Especially for a book I bought two years ago to find info that wasn't even in it, this was a lot of fun.
The first couple of chapters I liked so muchEspecially for a book I bought two years ago to find info that wasn't even in it, this was a lot of fun.
The first couple of chapters I liked so much I thought I'd be giving it 5 stars. The nostalgia was perfectly pitched - childhood 70s cinema, 80s leftwing student politics and journalism. That was being a "proper student", because of course, being a kid at the time, that's when my idea of how students were was formed. First time I tried to read it all the way through, it was kind of overwhelming and I stopped after a few pages; this time it was just perfect. It was surprisingly wise about a number of things, not only film. And having not spent much time around film geeks for a while, his enthusiasm was almost as exciting as when, a few days after starting university, a boy said to a group of us in halls "Come up, I've got some great music I bet you've never heard of". Not in the arrogant-hipster way that sounds on paper, but with a naive soft-spoken charm, and the enthusiasm of a friend who really wants you to meet their pets. I was one of two who had heard of nearly all of it - and there was that new feeling of having *found people*. Odd to have it echoed by a mere book, and by someone who, in it, doesn't display much overlap with my taste - even if, via other media, he did help form it. It must have just been the right moment.
Subsequent chapters have rather too much brass neck and ego and sheer stupidity (at nearly 30, not to realise that Russia in the early 90s would involve rough and ready conditions and travelling long distances, really?) - to be as charming as the first two, but Kermode evidently knows this, and I am in absolutely no position to criticise self-aware egotists. His opinions can be bulldozingly firm, yet he suspects they may also be rubbish, and at one point he describes his writing style as having evolved from 'NME teaboy' to 'pedantic dullard'. Which strikes a chord. Though I think he's considerably more entertaining than that. There are plenty of little things in here I identify with or which remind me of people I know, which made it a very cosy read.
He is evidently one of those for whom sheer dumb luck had a substantial role in his becoming famous - though he's clearly also got some quality that made people overlook the initial fuck-ups he made in most of his early, brazenly blagged, jobs. Here he's funny and has an enviable knack of making long digressions work. Some GR reviewer has described him as making crap dad-jokes... but then it's already a while ago that I started to think some of Mojo looked genuinely interesting...
Something that's largely off-screen is his marriage to film professor Linda Ruth Williams. They've been together since university and there's a sense of a great and idiosyncratic dynamic which has at times involved them living in different cities for work, whilst remaining a couple; together it seems they've both a lot in common and skill in living amicably with differences of opinion.
Kermode is well-known for his love of gory horror cinema. (Whilst I enjoy campy horror, I hate gore, and if ambushed by it in something I'm watching, like to make a sweary and muscular response, such as "that can fuck right off", so as not to feel like too much of a wuss.) It turns out he's a vegetarian who refuses to watch anything with unsimulated animal cruelty. I've never quite been able to grok the phenomenon of peaceable, sometimes sweet and quiet, people who love horror, but I've met enough of them to know they are real and that horror fan doesn't usually equate with depraved. I have a somewhat similar fascination with less civilised periods of history, ancient natural disasters and the like, and - as well as being an off-grid hippie manquée - among the reasons are something about the tenor and sharpness of life which resonates, which might be similar to the attraction of gory horror for its fans.
For me, Kermode has always been synonymous with the mid-90s Mark Radcliffe show on Radio 1 and I haven't heard a huge amount by him since - mostly written articles. However, to Kermode the Graveyard Shift was a relatively minor point and his greatest professional partnership is with Simon Mayo - it's from those shows and subsequent fame that many more people know him. I got this ebook because I hoped it contained a list of all the films he'd covered in the Cult Film Slot. It didn't, only alluding to a couple, and yet again I regretted throwing away the notebook(s) in which I'd listed most of the Cult Films and Cult Books from the shows I heard. I always thought someone else would have done the same and put the lists online, but if they haven't by now, they probably never will. It's Only a Movie shows Kermode having such a love of geeky uber-detail and recovering lost fragments that he seems like someone who'd be sympathetic to the question, even if he didn't keep the info, but it won't be me who asks, as I have an abiding dislike of the idea of anything resembling fanmail or bothering famous people. (The only fan letter I ever wrote was to Nicky Campbell when I was maybe 13 - his show was in the slot Radcliffe took over. I used lots of show-off vocab, including the phrase "bathos and pathos", because he had some sort of word-power type feature on his show. I haven't been able to watch or listen to Campbell since my late teens; even TV trailers induce intolerable cringing.)
This book can sound a lot like Kermode's radio delivery, but often I was too caught up in the narrative to be conscious of it. I didn't come away with as long a watchlist as I expected, simply enthusiastic reminders to get round to stuff I already wanted to see, especially Slade in Flame and something by Werner Herzog, who here sounds as fascinatingly eccentric as anywhere. Dark Water, the production that led to his ordeal of a trip to Russia and Ukraine, also sounds intriguing. ...more
A great little set of anecdotes and reflections about Yorkshire (plus a Yorkshire Post Readers' daytrip to Iceland) which make me sure I want to readA great little set of anecdotes and reflections about Yorkshire (plus a Yorkshire Post Readers' daytrip to Iceland) which make me sure I want to read the full length book All Points North.
As he is on the radio, Armitage is by turns down-to-earth, witty, and moving.
This is one of the very few books outside the Choose Your Own Adventure series written in the second person. It's a curious device - on one hand it can make the narrative more vivid, but on the other it's odd, as these are the writer's particular personal experiences which can't always be made to sound universal....more