We Need To Talk About Kermode.

ENTERTAIN, Educate, motivate and inspire. These are the main aims of the Belfast Cinemagic festival. All of which were evident at the Queens Film Theatre on November 19. Film critic, author and broadcaster, Mark Kermode returned to the city, for his annual film night event.

Kermode’s passion and love for cinema was visible to everyone, his encyclopaedic knowledge on the subject is amazing. From The Exorcist to Twilight, be assured the good doctor will have seen it, and will be willing to discuss it.

Described by Sunday Times reviewer Jonathan Deane as having: “More opinions than Delia Smith has baking trays.” Kermode lived up to his billing, discussing topics raised by his latest book, The Good The Bad And The Multiplex.

With typical Kermodian charm, he continued his ongoing criticism of 3D in cinema today; arguing the technology has been tried before during the 1980’s and was deemed a failure then. He felt 3D added nothing to the cinematic experience for the viewer; it didn’t immerse them in the story any more than a traditional 2D film would.

His disdain for the rise in multiplex cinema culture was evident. He believed, once cinemas had sold us tickets, popcorn and fizzy drinks we were left on our own in theatres, without an usher for assistance. Going to the cinemas has become increasingly more like watching a film in our own front living rooms, except at home we didn’t have to choose between standard or premier seating.

Kermode claimed when he was younger going to the cinema was a special and magical experience. Nowadays people talk, text and tweet during performances, munching loudly on their confectionary. He praised independent cinemas, like the QFT for being exceptions to the multiplex culture.

When asked about the role of a film critic, Kermode referenced a 2010 YouGov pole; which rated him as the UK’s most trusted film critic, with a staggering 3% of the overall vote.

He rubbished ideas that critics could damage films; famously he referred to Sex And The City 2 as: “consumerist pornography.” He believed his on air rant attracted more people to see the film, curious to see how bad the film was.

He believed film critics didn’t change people’s viewing habits, referencing Michael Bay’s 2001 blockbuster Pearl Harbour. Despite poor reviews the film racked up £450 million worldwide: “Just because people pay for a film, doesn’t mean they enjoyed it.” Claiming he still hadn’t met anyone who actually liked the film.

“Ask people to pay for a film, after they’ve watched it.” He suggested to get a fairer refection on what people really thought of a film. He believed people have become accustomed to mediocre cinematic output from major Hollywood studios.

Kermode then discussed what he felt had been the best and worst films of the year. Neds by Peter Mullan and Lynne Ramsey’s,We Need To Talk About Kevin, were films that stood out. He also mentioned the largely silent French film, The Artist, by French director Michel Hazavicius. Believing it would feature on many critics favourite films of 2011.

“Head banging, soft-core, annoyance” his rather sarcastic review on Michael Bays blockbuster Transformers, Dark Side Of The Moon. Singled out by Kermode as being one of the worst films of the year.

Kermode closed the Q and A session by praising interviewee, local critic, Brian Henry Martin for keeping the questions fresh each year. This was his fifth film night event, now an annual part of Cinemagics festival. He looked forward to the event next year.

Then he introduced his film choice for the night, the 1978 rock bio, The Buddy Holly Story. Claiming the film captured the sense of rock and roll at the time. He praised actor Gary Busey, who captured the ‘elbows and knees’ mannerisms of Holly himself.

After the film, Kermode stayed behind to chat with the audience, sign copies of his book and pose for photographs in true Zoolander fashion. Fans were already guessing which film he would pick for his film night next year, somehow a Michael Bay film seemed highly unlikely.

By James McClean

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