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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Lust, Caution’

24 January 2008
Lust, Caution 
directed by Ang Lee.
October 2007
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... of collaboration and resistance, are permanently staged. And where, Lust, Caution suggests, there may be no escape from the scene, no return to whatever world there was before the movie took over. MichaelWood ...
15 December 2011
... for which the state has no responsibility are right in a quite wretched way. They won’t have to pay for them. But their children will, and so will ours – and not with money. Keith Thomas and MichaelWood spoke at ‘Universities under Attack’, a conference sponsored by the ‘London Review’, the ‘New York Review’ and Fritt Ord held on 26 November at King’s College London ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Big Short’

18 February 2016
The Big Short 
directed by Adam McKay.
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... suggests that you can get into trouble for knowing as well as not knowing, even if the trouble is different. 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 ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘12 Years a Slave’

6 February 2014
12 Years a Slave 
directed by Steve McQueen.
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... and the moans. It’s eerily easy to spot the instant at which the movie goes wrong – or goes right if you really wanted it to be another movie. The instant involves a tight close-up on the face of Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps, the vicious second owner of Northup. He is, characteristically, reading to his slaves a passage from the Bible about the administration of stripes or lashes, and there is ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Ides of March’

1 December 2011
The Ides of March 
directed by George Clooney.
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... improbable shift in his character with such aplomb, is so convincing in every contradictory aspect, that you keep forgetting what’s wrong with the writing) and a busy young intern (Evan Rachel Wood) who gets herself into all kinds of trouble. The very word ‘intern’ will give you a clue as to the kind of trouble this is, for her and for others, and the film rather clunkily underlines this ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Stop-Loss’

8 May 2008
Stop-Loss 
directed by Kimberly Peirce.
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... American films about the war in Vietnam were slow in coming. Saigon fell in 1975, and Hal Ashby’s Coming Home and Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter both date from 1978. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was 1979. In their separate ways these films were all about damage done to Americans; any damage done to others ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’

22 July 2010
Breathless 
directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... the wrong movie, the violent romantic comedy that he thought was going to be a thriller – or, if you like, in a reflective Godard movie rather than a darker or more dramatic one by Nicholas Ray or Michael Curtiz, or Mark Robson (the director of The Harder They Fall, the poster for which appears in Breathless and entrances Belmondo). Godard himself said he used to think of the film as being in the line ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Behind the Candelabra’

4 July 2013
Behind the Candelabra 
directed by Steven Soderbergh.
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... West/Burt Ward Batman series on television in 1966 it was as a myth rather than a contemporary. He died in 1987. In the movie the performances keep pace with the glitter and the hokum for a while. Michael Douglas as Liberace acts up onstage and off, twinkles with a coy kindness that is all self-admiration but quite fetching even so; Damon is bewildered and wary and captivated in just the right ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Senna’

14 July 2011
Senna 
directed by Asif Kapadia.
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... with, and he says he has to go back to the real old days, 1978 or 1979, when his admired opponent in the go-karts was the British driver Terry Fullerton. No mention of Nigel Mansell or Niki Lauda or Michael Schumacher. Still less of Alain Prost. All Senna ever wanted, in this perspective, was to drive cars fast. Politics and fame were for other people; or perhaps just a cross he had to bear. He was fond ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Anomalisa’

20 April 2016
... behave as if we were. But then sometimes the distinction collapses, or is displaced, as in Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion film Anomalisa, based on a play Kaufman wrote in 2005. When Michael Stone, the author of a bestselling book about improving human relations in business, has a psychological meltdown, we don’t quite know what sort of mind he is supposed to have, because he and ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’

30 November 2017
Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... the figure come alive, prissy, pompous and predictable in the best sense. But then who is Branagh? Is there a (fictional) man behind the moustache? Well, there is a director, who is also Branagh, and Michael Green, a thoughtful and inventive scriptwriter. They give shape and sense to a particular notion of Poirot. But it is Branagh’s acting that makes the notion work. I say this as a non-fan of his ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Fistful of Dollars’

25 April 2018
... the apparent leader of one of the gangs is also the sheriff, we may think of Leone’s Italy as it appears in so many legends and quite a bit of history. And in the fiction of Leonardo Sciascia and Michael Dibdin, where a crucial question about any crime is not who did it, but what to do with any knowledge you may have of this fact. Is there anyone you could report it to who might not be the criminal ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Shape of Water’

22 March 2018
... he might have skills the Russians know nothing of. These skills are supposedly being probed in the facility, but all that seems to happen in this line is that the agent, Richard Strickland, played by Michael Shannon with fabulously nasty relish, tortures him with a cattle prod – and loses two fingers in the process. The creature is referred to as ‘the asset’, indeed ‘the most sensitive asset ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Miami Vice’

17 August 2006
Miami Vice 
directed by Michael​ Mann.
August 2006
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... space with its own aura and co-ordinates. The world it has is enough, our world caught on a camera; or no world, just the set or the simulation where the conversations take place. When directors like Michael Mann, whose movie version of Miami Vice has just opened, say they want to make episodes of television series as if they were movies, they mean, among other things, that they want to create a world, a ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Upstream Colour’

26 September 2013
Upstream Colour 
directed by Shane Carruth.
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... the pool and the poolside equipment, the earnest acting, the skilfully edited bits of Thoreau, make the scene funny, absurd and curiously touching. Kris and Jeff seem to have found a path out of the wood without actually knowing what a path (or a wood) is ...

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