If I had known that a new obsession would surface this year, I am not sure that I would have made reading ten non-fiction titles a goal. I’m up to five now, and three of them have been written by Mark Kermode. And I still have one of his books to read. I have no problem with having little obsessions, but when they are on display for all to see, it gets a bit embarrassing.
Anyway, so I recently finished The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. There’s no denying that Mark Kermode is a good writer, and he clearly knows his stuff. He’s well versed in the history of cinema, and he’s also knowledgeable about the technical side of things. This is one of the things that I love about him as a critic, I don’t always agree with what he has to say (though I feel the brainwashing is almost complete), but I respect his opinions because I know they come from a place of intelligence and awareness. And that’s not always true of people who review films.
Kermode’s key argument of the book seems to be that blockbuster films are going to make money no matter what; if they have a big name attached, and they spend enough money, people are going to go and see them, that’s a given. You just have to look at films such as Cleopatra, Pearl Harbor and Waterworld (yep, apparently Waterworld finally broke even) to be convinced. The reason John Carter failed was because Taylor Kitsch isn’t a big household name (I’m assuming this would be Kermode’s argument – this book was written before the ill-fated Andrew Stanton film came out), not because it was rubbish. Anyway, so given that blockbusters are going to make money regardless of how good they are, why not make them good? Inception proves that a big summer blockbuster can be intelligent and fun, and make money. Do you see how brainwashed I am?
There are also a good chapter on why Kermode thinks that a film critic’s views on a film will never affect a its performance at the box office – Sex and the City 2 is a good example here. It’s quite the declaration to make, given that he makes his living telling people why he thinks a film is good or bad, believing that it doesn’t matter, because they’ll see it regardless of what he says.
If you know anything about Mark Kermode, you’ll know that he doesn’t like 3D, and he doesn’t believe that it’s the future of cinema (are people still saying that it is?). I’m no fan of the 3D movie either, and that was a view I held independently, before the brainwashing began. But the chapter on stereoscopy in The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex seemed a bit dry to me, and nothing I hadn’t heard before. Maybe being a fan of the author is a problem in this respect; if you’ve listened to him at length, you’ve heard his arguments and anecdotes before.
But all in all, I liked this book. I’m always impressed with the depth of his knowledge, and listening to him so regularly on the radio means that I feel as though I can hear him talking when I read his books. He does tend to go off on tangents quite regularly; sometimes he’ll start on one subject, and a page or two will pass before he returns to it, having managed to invoke three other subjects in the meantime. But I’m generally a fan of his writing, and I’m looking forward to reading his most recent book, Hatchet Job. I’ve just reserved it at the library!
Five down, five to go on number two of 32 Before 32 – read ten non-fiction books.