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For decades, the backbone of film criticism has been the hatchet job -- the entertaining trashing of a film by professional reviewers, seen by many as cynical snobs. But with the arrival of the internet, have the critics finally fallen under the axe? With movie posters now just as likely to be adorned by Twitter quotes as fusty reviewer recommendations, has the rise of entFor decades, the backbone of film criticism has been the hatchet job -- the entertaining trashing of a film by professional reviewers, seen by many as cynical snobs. But with the arrival of the internet, have the critics finally fallen under the axe? With movie posters now just as likely to be adorned by Twitter quotes as fusty reviewer recommendations, has the rise of enthusiastic amateurism sounded the death knell of a profession? Are the democratic opportunities of the internet any more reliable than the old gripes and prejudices of the establishment? Can editing really be done by robots? And what kind of films would we have if we listened to what the audience thinks it wants? Starting with the celebrated TV fight between film-maker Ken Russell and critic Alexander Walker (the former hit the latter with a rolled-up copy of his Evening Standard review on live television) and ending with his own admission to Steven Spielberg of a major error of judgement, Mark Kermode takes us on a journey across the modern cinematic landscape. Like its predecessor, The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex, Hatchet Job blends historical analysis with trenchant opinion, bitter personal prejudices, autobiographical diversions and anecdotes, and laugh-out-loud acerbic humour. It's the perfect book for anyone who's ever expressed an opinion about a movie....

Title : Hatchet Job: Love Movies, Hate Critics
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781447230519
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Hatchet Job: Love Movies, Hate Critics Reviews

  • Paul Bryant
    2018-12-08 21:29

    In a continually annoying, longwinded, blokey-jokey, sickeningly ingratiating manner Mark Kermode makes a few interesting observations. These have to be quarried out of the endless self-congratulatory froth that is your standard Kermode paragraph. I was interested in the following.CRITICS : WHY DO THEY EXIST? Answer : because you know that their opinions and comments have not been invented by a studio publicity team, unlike the random Amazon or IMDB or Twitter one-liner you may have seen. MK knows, as do we all, that online “amateur” reviews can be gamed. So critics are honest. Well, yes, but does that make them useful? All the film critics in the world were raving about I, Daniel Blake, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and A Pigeon Sat on a Branch, to mention three recent films, and each one was a turkey in my little opinion. And then again, if it wasn’t for critics I would not have seen Beyond the Hills (a 2 hour drama about a Romanian nunnery), Love and Friendship (a costume drama from a Jane Austen short story, yawn), James White (an indie about a guy whose mother is dying) or Rams (a drama about two elderly sheep farmers in Iceland) – all of which were brilliant.You can’t win with critics – Mark Kermode thinks Inarritu’s great movie Babel to be complete rubbish – he’s so wrong! – but he also thinks The Exorcist is one of the all time great movies – he’s so right!(Note the festoons of quotes from apparently intelligent people persuading you to see this load of old codswallop.)DO CRITICS HAVE A FUTURE? Or have the amateur loonies (that’s us) taken over the asylum? Well, did critics ever have a future? Did fans consult Roger Ebert or Philip French before heading for the cinema? Reviews and metacritical scores mostly work on me by putting me off things - if the tomatometer reads 35% I no longer want to see your movie. But it doesn’t work the other way round - Mad Max: Fury Road, It Follows and Finding Dory all get 95%-plus at Rotten Tomatoes and they were unwatchable, tiresome and dull respectively. In my opinion. Perhaps you can find either a critic or blogger or (even) Goodreader whose taste is somewhere near your own and stick with that voice. But basically you can’t trust anyone – even though you still need to be able to make some kind of reasonable guess about which film or book is worth devoting your time and money out of the ten billion on offer in our everything-permanently-available culture. CAN YOU TRUST YOURSELF? MK discusses the dark filthy secret of preview audiences in the movie business. This is where an audience of allegedly normal people are shown a movie before it’s been finally edited. They are then asked what they thought. In the famous example of Fatal Attraction, the original version has Alex Forrest (the Glen Close character) committing suicide. The preview audience hated that, they wanted Michael Douglas to “kill the bitch” as the phrase was. And the problem is – they were right. Their crass knee-jerk lust for revenge made Adrian Lyne the director reshoot the entire end and come up with the fantastic blood-bath we get in the movie we know and love or hate. Well, you know, it’s a great piece of trash, it ain’t Citizen Kane, so who cares about artistic integrity.But what if there were preview audiences when Shakespeare was around and after they saw the first version of Hamlet they complained that it was too depressing and they really wanted Hamlet and Ophelia to get together in the end, and what if Willie the Shake had thought oh well, these plays of mine, who really cares, I only write to them to pay the bills, I’ll do a rewrite, it’s not like Hamlet is Citizen Kane.That said, I think all movies which have had reshoots done after previews should be flagged as such, like you have to identify artificial flavourings and colours in food products.

  • Clara
    2018-11-30 20:25

    Let me state first off that I am a big fan of Mark Kermode, and that this two-star rating might be a little mean. But as The Good Doctor himself taught me, diminished expectations count for a lot, and when you know that something has the potential to be so much better (I devoured "The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex" with glee), the disappointment is that much greater."Hatchet Job" meanders in no discernible order through the world of film criticism and puts the case forward for the sanctity of good old-fashioned film journalism in an area increasingly dominated by the blogosphere. Kermode talks about his life as a critic, making the most of free sandwiches, the arrival of the fax machine, then the internet, and a bit about his dog (in fact, too much about his dog). By far the thing which he does most, however, is go off on pages-long mildly amusing asides about particular films or various anecdotes from his time in the business.The book is by no means a disaster. It provides enough entertainment to keep you going to the end pretty painlessly. It's just that the urgency of the central argument is somewhat watery, and after 300 pages or so, I couldn't help feeling that the topic of film criticism was just a loose vehicle for writing a book about 'funny film stuff' and a chance to throw about as much Kermodian wit as possible.

  • Holly Cruise
    2018-12-04 01:42

    I've already read both of Mark Kermode's previous books on cinema and the contents thereof, so I am definitely the target audience for this book. Sure enough, I enjoyed it, although I suspect it was more of an appendix to the previous books rather than a great standalone in itself.I like Kermode's writing/ranting style - being a listener to the Five Live film podcast and all - and this definitely supplies plenty of that. There are also some interesting insights into the, admittedly somewhat niche, world of the film critic. It doesn't have the firm narrative structure or thesis of his previous books, but there are entertaining anecdotes to be found and it never lost my interest.Lightweight but enjoyable.

  • Anthony
    2018-12-07 19:27

    Kermode is back again, and this time he's defending his profession and job. Hatchet Job is Mark Kermode writing about film criticism in an age when everyone can create a blog and express their opinions to the world on the internet. Also exploring the questions of why people should even bother listening to critics, and why movie studios pulling tweets for movie posters is less reliable than someone who has been paid for their review and had their work run past an editor. Often citing Roger Ebert as the benchmark for criticism, he goes into past instances when critics have got it very wrong about movies and very right, only for the film to tank at the box office.But rather than be against the rise of online reviews and blogging, he actually defends and says when it's done well they're as valued to the world of critiquing and cinema as some who's a 'professional'. He's trying to embrace the future rather than fight it.It's very well written and, in some points, even funny. As someone who listens to him weekly on his film review podcast, I notice that sometimes his books can often be made up of stuff he's just repeating that he read on the radio, but there wasn't much of that hear (the only example I can think of his the A.I Artificial Intelligence anecdote).He may come across as an old grumply man ranting about how 3D is ruining cinema and that Michael Bay is the devil, but for the time being, at least, he's still worth listening too.

  • Patrick
    2018-11-11 19:30

    I can't quite put my finger on exactly why I didn't enjoy this book as much as Kermode's previous books about movies. Maybe it is simply that he has already used so many of his best anecdotes in his previous books. Or maybe it's just that I'm not as interested in what he, a film critic, has to say about film criticism as I am in what he has to say about films.And it probably doesn't help that I've heard many of the best lines in the book before. The one-sentence hatchet-job review of The Straight Story (which I liked) as 'Forrest Gump on a tractor' or Mannequin “by, for and about dummies” or Knowing “You're better off not.” Some of his pet grumbles, such as people reviewing films that they haven't actually seen (apparently not so unusual as you might think) or attention-seeking internet critics deciding to undermine how the whole press-screening system works by ignoring embargoes I have definitely heard before on his Friday afternoon Wittertainment show. And I'm already well aware of his (probably perfectly reasonable) opinion of the works of Michael Bay (I've only ever seen one Michael Bay film, Bad Boys and if it is typical of his output, then I've no desire to watch anything else he's done. No, actually, that's not quite true. I've seen the first Transformers film in Dutch. The fact I didn't understand a word of what any of the characters were saying might not have made a great deal of difference.) All that said, it's reasonably diverting – I quite enjoyed his explanation, using the example of Casablanca, of why audience-testing films can ruin them, and for all that Kermode has the same slightly distracting habit of disappearing off on tangents that last for several pages before returning to his original point that I'm guilty of myself, it didn't take me long to read.

  • Tomrhys
    2018-12-06 20:15

    Just by typing this sentence I have already placed myself in the category of the apocalyptic anonymous blogger. I am immediately turned into someone who seem to think that, just because that a vast majority of the western world has access to the internet, they all must surely be interested in my inane opinion about everything under the sun. One of those individuals that Dr Kermode points at as an issue in the current world of criticism. And the interesting thing is... I agree with him, I am an incredibly dangerous thing.First off, I need to declare a vested interest. I am a huge fan of Mark Kermode's work, and even though I don't always agree with his views, I respect his dignity as a critic, and will always place stock in his views (and will often pass off his analysis as my own, when my intelligence fails me). And to an extent, with this book he is already preaching to the converted, as I do believe that the presence of professional, identifiable critics are vitally important in the analysis of human culture. However, with all this being true, I can't help being disappointed with his latest book. Kermode sets out to examine the death knell of the professional critic. The internet has well and truly pulled the rug from beneath the feet of printed media, and the role of the traditional critic is uncertain. When anyone with an internet connection can opine about a certain film, or spew their bile, or make money from false opinions, it begins to cheapen the value of The Honest Critic. However, Kermode has a handy tool against this potential problem. Strip anonymity from the critic. This way there is jeopardy to the review. Why would this person say this if he had something to lose in saying it? Or conversely, it is easy to track down an affiliation between the critic and the film. I think there is great value in this, and will always prioritise the views of those identifiable critics and those (often silly) anonymous critics. Kermode himself has himself reaped the rewards for being a 'brand' (although I am sure he would hate that word) to attach a review to. And even if I disagree with him on a certain review, I always appreciate his honesty and passion about films. When Kermode believes something, he BELIEVES it (often in the face of common critical consensus, a habit that has led to him being branded a contrarian).In the end (spoiler alert) Kermode sees the value of the internet, and attempts to reconcile old printed media and digital media. In effect, printed media needs to stop being so fusty and 'Move with the times granddad' and digital media needs to grow up from it teenage stroppiess and not assume that freedom is the be all and end all of cultural development (well done you, you have the right to your opinion but that does not automatically give it weight or validity). When done right (i.e. with identifiable critics and accountability), such as denofgeek or empireonline, it works!I have only focussed on one aspect of Kermode's thesis in this review, as I feel it is the most topical aspect, but there are other very interesting arguments. The idea that getting the first review is not necessarily guaranteeing a correct review, and also having to be dignified enough to admit your wrong, and the idea of being snippy (read: nasty) in a review doesn't give the opinion more weight. So all very interesting and well argued. So why was I disappointed? To be honest, I felt that there were to may digressions in the arguments. All these digressions were interesting, but only succeeded to muddy and dilute the strength of the argument. There were many asides that I felt were unnecessary, and would only lead me to lose track of Kermode's point, and had to flick back a few pages to reacclimatise myself. And with one of the Good Doctor's main strengths as a critic being that he pinpoints exactly the areas of a film that work and those that don't (again, although I don't always agree with him, I always understand WHY he feels a certain way towards a film), it only serves to frustrate me when he takes so long getting to his main argument.With all that being said, why listen to me? Who am I anyway?

  • Kaoru
    2018-12-03 20:22

    His first book was about all the mad stories he experienced in his life as a movie reviewer, his second one was about the sorry state that mainstream cinema more or less is in these days... and since both of these things are pretty much the topics he loves to talk about the most, there's actually not that much left for him in his third book. But here it is anyway, and its topic is about... movie reviewing. What it used to be like, how it's happening today and what it might evolve into. Or something.Of course, there are some very interesting bits and chapters about Roger Ebert, Amazon-reviews, test screenings and bloggers. But Mark Kermode is Mark Kermode, so very soon he will go off into tangents so far off the original topic that you wonder how the hell he even got there. He can't even tell the story about his encounter with a furious director straight without interrupting it with a very lengthy detour about his love for "Shock Treatment" (That sequel to "Rocky Horror" that almost no one on earth has ever seen). Not that I mind or anything. Because, really, if you pick up a book by Mark Kermode this is exactly what you want. (And aside from his movie reviews this is exactly what you're listening to his radio show on BBC 5 for.) Here's no Simon Mayo who impatiently demands "So on with the actual story....!" or a news feature forcing a break. This is raw and (mostly) unedited Kermode stuff from beginning to end. And it's entertaining, incoherent, funny, irritating, insightful and sometimes infurating. Certainly, it won't win over anyone who isn't a fan already but for everyone who already is is in for a treat. And you would want the audiobook version, of course. Because what's the point of a Kermode text if the words aren't spoken by the man himself?

  • Anna
    2018-11-16 01:24

    ‘Hatchet Job’ contains Kermode’s hilarious and digressive meditations on film criticism as it was and as it is now. The chapters proceed in a rambling form, structured through lengthy and artfully articulated anecdotes. At the outset, Kermode comments that his best-known and most popular reviews are deeply negative ones. This accords with my tendency to seek out his views on anything made by Michael Bay. Moreover, my favourite review of his has to be the magnificent rant about Sex and the City 2, in which he sings the Internationale. I’ve previously read his book The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What's Wrong with Modern Movies? which critiques chain cinemas and 3D. This one is very similar in tone and structure, although perhaps not quite so entertaining. Probably because I have stronger (mostly negative) feelings about 3D than I do about film reviewing in the 21st century. Still, the comparisons between book and film reviewing were interesting, as they made me wonder how much more effort I’d put into goodreads reviews if they were my job rather than a tool of procrastination. Overall, this book was entertaining and fun. I am still not ready to rediscover ‘AI Artificial Intelligence’ as a hidden gem, though. As far as I’m concerned, that film was too long and excessively schmaltzy.

  • Michelle
    2018-12-02 22:40

    Probably the best Kermode I've read so far - maybe because he spends less time talking about himself in this book than he does in the others I've read. In this book he tells about the value of film critics (i.e. he justifies his own existence) but, more valuably, makes some interesting points about the nature of criticism itself, and of course how it's changed since the explosion of social media (a case in point since I am now 'reviewing' this). He mentions us Goodreaders, and also talks about how to 'vote wash' on Amazon, something I didn't know was possible. Anyone interested in How Amazon Works would do well to read that chapter. What stayed with me most of all though was his discussion on audience testing and how movies are often changed to give the audience the ending they want. Kermode argues that the best movies end with the audience getting what they need, rather than what they want. Hmm. One of my favourite movies, 'Last Night', ends in a very ambiguous way, which leaves me screaming in frustration at my beloved TV, no matter how many times I watch it. But maybe I should stop screaming - maybe it's the ending I need. Hmm... But I need to know, dammit! Argh!

  • Laura Armstrong
    2018-11-27 00:17

    Having listened to Mark Kermode's other, in my view more rounded and engaging books, I think this could be a book too far. There were some interesting topics covered i.e the reach of the online film reviewing community, the power of audience feedback and other mildly diverting aspects of the critical film process. Sometimes I feel Kermode gets a little too passionate about his subject, which can (well it did for me)be to the detriment of the the overall enjoyability of the read.

  • Tom Bensley
    2018-11-18 01:42

    Resident film critic over at BBC Radio 5 Live with Simon Mayo, droll counterpart to his unfettered enthusiasm, Mark Kermode is well-known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, big flappy hands and cringeworthy impersonations of movie stars. He’s also a fantastic film critic. Learned, insightful and always scathingly honest, much to the delight of his listeners every time another of Michael Bay’s crimes against cinema sends him into a near-possessed rage.Central to Hatchet Job and Kermode’s biggest concern is the question of whether film critics are relevant anymore. In the pre-internet days, newspapers bestowed the news and opinions from on high—film critics had desk jobs, they were paid to watch movies and their opinions mattered to the public; they were the men and women who talked about movies. Nowadays, absolutely everybody throws around their opinions and hardly anyone is getting paid. Kermode makes the point that, with the advent of user reviews and blogs, film criticism is becoming more of a hobby than a profession. To answer this question, Kermode talks at length about a lot of different things. He begins with a few choice selections from hatchet job reviews (i.e. very negative takedowns) written by other critics including a typically savvy remark from Roger Ebert’s review of Pearl Harbour: ‘A two-hour movie squeezed into three hours, about how … the Japanese staged a surprise attack on an American love triangle.’ Kermode inserts his own less elegant snippet from his review of Marley and Me: ‘Less fun than having a real dog put down.’Eventually Kermode gets around to some historical analysis, charting the advent of the internet and what it has done to the published word. He points out that professional film critics put their reputations and jobs on the line with every review, which gives their reviews more credibility. Anonymity means a writer can get facts wrong, dish out personal attacks and pretty much write a shoddy review without so much as a lick of consequence. Tracking the rise of Ain’t It Cool News, Kermode also wonders whether, in the days of instant publication and viral news stories, is being there first the only thing that matters? He even delves into the algorithm behind Amazon’s ‘user reviews’ and questions the reliability of editing done by robots, especially when there are so many ways to cheat the system.In his typically entertaining style, Kermode regularly wanders off on tangents and waxes poetically about movies and directors. The book is always a fun read and is a very well-researched work of non-fiction, but the wide range of topics covered and anecdotes thrown in leave it feeling like a rather loose and baggy undertaking, a shotgun blast that hits the target but shreds a few too many trees around it to be deemed a great shot. Explanations of his morning routine, a lengthy encounter with a filmmaker supposedly scorned by his review and some nostalgic gazing back into the past all take away from what is otherwise a good book on criticism, films and the rapidly evolving publishing industry.

  • Ruth
    2018-11-26 23:17

    For anyone not familiar with Mark Kermode’s work, he is the Chief Film Critic for The Observer newspaper, he presents The Culture Show on BBC2, and he is part of ‘Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review’ programme on BBC Radio 5 live. In this book, he talks about his role as film critic, and more specifically, the role of a film critic in today’s world, where the internet allows pretty much everyone to be a critic about pretty much anything. And you don’t need to have any specialist knowledge or qualifications to be an internet critic. (I’m well aware that as a blogger, I’m one of these people that he talks about – I’m not particularly qualified to write about books or movies or theatre, but I do anyway, although I don’t claim to offer anything other than my own opinion, for whatever that’s worth.) So with the growth of blogging, tweeting etc., the role of progressional film critic has come under some threat.Kermode eloquently makes the case for the necessity of professional film critics in such a world – he certainly convinced me, although to be fair, I agreed with his point of view in the first place. He also discusses how advertisement posters for films have now started using quotes from Twitter users as endorsements, and points out the obvious problems with this. For all this though, Kermode does seem to want to embrace the internet and the rise of online bloggers, is also quick to point out the advantages of it – both to himself and to others.The book is very well written and engaging, and often very amusing too. Each chapter is about a specific point relating to the main theme, but Kermode often goes off at tangents, and uses lots of anecdotes to illustrate what he’s saying – at the end of the chapter, everything ties up nicely.Overall, if you like Mark Kermode’s film reviews, you will like this book. If you don’t know anything about Mark Kermode or his film reviews, there’s a strong chance you will like this book. I don’t think you even need to be particularly cineliterate to enjoy it – my basic knowledge of any film extends as far as whether or not I enjoyed it. I started reading the book on a long flight, and usually when I’m flying, I end up listening to music, watching a film, or trying to sleep. However, I found myself not wanting to do any of those things, and instead just wanting to keep reading. So for me, this was definitely a winner, and I would recommend it.

  • Ugh
    2018-11-26 03:44

    I like Mark Kermode as a broadcaster, but going by Hatchet Job I don’t think he’s a very good writer – at least not of books.I found HJ lacking rather lacking in insight, certainly repetitive and roundabout, linguistically uninspired, redundant (we’re told that podcasts are “(an Internet innovation)” and that “everything in this book is written by me”), and too full of asides, self-criticism/modesty and borderline sycophancy. I also thought it lacked structure: it’s about the business of film criticism, but gives little sense of what’s ahead or why.However, there were positives:- A quote from Stephen Fry that’s delightfully dismissive of things like the above paragraph (and what Kermode does for a living): [A critic to Saint Peter at the pearly gates]: “Other people wrote things, performed things, painted things, and I said stuff like “thin and unconvincing”, “turgid and uninspired”, “competent and serviceable””.- The recognition that many people turn to criticism after they’ve experienced the thing for themselves, not before.-The chapter on the use by studios of audience previews.-Kermode’s memories of the film Jeremy, which he saw once as a kid and then again 40 years later.Ultimately, though, I felt this needed considerably more care and attention – either from Kermode or the editor.Finally: Kermode has a thing about critics needing to have skin in the game in order for their opinions to be taken seriously, a point he makes ad nauseum. Well, I can be tracked down with little effort, Mark, and I live in London. If you want me to say the above to your face, I’ll buy the beers.

  • Barry Pierce
    2018-12-04 00:32

    Mark Kermode is my favourite film critic. I listen to his radio show with Simon Mayo religiously. This book is Kermode's views on himself and his use in the world. Basically it's a book on film criticism and the function of film critics in society today. It's written in Kermode's distinctive anecdotal prose which is very easy and enjoyable to read. You don't have to have a massive knowledge of film to enjoy this book, I feel like it was written to appease even the least cineliterate people. My one reservation about this is if you are a regular listener to his show you already have heard the majority of the anecdotes presented in this book, this isn't a major thing though because the majority of them stand up to repeat readings. This was really interesting and I'd definitely recommend it to people who are interesting in reading about the world of the film critic.

  • Muhammed
    2018-11-18 22:31

    Really enjoyed this amusing, entertaining look at the relevance of film critics and film criticism in an age of blogs, Twitter reviews and internet leaks, written by one of the UK's leading film critics Mark Kermode. As a film blogger myself (shameless plug Kermode makes sound points about amateur film critics, and makes a great case for the continued place of professional film critics today. Along the way he throws in some entertaining anecdotes, including the time he apologised to Steven Spielberg for trashing 'A.I.'.

  • Mark Desrosiers
    2018-11-20 19:42

    Hilarious, rambling, heartfelt, self-effacing -- only one of those adjectives applies to Kermode's film criticism: all four apply here. Between lamenting the deaths of Alexander Walker (!) and Roger Ebert, and sounding the alarm about the use of "community reviews" -- such as this one -- to evaluate artistic works, he offers a potent defense of the value of professional critics, especially in a century where all that is solid melts into air. I'd ask for more structure, but if you approach this as a collection of interrelated essays, you'll dig it.

  • Wormito
    2018-12-04 01:28

    A funny, insightful and impassioned argument for the continuing existence of professional film critics in the modern age. Every bit as entertaining as you'd expect if you follow Dr K on the radio/net or have read any of his previous books

  • Gareth
    2018-11-12 23:34

    The publishers have tried to make this book look like a comedy read, but whilst it has a few chuckles, it's really a serious-minded look at the profession of being a film critic, and the future of criticism now that everybody seems to be online doing it.As with "The Movie Doctors", this book is at its best when its simply Kermode writing about movies, regardless of whether he loves or loathes them. His pieces on The Devils, Exorcist II, Casablanca, A.I Artificial Intelligence etc are marvellous.The sections on critics become a bit samey after a while. Really his introduction establishes his defence of the job and after that there is just reinforcement.Worth reading for his film analysis, his piece on Roger Ebert and some good anecdotes.

  • Grant
    2018-12-04 20:17

    All though the book has some good anecdotes and is written with Mark Kermode typical wit, I felt the narrow focus on the art of film criticism was a little impenetrable and not as enjoyable a read as previous books. Fans of Kermode's reviews and podcasts may find it worth a read I would suggest anyone new to his writing read his other titles first especially the good the bad and the multiplex which is a full 5 star book IMO.

  • Zachary King
    2018-11-13 01:34

    Kermode offers a more focused argument in this book, that traditional film criticism still matters in the anonymous age of blogs and tweets. Consequently, there are fewer of his fun rants and riffs, but the good doctor still sneaks in a few solid jabs. As an amateur internet film critic myself, I'm taking some of his lessons to heart!

  • Richard
    2018-12-05 20:25

    Quite entertaining but it's a lot to write/read about the subject of film criticism. His first book is still his best to date.

  • Bookhuw
    2018-11-28 22:39

    A very roundabout exploration of a subject that possibly no-one wanted a whole book on. There are some very interesting bits, wrapped up in some very exasperating sections.

  • David Meldrum
    2018-11-12 00:15

    What's the point of it all, really?No, not life. Something far more important than that. Movie reviews. The job of the film critic. How many of us are really influenced by what the (mostly) middle-aged men say?Well, me for a start. I've been a film fan for as long as I can remember. For me a rare treat in term time was being able to stay up to watch Barry Norman on the BBC's Film [insert year here]. I know. Most of you would have settled for sweets. I wasn't and am not averse to sweets but that programme was kryptonite for me, destroying the next days productivity and inevitably alerting me to something I had to see. From I don't know what age I would devour the film review pages of newspapers. Over the years the opinions of reviewers I trust has shaped what I do and don't see. Not definitively, but I'll let a list of 5 or so writers and broadcasters heavily influence what I'll give up my time and money for. Since moving to South Africa that's been harder - many of the films I want to see are smaller films which may well not get a release here; or if they do, it will be significantly delayed. This hasn't deadened my love for good film criticism - if anything it's raised it. Online, primarily, I read or listen to a good few hours' worth of content each week. An entertaining and intelligent review of a film I might never see, positive or negative, feeds my soul in a very particular way.Which brings me to this book, Hatchet Job by Mark Kermode. He's the best known film reviewer in the UK. I've been listening to him on the radio for years, and the internet means I still can here in Cape Town. His weekly show is downloaded by millions. That's serious reach. He and his co-host, the British broadcasting institution Simon Mayo, witter intelligently and entertainingly for close on two hours each week about film releases and matters related. Over the years these two have kept me going through boredom, busyness, trauma, depression, chronic pain, moving life to the other side of the world, fun, fear and a whole lot more besides. I can't imagine life without my weekly dose.This latest book from Mark Kermode asks the simple question of the role of the film critic. It's easy to read, funny and full of entertaining stories and anecdotes from his years in the business. With the slow death of print news media it's easy to imagine a world in which the role of the professional film critic becomes ever more irrelevant. After all, as Kermode demonstrates here, it's not the critic whose opinion shapes how films are made or received. It's the audience, the money in the bank. Pure and simple. It seems, though, however counter-intuitive this may seem, that more people than ever want a critic's intelligent, informed and contextualised opinion. Even - or perhaps especially - if they've already seen the film. People see something, think about it - then want to know what others think. The freely available online content is viewed, read, heard by thousands upon thousands upon millions. Film critics are more consulted than ever before; they simply need to be cleverer about how they use their expertise to pay the bills.Compared to many amateur film bloggers, the reviews I write here carry little weight. Apparently they shape the film-watching of a few of you; in reality, though, I don't see enough to be a film critic. I'm simply someone who writes about most of the films I see. I write because I like films, and I like writing. Really, that's it. Anything else is a side benefit. I need the professional film critics - especially Mark Kermode - because they entertain, stimulate and inform me. When I see a film and prepare to write about it, I remind myself of what he and one or two others have said about it. I never, no matter what others may imagine, allow a critic to tell me what to think; I simply want to see if they've seen something that I haven't or if my facts are correct and so on. I want to know what they think because if they think something different to me it means I may have missed something; that may mean I need to think, or even watch again. It may well not change my opinion, but it will mean I've thought about it.Does that seem excessive? Maybe it is. Or maybe not. When many people spend much time and millions of dollars making a film, I think it's important not just to arrive blindly at an opinion, but to do justice to the blood, sweat and tears that went into the making of the film to allow that opinion to be informed and well-formed. I enjoy doing so too - this is a hobby for me, something that gives me life to do. If I thought for a moment that doing so, putting my content up for free, was leading to critics like Kermode being made irrelevant or redundant I'd stop in a shot. The pleasure I glean from them means too much to me to lose. For anyone who cares about film, this is a book to read and treasure.

  • David Allison
    2018-12-04 23:15

    It’s obvious but still fair to say up front that if you don’t care for Mark Kermode's criticism, you probably won’t enjoy this book either.  The argument about the role of the professional critic in our contemporary, opinion-saturated landscape is a fine one but it could easily have been contained in a 3,000 word essay. The bulk of the book, then, comprises of anecdotes from Kermode’s life as a film reviewer.  These are written in Kermode’s familiar register - you can practically taste the quiff while reading the story of his confrontation with an affronted director who wanted Kermode to repeat his criticisms to him in the flesh - and while they add a certain low-budget romance to his attempts to justify the existence of his profession, if you’re not overly fond of his vocal or follicle mannerisms then you’re unlikely to change your opinion of the man or his hairstyle.I find Kermode to be amusingly argumentative company, the sort of reviewer I’d probably enjoy disagreeing with in the comfort of my own home, plus I’m still a sucker for stories about The Daft Romance of Writing despite myself, so this worked just fine for me.Kermode is blessedly free of the sort of totalising mindset that leads many print-era critics to dismiss everything that’s ever been written on the internet as mere shitehouse barking, and his passages on web criticism are typically generous in spirit.  This makes sense given Kermode’s enthusiastic adoption of the medium, but he even manages to say a few nice things about Amazon’s review system, which is curious given that I know that not everyone who’s selling stuff through that site has capital eye issues with this part of the bargain - Kermode flags some of the potential issues of this brave new world, but his overall take is more positive than you might expect.That said, you’d think that a self-professed "old fashioned Trot" would have something to say about how this is part of the creeping growth of co-production as a consumer model in modern biocaptilism, but perhaps that’s an argument for another book on the same topic, one heavier on theory and lighter on quips.  I’d like to read that book, but this desire for a bit more thinking was more of an afterthought than a concern that haunted my reading of the book itselfLike the question of whether online anonymity only serves to mask the great unwashed (hint: even if it did, as a member of said mob I can see the value in not always being identifiable by, for example, my employer, and it’s possible to “hide” behind a pseudonym while also providing a fixed point from which to stand by your opinions), this is the sort of objection you’d have with a friend over dinner and which would be a distant memory by the time you’d polished off your deserts.Like I said, he’s that sort of critic.EDITED TO ADD: At the behest of my lawyer, I would like to make it clear that I have no intention to kidnap Mr Kermode, and that the rumours that I have set up a dual purpose debate/dinner chamber in preparation of this act have been grossly exaggerated by my “friends” and neighbours.

  • Alteredego
    2018-12-07 20:22

    There is, I believe, a commonly held view that the quality of the original Star Trek movies can be determined from their numbers, odd numbered bad, even good. It seems to me that Dr Kermode in his popular books is following a similar pattern. I found myself rather disappointed by, "It's only a movie", I thoroughly enjoyed "The good, the bad and the multiplex" and now have to conclude that while there are some good sections in his latest book, overall it isn't really up to much.In Hatchet Job, Kermode seeks to make the case for professional film critics in a world where he perceives them to be under threat from a tidal wave of on line amateurs. Being Kermode however, this is not a cool, rationally presented case. The book meanders from anecdote to splenetic rant (although possibly fewer than in his previous works), to serious comment, almost at random.It is very much in the Kermode style, and therein lie two of the big problems with it. As a radio presenter, when partnered with Simon Mayo's smooth balm to his spiky irritation, he is supremely entertaining. As a single voice, on the written page, he sounds much more like a crazy old man shouting at the moon. Or worse he falls into the lazy disaffection epitomised in Grumpy Old Men. Secondly, this book has a real "bang one out to earn some zloty's" feel to it. It is not well structured, there are some shockingly badly written sentences (not what one would expect from a self confessed grammar pedant), and it is all terribly predictable. Expecting references to the Exorcist, and Silent Running? Yup, they're inevitably there. Also in there, and more intrusive than in his previous works, are frequent references to the radio show, the blog, the DodgeBrothers, but what really grates is the frequent quoting of himself, which comes over, I'm afraid, as self aggrandising.That is not to say this is all bad. There is some really interesting stuff. When Kermode talks about his fellow critics, the impact they have had, and their differing styles, it is definitely worth reading. Had he set out to write a history of film criticism, or a critique thereof, this could have been a fascinating work.However that, ultimately, is not what this book is. The basic premise is that professional critics, by being transparent and accountable, produce more valid views that anonymous amateurs on the web. In one section where he discusses voting on Amazon, he (I assume) unwittingly illustrates his own argument. By pontificating on the voting system in a way which suggests minimal research, he does, in practical terms, demonstrate that the uninformed shouldn't really comment in public.While one can sympathise with his views, and see a great deal of validity in them, his arguments are flawed. Firstly he doesn't seem to give the average reader credit for being able to identify good reviews from amongst the dross. Secondly he doesn't recognise that there is such a thing as a poor but critically acclaimed film. If a film is critically acclaimed, it is, in his world, by definition, good. This argument is clearly negated by the execrable,but critically popular 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights.To be fair to the author, the picture which ultimately comes across is of someone who feels threatened by change, but is doing his best to see the positives in that change.So overall I find myself in a similar position to how I felt after reading It's Only a Film. I think Dr Kermode's broadcast work is excellent. The 5live podcast is absolutely the first download I listen to each week. The book is however rather disappointing, and I find myself wishing the author would come up with something less superficial, better researched, and ultimately more satisfying.

  • George
    2018-11-21 02:30

    Mark Kermode is one of the only professional critics whose opinion influences the films I watch week-in, week-out. So sitting down to read Hatchet Job, I had high expectations, and they were certainly met because this is a smashing read full of fascinating insights into the field of movie criticism.In his unique and individual narrative voice, Kermode raises key points about the changing landscape of film criticism, such as the way it is affected by the Internet and new, social media. It also examines the threats to critics in a declining print industry.One particular thrust of the book that I found thought-provoking is that if you do write a ‘hatchet job’ review you should be prepared to say what you believe to the film’s creator, face-to-face.Kermode uses the example of talking to Steven Spielberg about his sci-fi flick A.I. Artificial Intelligence, after experiencing a change-of-heart about the film. He says when he first filed his first review he thought it was a fine Stanley Kubrick idea drowned in Spielbergian sentimentality, but after his wife Linda persuades him to watch the film again years later, to give it a second chance, he does indeed see it differently and finds it powerful.This being the case, he talks to Spielberg when the director is promoting his recent movie Lincoln to the press, and tells him about his opinion on A.I. changing, apologising for his at-first negative review. What follows is a touching conversation between the critic and filmmaker, with Spielberg thanking Kermode for the confession and saying that kind of apology had only happened once before.Along with it being a seriously cool exercise in name-dropping, what I took from this anecdote is that Kermode is a thoroughly decent man and honest critic, and there is bravery in admitting that we can make mistakes in our critical evaluation: something that he says he is a real issue in sharp, weekly criticism, which by its very nature demands a quick response.Although he admits he is worried about making rash judgements, as was the case with A.I., I still trust his views and think he is a top class critic, as I’m sure do many others who listen to his radio show with Simon Mayo and also read his articles and Kermode Uncut blog.My one problem with this book is simply stylistic: the narrative can digress easily and that isn’t always good if you only have time for a short reading session or get interrupted by attention-seeking dogs, as I do at home. It means I had to back-track at times so I could remember the crux of some arguments.This is absolutely forgivable however, and so long as you are an attentive reader it is not hard to follow Kermode’s exciting and inimitable strands of thought.VerdictKermode’s love of cinema is clear to see and the anecdotes he tells throughout this book are at times laugh-out-loud funny, marvellously thought-provoking, or, as with the case of his face-to-face apology to Spielberg, after a change of heart regarding A.I., wonderfully humble and intimate.Hatchet Job offers a look at what the critic’s role involves on a day-to-day basis and it has led me to think much more about current issues in film criticism.If you love films, and want more from the cinema than “THE ULTIMATE 3D EXPERIENCE” with noisy, crunchy popcorn, then you will enjoy this book a hell of a lot.

  • Alistair Greenhalgh
    2018-11-19 03:33

    Is there a future for professional film-critics in the age of the Internet? With the demise of the print media and the rise of the amateur film-critics given a platform via the Internet do they remain necessary? As this is written by Mark Kermode you will already know it’s all very opinionated. This is not something the Good Doctor has a monopoly on. The laugh-out-loud prologue quotes various slapstick-fights-with-words between film-makers. Film-critics are similarly mean to each other. Reputation seems to be the critical variable in the career of a film-critic and the matter is examined at length. For a professional film-critic to earn their crust they need a reputation that pulls in a sizeable readership and with it a revenue stream. Roger Ebert is quoted as an example of an established film-critic whose audience expanded a fair bit when he went online. Kermode comments he would want to know about a critic’s reputation when reading their reviews. The Internet, like a paper bag stuck over someone’s head, affords much anonymity. Is an endorsement or damnation really worth a jot when written by the likes of who-hell-is-this? Do random and unqualified opinions posted on social-media tell you anything about the film especially when they’re cherry picked by the film promoters? The argument that film-criticism is an exercise requiring a well-considered analysis of a film’s merits reflected over some short period of time and not a first-past-the-post outpouring of mental vomit is well made. Good film criticism goes beyond the reviewer raving how much they love or hate the thing. Analysing the film: assessing how good the story is, scripting, directing, editing, acting, and so on is. To say what it is about. All these give the prospective film-goer has some basis to decide if they would like to see the film or not. For me, at least, the job of a film critic is to remove some of the guesswork in deciding whether to see a film. Kermode also argues that film-criticism is a craft. Albeit a subjective one. Besides future prospects for professional film-critics there is a broader look at the film industry. Kermode admires some directors but not some others. He no fan of Michael Bay, as ever. He revises his what he now sees as his previously overly-harsh treatment of John Boorman and still remains Ken Russell’s biggest fan. The discussion of focus groups is telling. They helped make Fatal Attraction (1987) a box-office hit. Paramount road tested several different endings. They found the one audiences generally liked the most which Dr. Kermode likes the least. Film-makers think they improve films while at least one critic does not. This leads me to suspect there may be a rule-of-thumb where audiences generally engage with a film viscerally and critics analytically. As Kermode points out the latter tends not to come naturally. Such a rule-of-thumb would go some way to explain the differing preferences to the different endings. Said critic points out focus groups have been used since the 1920s. But the reader is left wondering if focus groups were used to road test such flops as Zardoz, Exorcist 2: The Heretic and Heaven’s Gate. As always Kermode is informative, opinionated and entertaining with it. An intelligent read some of which you’ll agree with and some of it you can’t.

  • Jon Arnold
    2018-12-04 00:42

    Mark Kermode is pretty much everything I like about a critic. He’s smart, passionate and usually entertaining and passes the ultimate test of a critic; even if I disagree he’s well worth listening to. As it happens we agree on a lot (not The Exorcist, but we have common ground in an unreasonable shared love of Silent Running and reasoning hatred of Bay’s Transformers films), so I’m not inclined to go all Uwe Boll on him. Not for this book anyway.Hatchet Job is an evaluation of movie critics and their role down the years. It’s a fierce, impassioned defence of criticism aspiring to be art or at least result in better art being made by others. But to tis credit this is a critical defence. Kermode’s great strength is retaining the perspective of fan and critic, understanding both and being prepared to answer all charges. You can see from the first chapter that even when he becomes a professional critic he makes fanboy errors, mistaking disagreements in view for errors of judgement. This leads to my one crucial disagreement with him; the issue of being wrong about films. Kermode’s view implies there are such things as objectively great films (the anecdote about Bonnie and Clyde or his account of re-evaluating AI). I’d argue that a well-reasoned viewpoint that’s at least engaged with a piece of art can’t be wrong. If there are factual errors or misunderstandings, yes there can be error but if a film’s failed to engage? If the critic has a reason why something’s failed to engage them? Surely then they’re simply providing a more well-rounded view. Overall though, as entertaining and well-reasoned as his usual reviews.

  • Kevinjwoods
    2018-11-23 02:20

    This is a book about critics that is so well written that you don't find yourself saying "ok we get the point please move on" for at least two thirds of the way through. Much of it is obsessed with the idea that the basic concept of the film critic is believed to be past its sell by date because of the many people now commentating on twitter, wordpress, mate in the pub etc etc, interspersed with tales of his life as a critic, the films he likes and dislikes, the people he has met until you start to wonder if there is a point to all this or if its just random warblings about movies.There are many flaws, for example one chapter devotes an awful lot of words, to describe a minor character from Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy just to set up a punchline that isn't all that funny, another chapter on Preview Screenings takes as two of it's main examples The Magnificent Ambersons and Casablanca which are hardly the most up to date examples to use, and he misses one important thing about the people using Twitter etc to write about movies which is that they are watching with an audience, an example he recently hated Mrs Browns Boys saying that of the 8 people he watched it with only 2 liked it, I watched it with 2-300 people in a packed cinema screening giving me a more accurate idea of what the general public think of it than he got.There are some good points to be made about the Amazon review system and the difference between an instant reaction to a movie and a later opinion about the same movie, but for the most part the main problem of there not seeming to be an actual point to it, an affliction which too many non fiction celebrity books suffer from nowadays.

  • Jeff Howells
    2018-11-26 20:21

    I like Mark Kermode, I listen to Kermode & Mayo's Film review podcast. I read Mark's reviews in the Observer and I've read his other books. He can occasionally be irritating but generally I tend to agree with the vast majority of his thoughts on films and cinema going. That being said I'm not particularly convinced he has made a decent fist of writing books. All 3 of his books have left me a bit cold and things that work on the radio tend to fall flat when written. He has a really annoying habit (seen in a couple of chapters here) where he keeps breaking off an anecdote to start another one, then another one, before returning to the first one in order to break off again. It's really annoying.That being said I preferred this book to his previous one. It's central theme is the future of the film critic in the era of the Internet. Personally I still tend to form my views on what to watch from critics. I read reviews in newspapers, I listen to critics on podcasts and it feels as if I follow every major film critic on Twitter. I think they perform an important job of filtering out the bad stuff. I haven't got the time or the money to watch everything so a series of good write ups from critics I trust will certainly make it more likely for me to watch something. That being said a bad review won't necessarily stop me watching a film but I'll only have myself to blame if I come out of a screening disliking something. Although this book strays off topic regularly and is infuriating on occasions, he is definitely one of the good guys & I'll continue to read (but more usually listen) to him.