Arts Q&A: Mark Kermode on his fave movies, Led Zep and The Great Gatsby

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, film critic Mark Kermode

Film critic Mark Kermode

1. When did you think about a career in film journalism and what were your first steps into it?

I always watched films as a child, and I used to keep a notebook in which I wrote down my favourites bits of the films. This was in the days before video, so you couldn’t just watch a film again. I’d listen to soundtrack albums and read my notes. When I was in Manchester in the 80s, I started writing reviews for the magazine City Life. They were a workers co-op and basically had to give everyone a chance. At first they wouldn’t let me write, just drive the van. But after I crashed the van, they thought I’d be less dangerous behind a typewriter.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

I saw the Led Zep reunion gig a few years ago which was brilliant, although I couldn’t hear anything for a week after. Other than that, Wreckless Eric playing a tiny club in Brighton was hard to beat. Oh, and I introduced the Comsat Angels on stage in Sheffield, which was a life highlight.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

Australian folk punk band Mutiny – because I’ve been listening to Lump (which features on the soundtrack of Cruising) over and over again and I think it’s the funkiest thing I’ve ever heard. Otherwise, I’ll settle for Barry White.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Ideally I’d take the Mary Poppins soundtrack, which is one of the first records I owned, and has so many wonderful memories for me. Otherwise, if it’s just one track, I’d go for Top of The World by Shonen Knife – because it always makes me stupidly happy.

5. And the book?

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. It’s the thing I read at least once a year. Hunter Thompson once said that if he got writer’s block he’d just sit down and start typing out the Great Gatsby. It’s like practising playing the piano – only with a book.

6. Top three films?

The Exorcist, Pan’s Labyrinth, Silent Running. Why? Just because.

Mark Kermode returns to Belfast this weekend

7. Worst film you’ve seen?

Exorcist II The Heretic. A travesty.

8. Favourite authors?

F Scott Fitzgerald, Pat Barker and Shirley Jackson.

9. Sport(s) you most enjoy and top team(s)?

I don’t do sports – in ANY form.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

The Isle of Man.

11. Pet hate?

Mobile phones (in cinemas).

12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Pizza.

Dessert? Rum and raisin ice cream.

Drink? Asahi beer.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Linda. I know her because I’m married to her.

14. Is there a God?

I hope so.

:: Film critic, broadcaster and journalist Mark Kermode returns to the Cinemagic Film Festival for his annual Film Night on October 26 at Belfast's Queen’s Film Theatre to introduce his festival pick, Kiki’s Delivery Service and share his thoughts on the year's new film releases. For full list of events happening at the 30th anniversary Cinemagic festival visit

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