published in 2010 and was swiftly followed by The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex in 2011. I haven't read any of his other works but I've heard good things about them both. Hatchet Job: Love Movies, Hate Critics was published last year and I was compelled to read it due to hearing him speak in lectures. He has a way of speaking that grips you from the start, and no matter what he's talking about it is always interesting.

His third book examines the need for professional film critics in the 21st century alongside the rise of bloggers or amateur critics. Kermode worries that his profession is dying out, especially since the passing of the father of film criticism, Roger Ebert, and being replaced by the contemporary critic - the film buff with access to the Internet.

Kermode begins with listing the best of the negative film criticisms, which makes for a nice introduction to the topic. Most of these made me laugh out loud because they were very witty and spot on with their observations of the films. You might think that a book about film criticism is a little bit redundant but Kermode makes some fascinating points and asks many questions of the reader. Compiled of 9 chapters, including a Prilogue and an Epilogue, Kermode observes the nature of his reviews and its effect on the filmmaker, whether delivering a film review first is really the way forward, how press screenings and embargoes work and finally the use of test screenings to make amendments to films.

Of the questions asked, I think these are some of the most profound:

"Weren't the film companies who laid on the screenings and sandwiches for an elite cadre of film critics soon going to realize that in the age of social media there was no need to waste any more time and money on such arcane niceties? Moreover, at a time when home viewing sales were merrily outstripping cinema attendance figures, weren't reviews of the DVDs and Blu-rays for which Amazon had now become the prime supplier more important than those of the theatrically released movies, the cinema life of which was ultimately ephemeral, an overture to the main act of viewing in one's front room?"

That's a mouthful but I hope you get the gist of it. In a nutshell, screenings are held and sandwiches are eaten for the film critic to watch the film and write up their review. However, are the reviews pointless in an age where Amazon is full of reviews for DVDs/Blu-rays? Why do we seemingly trust the opinion of the common man/woman just as much as the professional? Kermode's questions raises more questions for me but I'd recommend reading his book for a greater understanding of the issue. 

Film criticism has to develop with the times and engage with the online community. Kermode is one critic who has adopted the Internet via his podcasts and YouTube videos so he's safe from the emerging culture of the amateur. 

As a blogger, I was intrigued by the idea of the dying breed of the critic. It left me wondering about the future of publications in print and how the amateur's work is more easily accessible from the readers' living room. 

Have you read this book or any of Kermode's other books? Let me know in the comments!

love, Cally


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