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Book: It’s Only A Movie

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

From talking about films a lot, to talking about someone who talks about films a lot for a living.

In talking about podcasts I listen to, I haven’t mentioned the podcast of Mark Kermode’s film reviews on Simon Mayo’s show. Kermode is a passionate film lover, particularly of the horror genre, but with a lack of awareness of other things in the world, such as sport or television or much in the way of pop culture. However, he makes up for it by dint of the fact that he’s watched just about every film and has an opinion on all of them. I don’t always agree with his opinion, but he is intelligent and articulate and enthusiastic about film, which is something I can agree on.

This isn’t about the film review programme; this is about his ‘memoirs’ – it’s not really an autobiography, it’s a version of his life as ‘inspired by real events’, as written and directed by him. His life is so intertwined with cinema that he finds it hard to distant reality from watching films, and the fact that his memory isn’t so great.

As always with entertainment, I try to find a point of identification. Here, it’s the fact that Kermode (who is only a few years older than me) grew up in the same area of North London as I did – he talks about the same cinemas I went to in my teenage years. His love of film, his religious upbringing, his desire to see every movie – I can relate to him very easily.

He gives an overview of his life – growing up and loving films, going to university and getting into writing about films and the start of his career of film reviewing on radio (something he’s done for a while and is still doing, even though he also does film pieces on The Culture Show on BBC2) – as well as a couple of his famous stories, the main one being his trip to Russia on a set report that wasn’t. But he doesn’t really do much in the way of autobiographical detail, it’s mostly about the films and the voice he uses on radio is pretty much the same voice he uses in the book, which is exactly what I wanted.

I really enjoyed this book – I wanted to hear more stories, more opinions about films, more interaction with the movie world, more stories about working in radio and television. I know that he might be an acquired taste, and I disagree with his view that The Exorcist is the greatest film of all time, but I admire his undiminished lust for film and his energy for sharing it, which comes across in the book.

For more Kermode: Mark Kermode has his own BBC video blog, there is YouTube channel collecting some of his film reviews, there is the site for the weekly podcast, his pieces for The Guardian/The Observer.

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