The power of a ranting be-quiffed man

Last month marked my one-year anniversary of becoming a fan of Wittertainment – Radio 5 Live’s flagship film review programme, hosted by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode (or, ‘the good doctors’). I’m eternally grateful to the person who, one evening in September, sent me the link to Kermode’s review of Eat, Pray Love, suspecting that I’d be won over by his grammatical pedantry. Won over I was, and the weekly podcast is now something I savour.

The beauty of Wittertainmet is that it creates its own community, akin to a secret society whose members recognise each other not by a secret handshake, but by sly comments relating to 3D films; the addition of words to film titles (the aforementioned Eat, Pray, Love becomes Eat, Pray, Love, Vomit); the Code of Conduct; or unexplained references to that week’s podcast (I once had a text from one such friend which read – apropos of nothing – “while we were sleeping, someone changed the spelling of dilemma…”). Just last weekend a couple of fellow students were discussing at which age their sons could be introduced to 3D films – one was surprised that another’s 3 year old had coped with the glasses, my question was “how did he cope with the 40% light reduction?” and was greeted with a “ahhh, a Kermode fan” from the other father.

You can listen to Kermodian rants on the radio, via podcast and his video blog – and now there’s a whole book of them. (Well, in fact there are two. The first is his autobiography It’s Only A Movie…) This is possibly the first ever book I’ve pre-ordered – though this was mainly because it was released a week after I moved house and I was buying it as gifts for two of the people who helped me move, two people who happen to be the person who introduced me to Wittertainment and the person who took me to their Christmas special. There was obviously an ulterior motive to bestowing the book upon friends, and helpfully one of them finished it in record time and passed it on to me – where it’s taken me four weeks to finish it (thanks, return to academia) and another week to get around to writing this post.

The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex (hereafter referred to as TGTBATM) doesn’t require a film studies degree or a subscription to the Wittertainment podcast in order to be understood or enjoyed. I can quite honestly say that I have never smiled so much while reading a book before. In fact, it led to a rather embarrassing scenario on a tube where an eligible bachelor (no pets) on my course was sat across from me as I was reading it, and probably wondering why on earth I was choking back giggles and grinning like a maniac. It’s not just me either, it seems to have the same affect upon others – I took it with me on our staff retreat last month and the vicar requisitioned it one evening, sitting on the sofa for over an hour, utterly oblivious to everything around him and chuckling, no, shrieking with laughter at regular intervals. [The good Doctor K also got referenced in a sermon recently – the vicar reckons that should Dr K retire, he could replace him. Personally, I think he’s not quite the ranting type, which is a good thing as ranting vicars can be a bit of a nightmare.]

It’s the rants that make Kermode the excellent reviewer that he is. It’s not their length, their passion and the sheer brilliance of the language used within them, but the fact that (most of the time) they’re based upon well grounded facts. Surely he’s well-justified in ranting (continuously) about the scourge of 3D – there are the ridiculous glasses (that discriminate against those of us with our own glasses), the reduced light, and the fact that retro-fitting isn’t even ‘real’ 3D to name just a few. The book’s introduction is entitled ‘Would the last projectionist please turn off the lights…’ and is a moving account of how projectionists are being done away with across the country (by which I mean fired because cinemas don’t ‘need’ them; not that a projectionist serial killer is on the loose). There’s brilliant detail in the history; moving personal stories; plus a good dose of humour and brilliant language.

Kermode writes as he speaks. In fact, whole chunks of the book will be familiar to Wittertainment fans – I’m sure most of us can recite much of his rants on SATC 2 and Transformers 3 – but it’s not an issue and is in fact a reflection of how well he speaks. Mid-way through their reading of the book, my friend sent me an email simply entitled ‘quote’:
“Opinions are like arseholes: everyone’s got one, and everyone thinks theirs is the only one that doesn’t stink.”


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