Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode

Kermode performing with The Dodge Brothers in 2010
Born Mark James Patrick Fairey
(1963-07-02) 2 July 1963
Barnet, London, England
Residence Brockenhurst, Hampshire, England
Occupation Film critic, presenter, writer, musician
Spouse(s) Linda Ruth Williams
Children 2

Mark James Patrick Kermode ( Fairey;[1][2] 2 July 1963)[3][4] is an English film critic, presenter, writer, and musician. He is the chief film critic for The Observer, contributes to the magazine Sight & Sound, and co-presents the BBC Radio 5 Live show Kermode and Mayo's Film Review and the BBC Two arts programme The Culture Show. Kermode writes and presents a film-related video blog for the BBC, and is a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Kermode is a founding member of the skiffle band the Dodge Brothers, for which he plays double bass.

Early life

Kermode was born in Barnet, London.[4] He was educated at The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School, an independent boys' school in Elstree, Hertfordshire, a few years ahead of comedians Sacha Baron Cohen and David Baddiel and in the same year as actor Jason Isaacs.[5]

He was raised as a Methodist, and later became a member of the Church of England.[6] His parents divorced when he was in his early 20s and he subsequently changed his surname to his mother's maiden name by deed poll.[7] He earned his PhD in English at the University of Manchester in 1991, writing a thesis on horror fiction.[4]

Film criticism

Kermode began his film career as a print journalist, writing for Manchester's City Life, and then Time Out and the NME in London. He has also written for The Independent, Vox, Empire, Flicks, Fangoria and Neon.[8]

Kermode began working as a film reviewer for BBC Radio 1 in 1993, on a regular Thursday night slot called Cult Film Corner on Mark Radcliffe's Graveyard Shift session.[9] He later moved to Simon Mayo's BBC Radio 1 morning show. He also hosted a movie review show with Mary Anne Hobbs on Radio 1 on Tuesday nights called Cling Film.[10] Between February 1992 and October 1993, he was the resident film reviewer on BBC Radio 5's Morning Edition with Danny Baker.

Since 2001, Kermode has reviewed and debates new film releases with Mayo on the BBC Radio 5 Live show Kermode and Mayo's Film Review.[11][12] The programme won Gold in the Speech Award category at the 2009 Sony Radio Academy Awards on 11 May 2009.[13]

Kermode is a visiting fellow at the University of Southampton, having gained a PhD at the University of Manchester in English.[14] He has also contributed to Fangoria magazine,[15] authored the monograph The Exorcist (BFI Modern Classics), and worked on film-related documentaries like The Fear of God; 25 Years of the Exorcist, Hell on Earth: The Desecration and Resurrection of Ken Russell's The Devils, The Edge of Blade Runner, and The Cult of The Wicker Man.[16] He recommends The Witch Who Came From the Sea as one of the best video nasties of the 1970s.[17]

Until September 2005, Kermode reviewed films each week for the New Statesman.[18] Since 2009 Kermode has written "Mark Kermode's DVD round-up" for The Observer, a weekly review of the latest releases.[19] He sometimes writes for the British Film Institute's Sight and Sound magazine. Kermode is a film critic and presenter for Film4 and Channel 4, presenting the weekly Extreme Cinema strand. He also writes and presents documentaries for Channel 4,[8] and co-presents the regular Film Review with Gavin Esler, for BBC News at Five.[20] As a host of BBC Two's The Culture Show, Kermode presents an annual "Kermode Awards" episode which presents statuettes to actors and directors not nominated for Academy Awards that year.[21]

Kermode is sometimes critical of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), the censor for film in the UK, calling for horror films from abroad to be shown in their uncut versions. However, in recent years, he has stated on numerous occasions that the BBFC do a good job in an impossible situation, and expressed his approval of their decisions.[22]

In a 2012 Sight & Sound poll of cinema's greatest films, Kermode indicated his ten favourites, given alphabetically, as Brazil, The Devils, Don't Look Now, The Exorcist, Eyes Without a Face, It's a Wonderful Life, Mary Poppins, A Matter of Life and Death, Pan's Labyrinth, and The Seventh Seal.[23] He has described The Exorcist as being "the best film ever made".[24]

In September 2013, Kermode became the chief film critic for The Observer.[25]

Other writing

In February 2010, Random House released his autobiography, It's Only a Movie, which he describes as being "inspired by real events".[26] Its publication was accompanied by a UK tour.[27] In September 2011 he released a follow-up book entitled The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex, in which he puts forth his opinion on the good and bad of modern films, and vehemently criticizes the modern multiplex experience and the 3D film craze that had grown in the years immediately preceding the book's publication.[28] In 2013 Picador published "Hatchet Job: Love Movies, Hate Critics" in which he examines the need for professional "traditional" film critics in a culture of ever increasing online bloggers and amateur critics.[29]

Other work

Kermode has been a regular presenter on BBC Two's The Culture Show. He has appeared regularly on Newsnight Review and The Film Review on BBC News. It was during a 2006 interview with Kermode for The Culture Show in Los Angeles that Werner Herzog was shot by an air rifle. Herzog appeared unflustered, later stating "It was not a significant bullet. I am not afraid".[30][31] On 19 May 2007 he was featured on the show playing with his skiffle band, The Dodge Brothers, in which he plays the double bass.

Kermode also co-hosted an early 1990s afternoon magazine show on BBC Radio 5 called A Game of Two Halves alongside former Blue Peter presenter Caron Keating.[32]

Kermode appeared in a cameo role as himself in the revival of the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous on 1 January 2012.[33]

In April 2008, Kermode started a twice-weekly video blog hosted on the BBC website, in which he discusses films and recounts anecdotes.[34]

Kermode has recorded DVD audio commentaries for Tommy, The Ninth Configuration, The Wicker Man[35] and (with Peter O'Toole) Becket.[36] He also appears in the DVD extras of Lost in La Mancha, interviewing Terry Gilliam. Kermode has written books, published by the BFI in its Modern Classics series, on The Exorcist[37] and The Shawshank Redemption[38][39] and his documentary for Channel 4, Shawshank: The Redeeming Feature, is on the film's 10th anniversary special edition DVD.[40]

Kermode's strong family connections with the Isle of Man has led to him playing an active role in Manx culture and the arts. Part of this has seen him host various talks on the island including; An Evening with Mark Kermode at the Ballakermeen High School.[41] He is also heavily involved with the annual Isle of Man Film Festival.[42]


Kermode played double bass for a skiffle/rockabilly band called The Railtown Bottlers in the early 1990s. The Railtown Bottlers were also the house band on the BBC show Danny Baker After All for a series, starting in 1993,[43][44] where he performed with Madness lead singer, Suggs.[45] In 2001 he formed The Dodge Brothers, playing double bass in the skiffle quartet.[44]

Personal life

Kermode lives in Brockenhurst, Hampshire, with his wife, Linda Ruth Williams, a professor who lectures on film at the University of Southampton.[46] From October to November 2004, they jointly curated a History of the Horror Film season and exhibition at the National Film Theatre in London.[46] Kermode and Williams have two children.[7]

Kermode has been described as "a feminist, a near vegetarian (he eats fish), a churchgoer and a straight-arrow spouse who just happens to enjoy seeing people's heads explode across a cinema screen".[47]

In the mid 1980s, Kermode was an "affiliate" of the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) and was involved in the Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign, against the deportation of one of the group's members to Sri Lanka.[48] This developed into a high-profile national campaign involving people from left-wing groups such as the RCG, local residents of Manchester, and extending to church leaders and Labour Party Members of Parliament.[49] Kermode describes himself in this period as "a red-flag waving bolshie bore with a subscription to Fight Racism Fight Imperialism and no sense of humour."[47]

Awards and honours

Year Ceremony Award Result
2010 Sony Radio Academy Awards Best Specialist Contributor of the Year Gold[50]
2009 Sony Radio Academy Awards Speech Award Gold[51]

Kermode was 75th on The Guardian's 2010 Film Power 100.[52]

Kermode is a patron of the charitable trust of the Phoenix Cinema in North London,[53] which was his favourite cinema during his childhood in East Finchley.[54] The tenth anniversary episode of Kermode and Mayo's Film Review was broadcast from the venue as part of its relaunch celebrations in 2010.[55]

In 2013, Kermode was appointed an Island of Culture Patron by the Isle of Man Arts Council.[41]


  1. Norman, Matthew (24 January 2005). "Matthew Norman's Media Diary". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  2. Norman, Matthew (7 February 2005). "Matthew Norman's Media Diary". The Independent. Archived from the original on 23 February 2009. Retrieved 14 January 2008.
  3. "Birthdays". The Guardian. 2 July 2009. p. 35.
  4. 1 2 3 "Film critic honoured by University of Manchester". University of Manchester. 14 December 2009. Retrieved 19 December 2009.
  5. Lester, Paul (1 February 2008). "JC Interview: Jason Isaacs". The Jewish Chronicle. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 23 June 2008. Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School ... [produced] quite a vintage crop in [Isaacs'] time: fellow pupils included Sacha Baron Cohen, David Baddiel and Matt Lucas. 'I've seen Baddiel a few times', Isaacs says, and he sees the others occasionally at awards ceremonies. ... [N]ot all the Habs stars of the time were Jewish, though, and Isaacs has a lot of time for another alumnus, the BBC's film critic, Mark Kermode: 'He is always incredibly lovely and says hello on his Radio 5 podcasts, which I've listened to in Auschwitz and many other strange places. He's said I was too cool [at school], but he was at the epicentre of the in-crowd.'
  6. Dalton, Stephen (January 22, 2010). "Mark Kermode: the new Jonathan Ross?". The Times. London. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  7. 1 2 Lawson, Mark (9 April 2009). "Drawn to the devil". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
  8. 1 2 Mark Kermode, English Department teaching staff, University of Southampton, accessed 14 January 2008
  9. "Fancy a Brew? (Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley website)". Retrieved 23 April 2008.
  10. "Mary Anne Hobbs". BBC. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2008.
  11. "BBC - Podcasts - Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Review". BBC Radio 5 Live. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  12. "BAFTA member Mark Kermode". BBC News. 10 January 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  13. Speech Award 2009 citations Archived 15 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Sony Radio Academy official site
  14. Kermode on BBC Newsnight Review, accessed 14 January 2008
  15. "Kermode to Random House". Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  16. "Biography". Macmillan. 4 December 2009. Retrieved 9 September 2009.
  17. Kermode was speaking during an interview with Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 5 on 12 June 2009 which as of 15 June 2009 can be downloaded here
  18. Mark Kermode, New Statesman, accessed 14 January 2008
  19. "Mark Kermode's DVD round-up". The Observer. London: 13 July 2009. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  20. "The Film Review". BBC Online. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  21. "BBC Two - The Culture Show, Forget the Oscars, Here Are the Kermodes: A Culture Show Special". BBC.
  22. Kermode, Mark (21 June 2002). "Mark Kermode on censorship: What are they scared of?". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 20 February 2009. Retrieved 11 January 2009.
  23. "Greatest Films Poll: Mark Kermode". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  24. "Sight and Sound". BFI. 3 August 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  25. "Mark Kermode is new Observer film critic". BBC News. 18 August 2013. Retrieved 30 September 2013.
  26. Gallagher, Victoria (10 February 2009). "Kermode to Random House". The Bookseller. Archived from the original on 26 October 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
  27. "It's Only a Movie". Random House. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  28. Kermode, Mark (28 August 2011). "How to make an intelligent blockbuster and not alienate people". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  29. "Picador - Mark Kermode". Picador. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  30. Herzog shot during interview,, 3 February 2006, accessed 29 January 2013
  31. Herzog on his latest film Grizzly Man, BBC News, accessed 14 January 2008
  32. Kermode, Mark (2010). It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive. London: Random House. p. . ISBN 1-84794-602-X.
  33. "Absolutely Fabulous | Series 6 - 2. Job". Radio Times. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  34. "Kermode Video Blog from the BBC's Blog Network website". BBC. Retrieved 9 September 2011.
  35. "The Wicker Man review". Retrieved 2008-04-23.
  36. "Becket review". Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 23 April 2008.
  37. Kermode, Mark (2003). The Exorcist (2nd ed.). London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85170-967-3.
  38. Kermode, Mark (2003). The Shawshank Redemption. London: BFI Publishing. ISBN 978-0-85170-968-0.
  39. Kermode, Mark (22 August 2004). "Hope springs eternal". The Observer. London. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
  40. Papamichael, Stella (8 September 2004). "The Shawshank Redemption 10th Anniversary SE DVD (1994)". BBC Movies. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
  41. 1 2 "Mark Kermode opening event celebrates island culture 2014". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2015.
  42. "IOMFF2015". Isle of Man Film Festival.
  43. "Critically speaking". Southampton Echo. 13 April 2002. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
  44. 1 2 Kermode, Mark (1 June 2008). "My 20-year love affair with the joy of skiffle". The Observer. London. Retrieved 28 December 2009.
  45. Archived from the original on 26 July 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  46. 1 2 "Professor Linda Ruth Williams". University of Southampton. Retrieved 8 March 2008.
  47. 1 2 Randall, Lee (6 February 2010). "Interview: Mark Kermode, film critic". The Scotsman Magazine. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  48. Kermode & Mayo. "Mark Kermode - The Baader Meinhof Complex". Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  49. Viraj Mendis Defence Campaign. "Viraj Mendis Will Stay!". Retrieved 17 April 2014.
  50. "Radio Specialist of the Year Award". Retrieved 12 August 2010.
  51. "The Speech Radio Award". Archived from the original on 15 May 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  52. Bradshaw, Peter; Kermode, Mark (24 September 2010). "Film Power 100: the full list". Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 December 2011.
  53. "Mark Kermode". Phoenix Cinema. 15 February 2010. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  54. Kermode, Mark (2011). It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive. Random House. p. 26. ISBN 9780099543480.
  55. "Press Office - Kermode and Mayo Film Review live at Phoenix Cinema". BBC. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
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