Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: It's Only a Movie by Mark Kermode

It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive by Mark Kermode

One of our Anglophile obsessions is listening to the podcast version of the Friday afternoon movie review show on 5Live featuring Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo (or is it Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode?). Mr. Kermode is a highly opinionated film reviewer who has had a long and interesting career in the movie reviewing and film analyzing business.

His first book, It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive, came out in 2010 and chronicles his life growing up as a movie fan. He goes off to college in Manchester where he gets involved in hard-left political movements and film journalism. He's mellowed out slightly on the politics and not at all on his movie opinions. The book then relates several different stories of his travels for interviews with famous film makers. Most interesting is a visit to the former Soviet Union filled with the sort of hilarious disillusionment that's only funny long after the fact (the car ride from Odessa to a film location is a particularly memorable anecdote). And of course his (in)famous interview with Werner Herzog in the California Hills, when Herzog was shot in his abdomen by an "insignificant bullet."

The book also includes many asides about many different movies. Fans of the radio show will find his collected thoughts of the awful goodness of Mamma Mia! here as well as reflections on various other movies. The tone of the book is conversational, with Kermode describing his life as if it were being made into a "movie of the week" with Jason Isaacs playing himself. Many pop culture references are made. Some were unfamiliar to me, though they might be more appreciated by someone who grew up in England in the 80s rather than came to appreciate it more from afar in the 2000s.

It's a fun, quick read that fills in some gaps about Kermode's history for fans and provides a diverting character sketch with anecdotes for the reader unfamiliar with Kermode's many achievements.

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