Mark James Patrick Kermode (né Fairey, born 2 July 1963) is an English film critic who used to review films on BBC Radio 5 Live with Simon Mayo, and hosts a film music show on Scala Radio. In 2022, both Kermode and Mayo left BBC Radio 5 Live to start a new film review podcast, Kermode and Mayo's Take.
While he is instantly recognizable by his 1950s haircut, his huge flappy hands, his love for classic horror (especially his favourite movie, The Exorcist), and his hatred of most other movies in general, Kermode is most renowned for his rants. He can go on and on about how terrible a movie is with an uncanny verbal virtuosity and a Motor Mouth to give Yahtzee a run for his money. His fanbase has coined the term "Kermodian" for a particularly vicious rant.
Kermode also maintained a video blog called Kermode Uncut, in which he discusses film in general. He occasionally sits down to react on comments made on his blog, and he is fair-minded enough to quote his detractors as well as his fans.
He has also written three books: a memoir entitled It's Only A Movie (from the poster tagline of The Last House on the Left), The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex (which examines the state of the modern film experience and explains how the current state of the industry came to be), and Hatchet Job (which assesses the role of today's film critic in a world where anyone can be a critic).
In unrelated news, Kermode also plays the double bass in a skiffle band called The Dodge Brothers. He discusses his love of music in his latest book, How Does It Feel?: A Life of Musical Misadventures.
Tropes associated with Mark Kermode:
- Actually Pretty Funny:
- The only laugh Mark got from Borat was the opening Running of the Jew sequence, which he found "audacious" and "extraordinary" in the way of some of Jerry Sadowitz's material.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning did have one fleeting moment that Mark enjoyed: R. Lee Ermey cuts someone's limb off, and then the other one, and when asked why, he says, "balance."
- The one laugh to be found in Jack and Jill was the joke about Al Pacino's lack of Academy Awards.
- The one laugh he got from Revolver (2005) was the fact that there were no ending credits.
- Ascended Meme:
- In an offhand comment on Percy Jackson And The Lightning Thief, which Mark considered far too similar to Harry Potter, he said they might as well have called it "Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins". Guess what? Somebody actually went and made that movie. And got Stephen Fry to narrate.
- The comments on Mark's hands. Initially an off-hand remark on The Thick of It, but co-presenter Simon Mayo ran away with it and years later we're still hearing about them.
- Berserk Button:
- His hatred of 3D crosses into this. Lampshaded by Simon Mayo: "You must tell me more about your hatred of 3D."
- Michael Bay is a rant dead cert, what with mixing several of his least appreciated aspects of modern blockbuster production (unoriginality, crummy dialogue, trope abuse, cardboard characters, over-egged production including 3D and near-constant reliance on jittercam in badly plotted action sequences, randomly cacophonous sound effects, "pornographic sensibilities", misogynistic attitudes, racist stereotypes done really badly, mercantile grasping, zombie franchising... and, that's not a complete list). In just one person.
- Blooper reels at the end of not-very-funny US comedies seemed to be increasingly this for Mark, until Horrible Bosses 2 when he shouts, genuinely angry, "I'M GLAD YOU ENJOYED IT!" when seeing the cast goofing around at the end of what he considers to be a very poor film.
- Indulgent portrayals of wealth are another one, as seen in some of his most famous rants (Sex and the City 2, Entourage).
- The Good Doctor knows pretension when he sees it, and an explicitly "arty" film with zero substance to it will more or less guarantee a rant. Repeat offenders include Gus Van Sant, Guy Ritchie and Jean-Luc Godard.
- B-Movie: The quick way into his heart is to make good, B-Movie, popcorn plot and dialogue work well on screen. Yes, he also loves high concept art house offerings you've probably never heard of, but that doesn't mean he doesn't love a bit of good, solid fun, too.
- Better by a Different Name: He liked Wild Hogs...back when it was called City Slickers.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: In his review of Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait:"I hate football, I hate conceptual art, but there's something I hate more than football and conceptual art — I hate conceptual art about football."
- The Cast Showoff: His video blogs often start with a snippet of music from The Dodge Brothers.
- Catchphrase: "Totes amaze" (or "totes emosh"), "Blimey Charlie!", and "Hello to Jason Isaacs!" (David Morrissey, Stephen Fry, Fairport Convention, etc.).
- If he uses the phrase "Here's the thing ..." early in a review, chances are his opinion of the film isn't particularly high.
- Simon says "Put it on the poster!" whenever Mark comes up with a particularly unique phrase with which to describe a film.
- Caustic Critic: A fine intellect powers a sharp tongue, aided by powerful lungs. Mark combines a natural ability to take personal offence to a film with an acidic wit and an encyclopedic knowledge of film.
- Completely Different Title: The German for dilemma is "dilemma". So naturally in Germany The Dilemma is shown as Dickste Freunde — which means Fat Friends. Or less literally Best Friends. This inexplicable transmogrification was riffed on by Mark and Simon. Simon thought Dickste Freunde might have starred in some straight-to-video erotic thrillers.Mark: Wally Pfister shoots Dickste Freunde, in The Fat Friends!
- Compliment Backfire: When Richard E. Grant was on the programme, Mark told him that he really liked Hudson Hawk (a box office bomb in which Grant starred), to which Grant replied, "It was a pile of steaming hot donkey droppings, and you are an idiot."
- Damned by Faint Praise:
- The one positive thing Mark cuold say about Keith Lemon: The Film is that it's not as hateful as Sex Lives of the Potato Men.
- Mark did not notice until a listener pointed it out that while reviewing Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie he'd said "I just looked at it" while discussing how dull it was. Mark and Simon agreed that this was pretty much the worst thing one could say about any movie.
- During his review of Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), Mark discusses the reaction to the CGI in the first trailer, compares it to the reaction to the first Cats trailer, and then says that in terms of the finished product Sonic is a better movie than Cats. Simon immediately calls this out as very faint praise indeed.
- Deadpan Snarker: A given for a Caustic Critic such as Mark. Sometimes Mark goes into Snark-to-Snark Combat with Simon.
- Establishing Character Moment/"Eureka!" Moment: Mark calls particularly clunky examples in biopics "Chubby? Hmmm..." moments, after a moment in a biopic of The Carpenters when Karen Carpenter is described as being "chubby".
- Fanboy: Though he'll say he isn't, its obvious he has a love for directors such as Wes Craven, William Friedkin, Guillermo del Toro and Christopher Nolan, along with The Exorcist star Linda Blair.
- Finishing Each Other's Sentences: Mayo does this - or at least he can guess the essence of Mark's review solely from the tone Mark uses when naming the film.
- Foil: Simon Mayo, his co-host and resident Deadpan Snarker on 5 live. Our thoughts go with you.
- Fourth-Wall Mail Slot: The video responses to the comments on his blog.
- Grammar Nazi: He likes to correct listeners' emails, though Mayo sometimes calls him on this. On this Mayo sometimes calls him. Mayo on this calls him sometimes?
- Heroes Love Dogs: During his rant on Marley & Me, Dr. K goes on a small tangent about how much he loves dogs. He even starts tearing up, for him to outright deny it has anything to do with the movie.
- Heroic BSoD: As you can see from this episode of Kermode Uncut, he suffers this after watching The Hangover Part III.
- Likewise his Kermode Uncut "reviews" of the Transformers films, which feature him repeatedly banging his head against hard surfaces.
- I'll Take That as a Compliment: When Werner Herzog called him "Too intellectually warped" to be objective about 3D cinema, naturally Kermode was thrilled.
- In a World : Frequently parodied, with a silly deep American accent (see below).
- It Will Never Catch On: In his rant on Rock N Rolla, Mark fears that Guy Ritchie will "mess up Sherlock Holmes for all eternity". Mark wound up liking the film.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mark can be a very snarky divisive arse, but all in all, he just wants good cinema and is very polite with guests, even if the film isn't up to his standards.
- The Knights Who Say "Squee!": Kermode has blogged about being starstruck around various guests on the show (in this case it was David Tennant, and he was in America and couldn't be there in person). Probably his biggest moment was with legendary SFX designer and director of Silent Running and Brainstorm Douglas Trumbull on the 'phone, which was ten minutes of Kermode's barely contained adoration.
- Large Ham: He loves to ham it up if he's parodying something. His wrath at bad movies however is perfectly genuine.
- Like an Old Married Couple: With Mayo. Kermode himself made the comparison.Mark Kermode (reviewing Sherlock Holmes): They're like an bickering old couple, in which one of them is a big-mouthed, and full of himself —
Simon Mayo: And he's got big hands.
Mark Kermode: — big hands, and he's completely unable to pay the correct compliments to the other one. The other one is the reasonable jelly who somehow holds it all together. Shall we hear a clip?
- Lampshaded again on March 25th, 2011. In response to a listener complaining about her husband not listening to her opinion on films anymore:Simon Mayo: "This is for the sake of marital harmony."
Mark Kermode: What, ours?
Simon Mayo: Always listen to your wife...far more than listen to us.
Mark Kermode: Can I just say that as far as this particular radio relationship is concerned you never listen to your wife.
A long pause. Then, later, as Simon reads a listener's review:
Simon Mayo: ...worth a view if you want to please your other half.
Mark Kermode: What does that mean?
Simon Mayo: I don't know — I imagine he's saying —
Mark Kermode: Are you pleased that I saw it?
Simon Mayo: ...Can you just stop that kind of line of thought?
- Even Robert Redford commented on this when he was a guest, much to the live audience's amusement.
- Mark and Simon identify themselves as Newt and Hermann from Pacific Rim. And as Holmes and Watson (from the review for the first Ritchie film).
- Lampshaded again on March 25th, 2011. In response to a listener complaining about her husband not listening to her opinion on films anymore:
- Man of a Thousand Voices: Very much averted, if only he knew. While he attempts many impressions of actors, they all sound very much alike, and not much like the impersonated. Mayo often calls him on this, as do his fans. Mark isn't above lampshading it. They are often funnier than a good impression would be. Especially of Danny Dyer. Then there's the voices he puts on for comic effect. You will either find them utterly hilarious or utterly irritating. In fact he gets letters from Radio 5 listeners asking him to stop.
- Motor Mouth: Mark. All the time. At the end of the show Simon sometimes comments they have two minutes left and asks if Mark can review a film. He can.
- Nails on a Blackboard: The screams emitted by the eponymous character in Fred: The Movie were compared to this.
- The Nicknamer: Just ask Orloondo Bland, Ikea Knightley, Muriël Strepsil, Snoozy La Beef, David Booey, Catherine Beta-Blockers, Matthew Mahogany, Huge Action... the list goes on.
- He also does this with films, including The Day My Face Stood Still, Para-snore-mal Activity and Eat Pray Love Vomit.
- "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Used for films with particularly terrible plots, such as Eat, Pray, Love and Movie 43.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: Simon Mayo seems to be a rather smart and well-educated man... except when his playing dumb has a chance of embarrassing Kermode in one way or another.
- Odd Couple: With Simon Mayo. The two have been likened to a bickering married couple on several occasions.
- Oscar Bait: He described Will Smith's performance in Seven Pounds as him saying, "Give me an award".
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In his video "An Announcement", Mark gives us this:Mark: Gravity is worth seeing in 3D.
- Pet the Dog: His desire to see filmmakers treat female characters and short actors with intelligence and respect.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Occasionally uses this in some of his more scathing rants. For example:
- He forced himself to sit in front of Charles Dickens's England for TWO! HOURS! TWO! HOURS!
- He and the audience at the first showing of Movie 43 sat and watched the film in "what can only be described as deathly. Gobsmacked. Jaw-dropping silence."
- During his review of Terminator Salvation, he launches into an epic rant against McG, and says that the real reason people don't like McG is that he "CAN'T! MAKE! FILMS!"
- The Rant: Part and parcel of why some (OK... most) tune in. Although, the not-going-to-rant-about rants that then go on to thoroughly skewer, deconstruct and stomp on pointless plot-lines, characterisations and gimmicks at length are usually the classic ones. "Kermodian" is a description for a reason. Beware, however, expecting him to rant on what you would otherwise consider a dead cert going on the trailer, poster, production posse and premise of an upcoming film alone. He's amongst the first to remind you that Tropes Are Tools and that you should Never Trust a Trailer.
- Recurring Character: Favourite and frequent guest Jason Isaacs. Kermode and Isaacs' friendship dates back to them being schoolmates at the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Elstree.
- Red Oni to Mayo's Blue Oni.
- Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: He believes the Sherlock Holmes duology did this for Guy Ritchie.
- Review Ironic Echo: When you name your film Criminal, you're practically asking for it.
- Running Gag:
- The references to Mark's supposedly huge hands. (They actually spring from an off-hand comment in an episode of The Thick of It.)
- Listeners saying hello to Jason Isaacs, sometimes in somewhat bizarre circumstances.
- Danny Dyer! Danny Dyer! A-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, Danny Dyer!
- "Listeners writing in to the Fourth-Wall Mail Slot giving their qualifications along with their name" — Joe Bloggs, BSc Geology.
- Comparing a panned movie's running time being longer than 2001's as a way of pointing out its poor pacing.
- In a nod to the BBC's rules about advertising, Apple products are referred to as "fruit-based devices".
- Sharp-Dressed Man: For the most part, Dr. K is always wearing pretty nifty suits.
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Danny Dyer likes to think of himself as this. Mark doesn't really care.
- Small Reference Pools: Completely inverted. Kermode will frequently refer to obscure movies, directors or actors while reviewing a particular film. Part of Mayo's job is to get him to explain who, or what, he's talking about:Mark: (On The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)) It had me longing for the glory days of Jörg Buttgereit and the shorts that he made before he made Nekromantik...Simon: Just remind me about him?
- Played straight outside of films — invariably Mark hasn't seen the TV series/Read the book. His knowledge of sport appears only to that which has been featured in film.
- And Man In A Blue Jacket Watches A Tennis Match.
- So Bad, It's Good:
- Mamma Mia! was a particularly amusing case. He explicitly stated that the film was "terrible" — it's poorly directed, badly sung and features subpar acting. But the songs of ABBA, he claims, are so brilliant that even those three things combined can't ruin them. The songs represent an insurmountable obstacle that cannot be destroyed. Consequently, everything turns upside-down and bad becomes good. The result was a film Mark laughed and cried at.
- He's one of the few critics who likes Howard the Duck.
- Sophisticated as Hell: See Stock British Phrases.
- Speaking Like Totally Teen: Phrases such as "totes amaze" are used nowadays. This is done intentionally because it sounds so silly when two men in their fifties are saying them.
- Stock British Phrases: In contrast to his usual well-spoken manner, he has a delightful habit of sometimes spicing up his speech with exaggerated British vernacular. For instance, he described the beginning of Gravity with "Blimey, charlie, big trub coming!"
- True Art Is Incomprehensible: Film Socialsme, so much so that he accused Jean-Luc Godard of taking the piss.
- Unusual Euphemism: Since the Radio 5 show is broadcast in the middle of school run time the hosts will resort to some interesting phrases such as the often used 'fruitcake' for another word beginning with 'F' ("Clusterfruitcake" was used once.), and 'melon-farmer' is also used as a substitute frequently. The trope is absent from his books though.
- We Want Our Jerk Back!: Major rants are actually pretty rare things considering the number of movies that get reviewed. On the occasions when Mark comes out all guns blazing plenty of comments on YouTube and Twitter express relief that he hasn't gone soft.
- Witty Banter: At its most wittertaining. Comes in two flavours: either long, name-dropping laden digresses in Kermode's knowledge of movie history, or Kermode and Mayo bickering Like an Old Married Couple. The word "Wittertainment" became an edit war at The Other Wiki, commented on by Kermode and Mayo: Listeners believed that it was Americans, who don't hear the show, removing the entry for "lack of notability".
- What Do You Mean, It's for Kids?: The Queen's Corgi, in spades. Also, Bee Movie, for entirely different reasons.
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Why did it have to be pomegranates in a buried coffin, with Bono and a clown?
- What The Hell, Casting Agency?: Whenever something like this comes up, expect him to bring up "Meg Ryan as a helicopter pilot", a reference to Courage Under Fire.