Kermode vs Ferin: The Big Fight Live
AKA: BBC Radio 5 Live’s Great Film Scores Live
The story so far…
Monday: I write a post calling for people to stop getting so hot under the collar when it comes to the most recent Pirates movie, and have a few words of “constructive criticism” for far more renowned than I’ll ever be critic Mark Kermode
Wednesday: I receive an email from the BBC inviting me to the broadcast of Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode’s 10th Anniversary broadcast of their film review show, coming live from Salford Quays and with the support of the BBC Philharmonic orchestra
Friday: I’m on a train to Manchester
A lot of you were asking me if I would tell Kermode to his face what I said about him on my blog. Turns out I didn’t have to, but more on that story later…
Media City in Salford Quays is the home of some pretty impressive architecture. I didn’t fully appreciate it when I arrived having spent at least an hour lost in some very industrial parts of Salford (my sense of direction is infamous), but it is very pretty.
Once inside the BBC studios I found myself feeling like a very small fish in a very big pond, surrounded by a mixture of proper film critics and internet types as well as some lucky fans who’d got a seat in the small audience. We were given a brief questionnaire to answer about our best and worst film scores and then ushered into a big purple room with a space where an orchestra would soon appear. Camera rigs were dotted about the room, and I’m told by those at home that the whole thing was being streamed live on the internet, with muggins here front and centre for the duration. After watching various BBC types bustle about getting things ready, including a minor altercation about drinks on desks, the show began.
And what a show. The Phil (led by Robert Ziegler) were perfection as expected, but there is something really special about hearing those renowned scores played live right in front of you.
We began with the theme from Star Trek; instantly recognisable even to the non trekkies and a rousing start. Following that we were treated to music from Taxi Driver, with an effortless solo from John Harle leaving this failing saxophonist awestruck, and then one of my favourite pieces of movie music: Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission. Both focus on a solo instrument, yet are strikingly different. The former conjures up dimly lit rain-sodden streets while the later is green, lush, and far more peaceful.
More iconic movie music came next in the form of the haunting love theme from The Godfather. For a love theme, I’ve always found this piece surprisingly mournful and almost unsettling, which is of course why it works so well in the context of the film. We also heard an abridged theme from Blue Velvet, a film I’m yet to see and so was unfamiliar with the score of. It’s interesting to hear music without the images it was composed to accompany, and I’m intrigued to see how this gentle piece fits into a film which I’ve always understood to cut quite close to the bone. The theme from James Bond brought the pace back up, with that fantastic surf guitar.
Between the music Ziegler and our hosts talked through some of the pieces and gave their views on scores in general. There was an interesting discussion about the success of a film and it’s score being intertwined and whether a good score can climb out from under a bad movie. Pirates was once more offered up as an example of bad film good score (I scowled accordingly) but I think there is a point to be made about good music sometimes being able to save a bad film. Avatar is a film which critics love to hate, but whatever you may think of it, James Horner did some amazing work with the score. When I look back at it, I think the music has a lot to do with why I tend to be on the more lenient side than most reviewers.
We were taken into the news by The Magnificent Seven. And it was Magnificent. The excitement in the audience was palpable. We were all itching to shout out “Yee HA!”
The orchestra took a break now, which allowed Mayo and Kermode to continue with their usual chat about the weeks film releases. As the news was going out Mayo told us they’d like to talk to a few members of the audience as he flicked through our questionnaires. Much to my surprise my name was read out, and as microphone’s were scrambled a few of us were asked to move down to the front of the audience. As we nervously shuffled through the rows to the aisle I heard a familiar voice ask, “which one is Katie Ferin?”
Turns out Mr Kermode had actually read my choice words and was keen to finish the argument on air. As I hastily tried to remember how to speak in sentences we began to fight our corners before Mayo reminded us to save it until we returned from the news. I may not have exactly changed his mind, but I did at least manage to get my point out, even if we did end up agreeing to disagree. And that’s my 30 seconds of fame out of the way. I will say though, that I agree with him on there being absolutely no point to Pirates being in 3D. Let’s hope this marks the beginning of the end of that tired gimmick
More interviews and then Kermode went through the weeks new releases, most of which he hadn’t seen! (Seems I’m not the only one struggling to get to the cinema at the moment) I’m disappointed to hear that Kung Fu Panda 2 is trying to get deep and meaningful, because that is just never going to work, and I’m hoping that once I see X Men: First Class I’ll be able to argue with Kermode all over again, but I fear he may be right about one too many mutants and an excess of scantily clad women. Hopefully the awesomeness of Fassbender and McAvoy will be enough to counter.
With the return of the orchestra we were treated to Kermode’s harmonica skills and another favourite of mine, John Barry’s Midnight Cowboy. Like the Taxi Driver score, its music that instantly transports you to a time and place forming a symbiotic relationship with the on screen action. There Will Be Blood followed and then an unusual choice from none other than Paloma Faith, who apparently fought tooth and nail to get Shigeru Umebayashi’s score to 2046 onto the shortlist. Another piece I’d never heard before, but I loved the driving force of the cellos and the drama they added to the sweeping strings.
We finished with the listener’s choice. And it was phenomenal. Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Everyone knows that John Williams is beyond genius, but when you hear something as iconic as Raiders played live in a little studio it adds a whole new dimension. I could not stop my feet from tapping to the music, and I’m sitting here now, listening to it again and remembering all the reasons why I love that film so much. It was a perfect ending to a spectacular concert.
So that’s what happens when you get above your station and call people who know better names on the internet. It was a great experience and I’m very grateful to everyone at the BBC for letting me be there. I had a brief chat with Kermode at the end, who was very nice about my poor writing. I look forward to disagreeing with him again in future.
If you want to listen to the show, for the next week you can catch it on BBC iPlayer HERE