I can tell, because it’s lunchtime on a Monday and I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Soho between film screenings, which must be how he spends his Mondays when he’s not having Half Term off, as he is this week. So, I’m “being” Mark Kermode again, on Simon Mayo’s show on 5 Live and on Film 24 – as it’s still called, even though BBC News 24 isn’t called that any more – one after the other this Friday afternoon. It’s a thrill. I love being Mark’s deputy dog. Surely that puts me second in line to the throne, or something. (Actually, third, as James King is Mark’s natural heir, having been “the” film critic of a national radio station for years.) The difference between me and Mark and James and Peter Bradshaw and Philip French and Derek Malcolm and all the other seasoned film critics you see pissing and moaning – as they might – at all the screenings is that I’m not a film critic. They can probably smell it on me.
I review films, I talk about films, I write about films, I edit a film section in a magazine, I even get to interview Mickey Rourke about films, but I am not a film critic. If I was, today wouldn’t be unusual and probably wouldn’t be giving me such a silly rush. I will have seen three films by the end of the working day (Gran Torino, Cadillac Records and Push, all released this Friday – these are the National Press Screenings ie. the last ones, mainly attended by the critics from the dailies), and I saw another last Thursday, and another over the weekend (Che: Part Two and Anvil: The Story Of Anvil), which paints as close to a full picture of what’s at the pictures this weekend. (No, I haven’t seen Confessions Of A Shopaholic, but it’s a job to even fit four reviews into my foreshortened Mayo slot, let alone five, let alone six, and that’s without the breaking news story that traditionally breaks just as I am about to go on-air – and News 24, who aren’t called that any more, only require me to review three.)
In many ways, I’d find this a whole lot less fun if I had to do it every week, week in, week out. (Luckily, I’ve never been offered the job of film critic by any of the papers, so I’ve never had to make a choice, although I did see all the films when I hosted Back Row on Radio 4 for two years. It means you go to the cinema less, and I actually like going to the cinema. Some screenings are so big they’re in a cinema, but you’re not seeing them with people, you’re seeing them with critics. You can’t gauge public reaction that way. Critics are, by nature, jaded and cynical, and, conversely, sometimes all too easily blown away, due to the sheer volume of substandard toss they have to sit through.) Anyway, today I am pretending to be a film critic, and it’s a gas.
Gran Torino is weird. More later. I can nurse this coffee no longer.
PS: Here is a photo of me taken in the 50s where I look a bit more like Mark Kermode.