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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Big Short’, 18 February 2016

The Big Short 
directed by Adam McKay.
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... And that it may not matter what ain’t so as long as everyone else thinks the way you do. Michael Lewis, in the book the movie is based on, calls ‘not knowing’ a ‘talent’. ‘Their ignorance seems incredible,’ he says. ‘They’ in this case are traders who don’t know that sub-prime mortgages, waiting to default, make up 95 per cent of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard’, 15 July 2021

... he seems more a curser than a killer. Reynolds, as Jackson’s supposed protector, the bodyguard Michael Bryce, says he has ‘single-handedly ruined the word motherfucker’. I don’t know about the ruin, but he certainly uses the word a lot. We may have thought there was going to be a bit of metaplay in the film when we learned that the Japanese ...

Maggie’s Hobby

Nicholas Hiley, 11 December 1997

New cloak, Old dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold 
by Michael Smith.
Gollancz, 338 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 575 06150 2
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Intelligence Power in Peace and War 
by Michael Herman.
Cambridge, 436 pp., £50, October 1996, 0 521 56231 7
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UK Eyes Alpha 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 320 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 571 17689 5
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... population. Fear of the Left was indeed so strong that in 1918 the Prime Minister was advised to grant the secret services £1,000,000 invested in the War Loan, to protect their finances against any postwar Labour government. As Michael Smith describes, these problems were exacerbated by the budget cuts which followed the ...

What a Ghost Wants

Michael Newton: Laurent Binet, 8 November 2012

by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 336 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 1 84655 479 7
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... of rebellion is depicted in many novels and films, from Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin to Michael Verhoeven’s The White Rose. Stauffenberg and the other conspirators of July 1944 understood that their plan to murder Hitler and stage a coup was unlikely to come off. Instead of success, there would be the recorded fact that they had tried. They played ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt, 6 June 2002

Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... and Nixon in three (1987-91). And though William McFeely won a Pulitzer Prize for his Grant (1981), that did not deter Jean Edward Smith from publishing a massive new Grant (2001), which some politicians have been reading with furtive pleasure because it finds that Gilded Age Administration less corrupt than had ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Lincoln’, 20 December 2012

... states, but by then Lincoln was dead, assassinated in April, six days after Lee had surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. We see both the assassination and the surrender in the movie, but the bulk of its action takes place in the weeks leading up to the January vote. There are moral dramas. Should Lincoln allow his elder son to enlist? Can he stop him? What if ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Prestige’, 14 December 2006

The Prestige 
directed by Christopher Nolan.
October 2006
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... with the glass of milk?’ Hitchcock asks, thinking of a famous moment in Suspicion where Cary Grant may or may not have poisoned Joan Fontaine’s evening drink. ‘I put a light in the milk.’ Truffaut responds: ‘You mean a spotlight on it?’ Hitchcock says: ‘No, I put a light right inside the glass because I wanted it to be luminous.’ He wanted ...

At the White House’s Whim

Tom Bingham: The Power of Pardon, 26 March 2009

... predecessor in 1974: Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States . . . do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offences against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9, 1974. Nixon himself had ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Some Like It Hot’, 22 November 2018

... keep falling for saxophone players, including one who is disguised as a millionaire played by Cary Grant? Her own answer in the film, given tapping the side of her head, is that she is not very bright. The truth is she knows what she wants and is waiting for the right wrong man. Her supposed weakness is a conscious fidelity to who she is, and this perspective ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Synecdoche, New York’, 11 June 2009

Synecdoche, New York 
directed by Charlie Kaufman.
April 2009
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... with over an infinite amount of time. It may be that everything that follows from his getting the grant is a dream – it may be that his getting the award is a dream – but it scarcely matters, since this is a dream he never leaves, and we never see its outside. His grand plan is to make a play out of his whole life, and once he has rented or bought the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The International’, ‘Duplicity’, 9 April 2009

The International 
directed by Tom Twyker.
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directed by Tony Gilroy.
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... is more convincing in this role than Clive Owen, and the whole caper really needs actors like Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and generally people who talk faster. But both Roberts and Owen are likeable, and Gilroy’s nifty direction provides some of the pace they can’t supply. The attraction of the film, as it is of the first half of The International, is ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Alastair Campbell, Good Bloke, 18 March 2004

... hundreds of thrusting young Fabians and other ambitious New Labour apparatchiks, not to mention Michael Portillo – with just one heroic heckler. She tolerated the cant for well over an hour, her reticence finally breaking when Campbell said that there are good people who go into politics, and bad people: ‘Like you, Campbell, you lying bastard,’ she ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Tony and Jeremy, 20 April 2017

... theme, and it is not just Benn himself who is drawn to the flame. Eric Heffer, Audrey Wise, Michael Meacher, Ken Livingstone and others feature in earnest discussions about whether the time is right for another attempt to capture the flag and how the forces are assembled. The votes of the unions and the membership seem to allow the possibility that the ...

Viscounts Swapping Stories

Michael Wood: Jacques Derrida, 1 November 2001

The Work of Mourning 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Pascale-Anne Brault.
Chicago, 272 pp., £16, July 2001, 0 226 14316 3
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A Taste for the Secret 
by Jacques Derrida and Maurizio Ferraris, translated by Giacomo Donis.
Polity, 161 pp., £13.99, May 2001, 0 7456 2334 4
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... the pieces are published here in English for the first time. The editors, Pascale-Anne Brault and Michael Naas, are sensitive to what might be ‘impolitic’ or ‘morbid’ about such a collection, but their introduction amply and lucidly justifies their assembly of these works, and the only snag with the book as a whole is that it makes certain rhetorical ...

Stalker & Co

Damian Grant, 20 November 1986

... be felt, five of the six men who were ambushed and shot were unarmed at the time; and a sixth – Michael Tighe, shot dead in the barn – had no paramilitary connections. John Stalker’s special brief was to determine the involvement of the RUC in these events. One of the most disquieting revelations made in the press has been the degree to which the ...

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