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Mark Kermode Interview: On The Opinions He Will Not Listen To, And The Most Abuse He EVER Got... For Liking 'Twilight'

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Film critic Mark Kermode has made it clear that there are certain people whose opinions he values, and a whole many more whose opinions for which he cares not a fig.

"Anonymous online criticism is not worth the paper it’s not written on," he declares, having been the self-professed victim of as much online abuse as praise in the past.

"I just discount out of hand anything that is anonymous. If you’re not willing to put your name to something, I don’t care what you think. And if you only started watching movies five years ago, fine, I don’t care as much as I care about somebody who’s made it his life’s work to watch and assess.

"Opinions are only worth what the person who expresses them has to lose. The less that person has to lose, the less I’m interested in what they have to say."

twilight
Mark Kermode loved 'Twilight' - "and I don't care who knows it"

The reason we are discussing whose opinion is worth what is the release of Kermode’s most recent book, 'Hatchet Job', out now, which explores and ultimately defends the role of professional film critic in an online age where everyone’s voice can be heard.

“With the internet, suddenly there was an explosion and everybody had a voice," he says. "The problem with so much noise in the room is, who are you going to listen to? Before you had a little cadre of people, a cloistered bunch of critics, and suddenly everybody’s opinion is equal. But, what happens is, very soon the old editing rules of selection starts to apply.

"When I started writing the book, the landscape was changing fast and radically, the idea was that everyone’s a critic – so why do we need you?

But I wrote it over a year and a half, and the same rules that had applied to print journalism now applied to the best of online journalism. The rules are kind of the same. You need to be informative, you need to have a breadth of knowledge about your subject, you need to be entertaining, you have to get stuff factually right, whether it's a remake, what its connections are to other films, etc. but opinions are opinions.

"There is no such thing as a right opinion. I know people who will defend ‘Showgirls’. It’s crazy but I’ve read decent defences of it. I’ve read people who will cleverly and passionately defend 3D. I think they’re wrong, but they think I’m wrong. That’s fine.

"But if somebody was writing a column about cars, and they said, "I don’t know anything about cars, but it’s red," you’d dismiss it. And yet there was this weird idea in journalism for a while that film criticism was somehow being conducted by snobs. And that wasn’t the case, and anyway, why would you want an uninformed opinion?

"Find me another area in which that’s the case, in which knowing what you’re talking about is somehow seen as snobby."

mamma mia
'Mamma Mia!' is another favourite - "I cried... twice"

Kermode's been abused from both ends, it appears - for this apparent snobbery, but also for expressing almost teen-like admiration for the likes of High School Musical', 'Mamma Mia!' and 'Twilight'...

"The most trouble I’ve ever got into was standing up for 'Twilight'," he remembers gleefully. "I loved 'Twilight' and I don’t care who knows it. But I got more abuse for that than for anything.

"Cynicism is easier, and when done well, really funny. It’s harder to say why you like something than why you don’t. And it opens you up to accusations of foolishness. There’s a reason people in the playground don’t run around saying who they like, you get your head bashed in."

The other accusation that could come from such success in this competitive field (with Kermode listing the late Ken Russell and William Friedkin among his friends, and recently taking over from Philip French at The Observer, as well as his popular radio film show on BBC Five Live), is that a certain 'embeddedness' could interfere with the role of objective film critic. It is a point he admits, but not one to which he says he is vulnerable...

"In an ideal world, film critics wouldn’t have friends who are film makers and, actually, wouldn’t have friends," he explains. "And I know enough film critics who haven’t got friends. Undoubtedly, if you start moving in those circles, it has an effect on you.

"For me, I don’t go to red carpet affairs. I don’t go to film parties. Or parties. I don’t like film people. I don’t like people very much. In an ideal world, I would live a completely hermetically sealed existence away from those people. I have no desire to make a film, nor could I. Film making and film criticism are two distinctly different things. The worst film I’ve ever seen, I couldn’t have made one any better. I couldn’t write, direct, act or light it. My job is to watch films."

Do you agree with Mark Kermode? Share your thoughts below, just not anonymously, obviously, otherwise he won't care...

And it seems to be one for which he has no less passion, 25 years in. During a time of cinematic evolution in distribution, funding and tastes, some things, he is adamant, stay the same...

"It’s about doing the job properly. The profession of film criticism in which it is a trade and a living is in flux, and it will continue to be in flux until things settle down. But I believe they will settle down, because the internet is a huge and voracious beast, with more and more demand for content, but also more and more demand for good content.

"The people who are surfing the web aren’t any less discerning than the people reading newspapers, they are the same people. Plus, anybody writing for newspapers these days is also a blogger. We’re all writing graffiti, with punctuation."

Mark Kermode's 'Hatchet Job' is out now. Click here for more information, and here's a trailer for his "all-time favourite film, the top three are in constant flux, but my favourite, I'm 50, so that's not going to change."

Around the Web

BBC - Blogs - Kermode Uncut

BBC Radio 5 live - Kermode and Mayo's Film Review

Mark Kermode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mark Kermode | The Guardian

Mark Kermode (KermodeMovie) on Twitter

Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode – review