Archive for warwick university

Mark Kermode Live At Warwick Arts Centre – 12/11/10

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , on November 15, 2010 by Adam Broome

This man, who rarely needs an introduction, is one of my sacred few idols of the cinema industry. Many an hour have been spent listening in to his ranting and raving reviews of all the latest on the silver screen. He is a much-respected film critic with an avid fan base, known for appearances on shows such as The Culture Show, and on the radio, notably on Simon Mayo‘s show. Tonight promised an audience with the man in person, currently on his ‘It’s Only A Movie’ tour. The journey to the arts centre was not as much fun as last time (they never are), but as I sit in the almost-sell-out theatre I can barely contain my excitement, as a book signing and a personal meeting with the man himself is now confirmed.

The first man to walk out onto the stage is not Mark, as we presume, but rather his manager, who sets out the format of the night. He leaves, leaving us to watch a little short from Mark’s youtube show ‘Kermode Uncut’. It was a clip I had seen before, and looks a little something like this:

Upon much laughter (of people who evidently have lives, and don’t spend as much time on Youtube as I do), Mark struts out onto the bare stage, and begins talking about his life. Ever the academic student, I’m expecting something like a lecture on cinema. Perhaps Mark will raise some questions, or perhaps make an unquestionable point that changes my idea of what media is. However, I quickly realise this talk is, much like a lot of Coventry Conversations back in the ‘home town’, going to be all about Mark’s life and his experiences. ‘It’s Only A Movie’ is the title of his new mini autobiography, which he’ll be signing at the end of the show. Finally I see, all the pieces fit.

That said, this is not to say the talk was worse of for it. Kermode talks about his early days as a movie critic on radio shows (as even he started off on radio apparently!). He talks about Werner Herzog getting shot, and his meeting with an angry Helen Mirren on the red carpet, amongst other often humour tales of fancy. Generally, it is not in any way in-depth, and does require you to have aprior knowledge of Kermode’s previous exploits (not to mention a good knowledge of the cinema industry) to get the full effect. But all seems well – he’s amongst fans.

One thing that does stick out is when says that ‘if you want to be a critic, you can’t have any friends, because the inevitable will happen where you’re friends made something, and you have to critique it, and you wont want to say anything bad’. From a slightly different perspective, given my previous clashes with people over Tropic Thunder, Kakera, and Paramore write-ups, I can definitely understand where he’s coming from! After his one hour chat, he spends thirty minutes answering various questions members of the audience have. None of them were particularly striking, and none stayed in the mind, so I imagine they weren’t that good.

I did have a question however. Was documentary as a genre going to die out? Putting my hand up several times, eventually the talk was ended, and everyone zipped outside. I quickly seized my opportunity, bought one of his books for a mere £7 (surprisingly cheap for such an event), and got in line to meet the man himself. Two hours later, and I’m almost there. I have read his book, but a lot of the content is what he’s already talked about. Go figure. However, moments later, I’m put up in front of him. During the queue I’ve realised mine is more of a ‘TV’ question, which is outside his area of expertise, so I’ve re-worded my question slightly thus since.

He asks for my name, and if it’s ‘one ‘d’ or two’. I don’t understand the question at first, but finally the penny drops. That would be ‘one d’. Mark casually sips a pint of Carling, and asks me if I’ve enjoyed myself. I say I have (wouldn’t have waited this long if I hadn’t), but I say I had a question. Merrily, off I go:

“This woman from the BBC came into my university last week… or the week before, some time back. Anyway, she was preaching that ‘documentary’ as a genre was dead, and that unless it changed or made the successful transition to cinema, that it was going to die out.”

Kermode looks confused.

“See, it has a lot of the media students studying documentary in a bit of a fluster. Do you think there’s any truth in her statement?”

Over to you, Mark. His reply went something like this:

“Well… no, not really. Documentary is never really about making money, it’s always about something else, like a statement or voicing your opinions. All documentaries shown at the cinema make a loss, with the exception of maybe one every several years, but generally, documentaries in the cinema industry are loss-leaders. They’re about more than making money, for example…”

At this point, he names a load of people I’ve never heard of, and a load of films I’ve never heard of either. This is where we clearly differentiate the difference between MY cinematic knowledge, and his. So, in a star-struck moment, I just enjoy the moment, and allow it to sink in that this is actually happening (sorryyyyyy…). Tuning back in:

“So at the end of the day, the main thing to realise is that the collapse of the UK Film Council will stop independent cinemas being open, and these institutions are pivotal for documentary films being shown. If we save these institutions, then documentary films will have their platforms. It is important that we do this.” He pauses. “But no, I disgaree, documentary isn’t going to die out, no.”

I mention The Arbor, much to his delight (perhaps hinting at my status as one of his ‘Youtube Followers’), but generally the point remains the same. He probably knows that, despite my knowledge of films, I’m a fish out of water in his presence. Either way, I have the autograph signed to me, and get the photo, we shake hands, and I’m off… actually not true. The guy behind me in the queue asked earlier if I’d take a picture of him, and I wait whilst he chats to Mark, mostly about Blue Velvet and, coincidentally, Twin Peaks, which I’m watching at the moment. Then he shakes hands and walks off. I put the camera away – Maths students are all the same. I retreat quietly, ever the lone ninja.

So there you have it, media production documentary makers. The good doctor has spoken (named so after his doctorate). Documentary will not die out, as it is not for profit. To ensure the survival, keep independent cinemas open, and support your local cinema industry. A comfy talk, and a long wait. A job well done, and a night complete.

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Arthur Smith Live At Warwick Arts Centre – 17/10/10

Posted in Film Reviews And Conversations with tags , on October 17, 2010 by Adam Broome

There’s fun all over before I’ve even made it to the Warwick Arts Centre.

Conceding that yet again this will be an event I will be going to on my own, I gear up and strut to the nearest bus stop. Twenty-five minutes later, the bus hasn’t arrived. People wait patiently, but for me, I have one hour to go before the show starts. I backtrack the route to Pool Meadow Bus Station to see if I can find any evidence that these buses are even running on Sundays. There’s my bus, parked up, with two fellow drivers having a chat in it.

I hustle on and get charged a £1.50 fair, only to find I haven’t got any silver in my wallet, and the driver doesn’t give change. Thus, it ends up being a £2 trip. Sitting at the back as the bus takes off, I realise that they might not be selling tickets on the door. This night has quickly become hap-hazard. ‘Adds to the fun’ I tell myself in an ultra-cool manner. The bus pulls up at the stop I was at previously – passengers board the bus and look at me like I’m some nutter who backtracked the bus route just to guarantee myself a seat.

Thanks to some friendly passengers, I’m able to establish just when I’m supposed to be getting off – the bus may not actually go in to the Warwick University grounds. Actually, the university is more like a small city. The bus spends ten minutes navigating the university roads, and I try in vain to remember running through it in the marathon earlier this year (though to be honest, after ten miles, I wasn’t exactly admiring the scenery). The woman sitting opposite me happens to be working at the arts centre tonight, and quickly guides me to my designated stop, and through the grounds to where I need to go. Lucky break!

They are indeed selling tickets at the door, and what’s more, I find out Mark Kermode is coming to the place soon, complete with  meet and greet. Being as I am only one person, I happily choose my seat – the lone empty seat on row three, right at the front, between two couples. Travelling solo has it’s advantages!

AND THUS, the show actually begins… but a little late. Another comedian is doing a show in the arts centre tonight, but apparently he hasn’t turned up. The show is delayed fifteen minutes, so that his audience may join us, to see Arthur Smith perform his current stand-up tour. Then, a familiar voice echoes around the theatre:

“Apologies for this folks, apparently the comedian next door is stuck on the M6, so we’ve allowed his audience to join mine… unfortunately, there’s this chap in Birmingham who hasn’t turned up either, so if you’ll just bear with us for an hour…”

Anyone who didn’t laugh was clearly unaware of what they were in for. Arthur Smith – poet, author, tv personality, singer/songwriter, failed rock star and comedian, struts onto the stage following his own vocal welcome. Now in his fifties, he caters for an audience slightly older than myself – his crowd generally look mid-thirties or higher. It is asserted at one point that aside from myself there is only one other student in the room. Typically, as a result, some of the material goes straight over my head.

Arthur Smith starts out steady, in his slow-paced and oh-so-grumpy way, and continues at the same pace throughout the entire show. His set is made up of readings from his books, recitations of his best poems (which were indeed quite good, I have to say), a few songs, a few theatrics… and his famous Leonard Cohen impersonation. The songs are of course the strange ones – his two songs are humourous, and not long enough to induce the dreaded awkwardness of waiting for the song to end so the actual jokes can resume.

“I hate going to supermarkets nowadays and not being able to find things. Back in the day, you ask a nearby staff member where the cornflakes are, and he’d say ‘Down that aisle, on your left.’, which is fine. But nowadays, you ask where the cornflakes are, and the spotty little youth is more likely to say ‘Follow me, I’ll show you.’. Now you have to do the walk of shame, with other customers shaking their heads when they see you. You lower your head in misery. ‘I don’t know where the cornflakes are 😦 ‘ ”

It is clear from the start that this man is, much like Nick Owen, here to recite and reflect upon his past experiences. His book – a virtual memoir of his days – becomes the central structure to his comments on days gone by, which make the set feel rather personal and somewhat genuine. Every now and then, however, he caters for my particular audience – that is, the ‘grumpies’.

“Politicians annoy me. Those prats who say they had a joint, but they didn’t inhale. What bloody use is that? That’s like buying a hamster and not shoving it up your a*se!”

The reluctant and rather embarrassed laughter of the aging audience makes Arthur confirm that that is as ‘low’ as his material goes tonight. He stays true to the promise – this is not really about provoking outrage, or indeed any form of extreme response from the audience. However, early into the second half, Arthur drops his trousers, to reveal pants adorned on the front with a painting of the crotch of Michaelangelo’s work ‘David’, claiming that it is both outrageous and educational at the same time.

In occasional spouts, breaking up his own trip down memory lane, come streams of fast-paced jokes, including past experiences with brass bands, confrontations with Yorkshire men, his annoyance at lawyers and the legal system, and his feelings about air travel. At certain points, the set is stopped altogether, whilst Arthur Smith delivers some more retro-jokes, which inspire some nostalgia, even for me:

“Old jokes, the old ones are the best. FOR EXAMPLE: Man goes into a doctors. After about two minutes, the doctor says: “I’m sorry sir, but you’re going to have to stop masturbating.” “Oh no!” The man cries! “Why?” “Because I’m trying to examine you.” ”

As the set goes on, you begin to get the feeling that Arthur Smith really is being himself. He seems to be enjoying himself, and is all too happy to interact with people on the front row. He doesn’t insult the audience, and he isn’t racist or sexist. His humour is rather innocent by today’s standard, yet funny nonetheless, and to be honest, rather refreshing. He sends himself up for the most part, and I increasingly get the notion that he’s doing his own thing. He isn’t out to make any points, or provoke any major notoriety. It was almost as if his show was as much for him as it was for us, yet not in a selfish way. It was a happy show – despite the content, it was rather lacking in bitterness or pessimism.

“I was at St Pancras station a few days back. A man comes up to me and says ‘You’re a star!’. I was like ‘Welllll, not really, haha!’ The man says ‘No, no! You’re a STAR!’. I nod my head a little in embarrassment ‘Well yeah, I suppose, I’ve done this and that…’. The man stares at me gone out, then says ‘Eurostar?’. ‘Ah’ I say, feeling miserable once again. “Platform B, down there on the right… f*ck it, follow me, I’ll show you…’ ”

During the break, I grab a coke, and the second half pretty much imitates the first. Loads more jokes, several personal and rather ‘deep’ poems, and another song. He says that some of his jokes are so old that they actually reside in the British Museum… and that the Greeks want them back. I appreciate the joke, remembering my own jaunts to the place. Arthur finally shuts down his performance after a ninety-minute run, offering three pieces of advice as his encore (which makes his finale three points higher than Dylan Moran’s). The grumpy set has been played well, and has left a rather optimistic atmosphere that allows the audience of middle-agers to leave on a happy note.

“Two dwarves pull two women, and take them upstairs to their rooms. They have two adjoined bedrooms, funnily enough. The first dwarf gets on top of his woman, but can’t get an erection. He lies awkwardly on top of her, whilst next door he can hear ‘One… two… HUH! One… two… HUH!’ Eventually, both women leave. The dwarves meet up to compare notes on the night’s events. The first dwarf says: “That was a disaster. I couldn’t get an erection.” The second dwarf says: “Mine was even worse – I couldn’t even get onto the damn bed!” “