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Notes On A Book: The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex

The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex: What’s Wrong With Modern Movies? By Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode is one of the most passionate and enjoyable professional film critics working today; I listen to the podcasts of his show with Simon Mayo, and I thoroughly enjoyed his first book, so it was high likely that I would buy and enjoy his second book. The first book was an autobiographical tome; this is a manifesto. The prologue is an impassioned plea for the art of the projectionist, something being lost by the proliferation of the multiplex ‘hit a switch then to the next screen’. The first chapter is an anecdote about visiting the modern multiplex and the travails he suffered, such as problems buying a ticket and the difficulty when trying to get them to fix the projection, which leads into a discussion of screen ratios.

The second chapter is his main thesis: why blockbusters should be better (or, why no one enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean 3, with particular reference to Pearl Harbor). Basically, the big films have lots of money and big stars for publicity, which lead to box office returns, but they are not very good; so why can’t they be as good as Inception? If you’ve heard him on the radio, this will be a familiar refrain. The third chapter continues his thesis of money over quality with the current fad for 3D (something he is known to dislike, thinks is a regular fad throughout cinema history, and is just an excuse for the studios to make money in the name of preventing piracy). The fourth chapter is an interesting one: ‘What are film critics for?’ Kermode knows his place but references it to the context of the fact that people ignore them. He also talks about his personal experiences, including the threat from Danny Dyer to beat him up, Kevin Smith’s screed against film critics, film companies taking choice quotes from film reviews for the posters, and his famous rant against Sex And The City 2 (which is a classic Kermodian rant).

The fifth chapter is about film awards (he hates the Golden Globes) and what makes a film British or not, and the connection between the two, particularly the Academy’s obsession with British royalty. The sixth chapter is about American-language remakes of successful foreign films and the lack of desire to watch films with subtitles (and which don’t appear in multiplexes), which leads into discussion of the film industries of other countries, including the UK. The epilogue is a tribute to celluloid, which is being replaced by digital film, and is a fitting end to the book.

There is a lot in the book that is familiar to regular listeners, but it expands on the themes and provides more data to back up his theories. Also, it is funny and thoughtful, something that comes across easily when you can hear his voice in your head when you read the book. I don’t know if his theories are completely watertight – he cherry-picks the data to fit his own argument – but they are completely logical and believable; also, you can’t deny the passion and love for cinema that fuels this screed against what is wrong with modern cinema, and it’s nice to have it collected in print form. A very enjoyable book for fans of Kermode and for fans of cinema.

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