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Hatchet Job: Love movies, hate critics [Hardcover]

Mark Kermode
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Oct 2013

'The finest film critic in Britain at the absolute top of his form' Stephen Fry

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 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.

Frequently Bought Together

Hatchet Job: Love movies, hate critics + The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex + It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (10 Oct 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447230515
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447230519
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Really loved it (Stephen Fry)

A wry, robust and developed defence of accountable critical voices (Total Film)

Mark Kermode puts up a spirited argument for honesty, integrity and individuality. An opinionated, funny and meandering study of films and their critical reception, it reminds us of the importance of standing by your view (Daily Mail)

Entertainingly incendiary stuff (Empire)

Very accessible, entertaining and relevant . . . warmly recommended (Den of Geek)

Engaging, informative and funny . . . a thoroughly enjoyable and accessible book . . . buy it now (Vada)

Populist, entertaining . . . A very personal examination of the usefulness and value of film criticism . . . Will delight fans of Kermode's previous books, and offers a fascinating glimpse behind the curtain into the life of a professional film critic (Verité)

A passionate history of his craft [from] Britain's premier film critic (Sp!ked)

Mark Kermode, perhaps the UK's most prominent film critic and certainly one of its most respected, covers all the big issues involved in writing reviews: being honest and only saying things you actually believe, trying to get the facts right, writing well, being entertaining, and, sometimes, changing your mind . . . It's funny, moving and angry (Theaker's Quarterly)

Insightful, erudite . . . relaxed and witty (HeyUGuys)

Puts a populist, accessible front on concepts that lesser authors turn into psychobabble (Jonathan Clements, MangaUK)

Entertaining . . . lively . . . valiant . . . he still reacts to cinema with the open-minded enthusiasm of someone who sees going to the pictures as a treat (New Statesman)

Very good (Mark Cousins)

His enthusiasm for film and film criticism is infectious (The List)

Brilliantly puts the shifting sands of contemporary film criticism under the microscope (Digital Spy)

A riveting read . . . essential for anyone who is even remotely interested in movies (I’m With Geek)

Annoying, irritating (Will Self Guardian)

From the Back Cover

'Entertainingly incendiary stuff' Empire

A hatchet job isn't just a bad review, it's a total trashing. Mark Kermode is famous for them - Pirates of the Caribbean, Sex and the City 2, the complete works of Michael Bay.

Beginning with his favourite hatchet job ever, Mark tells us about the best bad reviews in history, why you have to be willing to tell a director face-to-face their movie sucks, and about the time he apologized to Steven Spielberg for badmouthing his work.

But why do we love really bad reviews? Is it so much harder to be positive? And is the Internet ruining how we talk about cinema? The UK's most trusted film critic answers all these questions and more in this hilarious, fascinating and argumentative new book.

'A wry, robust and developed defence of accountable critical voices' Total Film

'Very accessible, entertaining and relevant . . . warmly recommended' Den of Geek

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mark Kermode Tells it as it is 17 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A funny sharp and insightful look at the world Film Criticism from a man who has been there and done it and isn't afraid to admit he has sometimes got it wrong but stands by his right to say what he honestly believes.

It seems somewhat ironic to be writing a review of this book considering he points up the drawbacks and potential misuse of
such information but I did truly love the book and nobody paid me to say so!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Me leica very much. 17 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
An interesting book written with a love for and of, film. He is gently self-deprecating, knows his job well and has plenty of fascinating stories to tell. I found myself smiling and sometimes surprised myself by laughing out loud and I will certainly be buying his other books.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reads like he speaks 23 May 2014
I really rate Mark Kermode as a professional film critic: I read his reviews in the "Observer" newspaper, I watch his reviews on BBC television, I follow him on Twitter, and I attended an event at his beloved Phoenix cinema in East Finchley where he spoke about this book. The work is not about films or even film criticism as such but essentially about the role of film critic and one in particular. He is absurdly self deprecating about his persona ("I have a stupid name and a stupid haircut") and overly defensive about his profession ("these days professional film critics are viewed as being on a par with child-molesters and pension-fund embezzlers in the popularity stakes").

Kermode writes like he speaks - a tendency to long, breathless but perfectly-formed sentences full of wit and eudition, so this is an immensely readable work. The book lacks structure - the chapters could have been in any order - and the text has a habit of meandering (several times, he has to resort to a phrase like "anyway, back to ...") , but eventially we always come back to one central message: even in the age of the online, amateur film critic (like me), there is a role for the professional but all critics should identify themselves, the reviews that readers tend to remember are the bad ones, but in the end reviews make little difference to the box office.

"Hatchet Job" tells us something about the odd life of professional film critics. Twice a week, every week, they sit in a darkened room and watch movies that have not yet been released. Kermode reckons that he has averaged 10-12 films a week for the past 25 years, but laments "if you happen to see a couple of good films in any given week, you're doing pretty well".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, not just for fans 11 Sep 2014
A really good book from an inciteful writer
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading for the Kermode faithful 5 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Kermode's latest is full of insight, funny anecdotes and genuine passion for his field, but it definitely feels like a book that has only one point to make; a point which only goes so far.

I've been an avid listener to Kermode and Mayo's podcast for years and I'll listen to/read/watch anything he has to say, but it's undeniably a less engrossing read than The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Gilz
When discussing current reads with a friend, on hearing my reply, (this book) he said, 'Oh, I heard Will Self didn't like it.' To which (without missing a beat) I quipped, 'Ah well, I don't tend to pay much attention to reviews' - this was a proud moment for me, as it's clearly a hilariously sharp, witty and irony-filled reply. I walked away with a (much deserved) full grin and spring in my step. At this point I realised that I was still at his house, so promptly excused myself for leaving the room unannounced and went back to the dinner we were in the middle of.

After dinner, I could leave the house in a more natural way, so the sprightly step and smug grin resumed at full pelt. I then began to reflect on the conversation. It struck me that my dinner companion's only opinion/knowledge of a book was essentially formed from what he had heard someone else thought about of it - he hadn't even read the Self review for himself, let alone Hatchet Job, but just by the vague knowledge that someone's opinion of whom he presumably respects 'didn't like it' was enough for him to lose any interest in trying for himself.

My sudden realisation of this next layer of irony made the entire conversation almost too much for me to bare, I started to stumble and trip over my own feet - my once smug facial expression quickly polarised to one of utter dismay, a bit like this :-S. My cup had ran over with irony. Overwhelmed, I propped myself up against a local post box and sicked profusely. Then I realised that it might make a semi-entertaining anecdote for the Amazon review section, so I quickly set myself straight and legged it home to type up.

Here's my review -

Pretty entertaining book, moving at times.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A defence of professional critics 29 Jun 2014
By jcmacc VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The latest Mark Kermode book covers lots of ground but is at its heart, a justification for the ongoing role of professional film critics in an age where film companies are happy to publish publicity posters of their products covered with dubious one word "recommendations" from anonymous Twitter users.

The book covers a variety of topics from the joys of blunt but witty reviews ("I Am Camera" reviewed simply as "Me no Lika"), the growing role of amateur internet review sites but most focus is on the implications of the gradual death of the print medium and move to online writing. There's little negative "better in my day" attitude in the text and the discussion and conclusions are balanced so good amateur review sites like Den of Geek are praised while at the same time, the problems with ill informed and potentially faked reviews are flagged.

There's an irony in this review: its an anonymous amateur critic's online review of a printed work by professional critic discussing the validity of reviews by anonymous amateur critics online.

Overall: an interesting book probably more appealing to existing "Kermode fans" than the casual reader - but if you read review magazines like Empire or Total Film, this could be considered an essential companion piece.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Could have been better
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. Read more
Published 1 day ago by bookworm
3.0 out of 5 stars Flatters
Reading the book, you pretty much have Mark's voice talking at you. However, its a little repetitive and not as good as his first book, although better than the second. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Leveret
4.0 out of 5 stars A great quick read from Mr Kermode.
It's an interesting book on whether criticism on film is justified and do critics have a place in the world now everyone's a critic. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Oliver Mann
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and interesting
This is the first book I've read about film criticism and it's inspired me to read more. I'll also read more of Kermode's books. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Ajax_Coney
2.0 out of 5 stars Self was right.
Will Self had it spot on with this: "Throughout Hatchet Job, Kermode keeps up a steady stream of asides of the kind my mother used to call "don't‑mind-little-me";... Read more
Published 2 months ago by dangerkid2
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't really like it
Mark Kermode is a good, interesting and watchable TV film critic. However, I can't develop a taste for his writing style.
Published 2 months ago by William
5.0 out of 5 stars From the heart
Kermode is a terrific reviewer. The heir to Barry Norman in my eyes. His love of film is highly infectious.
Published 2 months ago by mr stephen marsh
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I like Dr Kermode on the radio, but did not like this book. It is a shame, but I will still listen to his reviews on the radio
Published 4 months ago by Richard Brown
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