The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex

Published: 2011
Author: Mark Kermode


A thought-provoking, amusing Kermodian Rant on the page

I’ve always enjoyed film criticism, even when I’ve not agreed with the critic.  I grew up watching Barry Norman on the BBC’s iconic Film programme and tried to persuade my parents to get satellite TV when he moved to Sky.  I’ve always bought movie magazines and flick straight to the review columns in newspapers.

As you would expect I’m a big fan of Radio Five Live’s resident ranter-in-chief Mark Kermode.  For those of you who don’t know the good doctor, he and Simon Mayo co-present a weekly film review programme on Friday afternoons during which the pair bicker their way through new releases and the week’s box-office top ten.  I normally listen to each episode about five weeks late by podcast and the vitriolic commentary has enlivened many a gym session or long walk.

The programme has had a profound impact on me.  Many of Kermode’s bugbears make sense – I try not to buy popcorn anymore, I always turn my phone right off and I cannot look at the book or film version of Eat, Pray, Love without adding “vomit” in my head.  The phrase “Kermodian Rant” is a prominent feature of my lexicon.

One of the things I most like about Kermode is his passion for a night at the cinema, watching a great film in a pleasant environment – if I could create film reviews that were just one-tenth as brilliant as Mark’s I’d be a very happy girl indeed. Kermode isn’t just a film critic, he’s a film fan.  That’s what makes his reviews so compelling – when a film doesn’t live up to its promise he is as disappointed as the rest of us, if not more so.  Because Kermode cares about his subject I find myself caring about his opinion.

The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex is his second book, but it isn’t a direct follow-up to his memoir ‘It’s Only A Movie’.  This is a 313 page Kermodian Rant about everything he regards as being wrong with modern cinema and the movie-going experience.  Topics covered include the demise of the professional projectionist, Kermode’s disgust at the current trend for 3D and the dominance of Hollywood blockbusters at the expense of homegrown British cinema.

I don’t agree with all of his assertions.  For example, I think he make some good points about the phenomenon of diminished expectations (where audiences accept bad films as they don’t expect anything else) but at the same time I think we sometimes just want a bit of mindless, brain-numbing fun.  Michael Bay comes in for particular criticism – particularly for the Transformers series and Pearl Harbor but there’s no mention of his earlier films; Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon – all great films which are perfect for relaxing Friday nights.  If Bay’s output has deteriorated over the years, is this a sign of film-makers diminishing audience choice or an example of them making the films that audiences want to see?

The book encourages the reader to think about the issues around modern cinema.  It challenges perceptions and it offers one very strong point of view.  Like all review/criticism it’s pure opinion.  It isn’t right and it isn’t wrong – no matter what Kermode might say!

The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex has the appeal of one of the more passionate episodes of Kermode’s radio show.  It’s witty, it’s intelligent, it’s fun, it’s compelling.  Kermode’s voice comes across loud and clear and it’s a fascinating exploration of what’s wrong with modern cinema.

If you are a fan of Kermode’s special brand of wittertainment then this is an absolute must-read.  If you aren’t a fan, read it anyway – you’ll be a fan by the end of it.

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  1. “If you aren’t a fan, read it anyway – you’ll be a fan by the end of it.”
    I certainly turned into one :) I don’t really listen to the radio, and not the BBC when I do (living in Ireland I listen to Irish radio :) ) but I have seen Kermode on occasion, and liked what he has to say.

    As you write it is passion and the fact that he is a film fan as well as a critic that makes this such an enjoyable book. Maybe I’ll have to take a leaf out of your book and subscribe to the podcasts.

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