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Cortlandt Homes, Redux: Why John Agilardo's Adaptation of Ayn Rand's Novel Atlas Shrugged Utterly Fails by Edward Cline

Virtues are more important than flaws, and there is so much about this movie to praise—most especially its' strong philosophical tone and the terrific performance of Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart—that I regard Cline’s review as more curmudgeonly than insightful.

I recently saw the film for the sixth time, and every time it has given me the sense of entering the wonderful universe of Atlas Shrugged. If one crucial purpose of art is to give one spiritual fuel, this film does that (if one is open to it). And if the film inspires newcomers to read the book, Cline’s review has to be considered more destructive than constructive.

Here is another strongly negative review from The American Thinker:

Who Botched John Galt?

I thoroughly agree with Lawrence Siskind’s assessment of Grant Bowler as Hank Rearden:

Grant Bowler, a werewolf in True Blood, is miscast as Hank Rearden. In the novel, Rearden is a man who went to work in the mines at the age of fourteen, and is 45 years old when he meets Dagny. In the novel, Rand mentions that he is often called "ugly." But in the movie, Bowler looks like he just graduated from business school, after attending prep school and an Ivy League college, while modeling for GQ on the side.

The casting of Rearden was, to me, was one of the most disappointing aspects of the film, and I am pleased to see a critic endorse my sentiments. There is nothing wrong with pointing out defective aspects of the film. On the other hand, to do so without highlighting the many wonderful aspects of the movie strikes me as profoundly irrational. Are some Objectivists trying to discourage people from seeing the film? I find that hard to believe.

It is so easy to wrap yourself in a protective shroud of vitriolic negativity because things are less than perfect—and Atlas Shrugged Part One is far from perfect. It is much more challenging and courageous to speak out in defense of that which is good and admirable in this world. Our society desperately needs positive values to emulate, not the destructiveness of reckless condemnation.

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Are some Objectivists trying to discourage people from seeing the film? I find that hard to believe.

Believe it.

I tended to have the opposite evaluation of the people playing Dagny and Rearden, at least based on the trailer. I thought Dagny was miscast and Rearden was properly cast. Watching the movie I realized that the trailer actually picked some of Dagny's worst scenes (particularly when taken out of context). I've tried very hard not to judge the actors based on what the character "ought" to look like based on my mental image. (That having been said the glaring "doesn't look right" characters for me are Akston, Wyatt, and Boyle.) There's nothing wrong to my mind with Rearden dressing well now that he is successful, in fact I recall a scene in the novel where Rearden is coming out of some sort of conference of steel magnates (a phrase you definitely have to watch your spelling on!) and he was the only one who wore his monetary success well (and was also the only one to have earned it).

I don't know if Part II is coming out and if so if they are planning to show the breakout, but if they do we will see the character's mettle (another word needing careful spelling in this context).

I personally find it interesting that people think that in general either the acting was good or it was awful.

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I've tried very hard not to judge the actors based on what the character "ought" to look like based on my mental image. (That having been said the glaring "doesn't look right" characters for me are Akston, Wyatt, and Boyle.) There's nothing wrong to my mind with Rearden dressing well now that he is successful, in fact I recall a scene in the novel where Rearden is coming out of some sort of conference of steel magnates (a phrase you definitely have to watch your spelling on!) and he was the only one who wore his monetary success well (and was also the only one to have earned it).

It wasn't Rearden's clothing that I found troublesome; it was his lack of imposing height and the fact that he resembled a male model. Rearden should be played by an actor with character in his face. Bowler is far too "pretty." And I couldn't get past the hair.

In the scene where Dagny encounters Rearden on the steel bridge--a scene which is very important for highlighting their mutual romantic attraction--Schilling's Dagny displayed the passion in her eyes, but I had to imagine she was looking at someone other than Bowler.

Well, at least we agree on Akston. Cline is exactly right when he says that Akston comes across as "a diffident, middle-aged, rude slob in what looks like a white jump suit." What the hell was the director thinking?

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That Akston was on pot?

I mean most philosophy professors profess stuff that you'd have to be on pot to believe. Just not Akston FFS.

Recall the scene in the novel when Dagny gives the stub of Akston’s dollar-sign cigarette to her friend at the cigar counter of the concourse.

The old man had been very astonished, as he examined the stub, holding it cautiously between two fingers; he had never heard of such a brand and wondered how he could have missed it. "Was it of good quality, Miss Taggart?.… The best I've ever smoked." He had shaken his head, puzzled. He had promised to discover where those cigarettes were made and to get her a carton.

Maybe Aglialoro had a novel interpretation of what Rand meant when Dagny was so happy with that cigarette.

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Well that plot line is not going to happen... since Dagny in the movie does not smoke. I suspect it's there because in part II (if it is made) a bunch of other characters will be seen smoking the same brand.

(And on that note... the theater in Colorado Springs that originally was showing Atlas Shrugged is no longer doing so. But a second theater picked it up for the second weekend and is still showing it. In fact they originally showed it in a very small theater and during the third week moved it to one of their larger screens, which admittedly could mean anything (including being a consequence of the fact that they are doing some remodeling).)

Edit: Apparently Aglialoro has the money to see this through in spite of the first movie at present being a six to seven million dollar loser, and he is determined to do so.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/atlas-shrugged-producer-promises-two-182714

Perhaps the spread between the critics and audience reviews has encouraged Aglialoro. Or perhaps it's the stories that I continue to see and hear that people who never read the book decide, solely on the basis of this allegedly crappy movie, that they need to go buy the book. (I personally insist, contrary to the numbers of people who've posted here what a piece of dreck this is, that if the movie gets a good emotional response from me and from people who have NOT read the book, it must have considerable merit and the Objectivist haters need to rethink their premises and/or quit judging the movie against the "movie" they have constructed in their heads that includes everything in the book.) He concedes he needs to do better marketing. Meanwhile, the movie continues to play in 228 theaters this weekend, and makes some money (reducing the loss) and DVD sales will help too.

More encouragement on that note: http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/entertainment_movies_blog/2011/04/atlas-shrugged-officially-declared-a-flop.html. Audience likes it, professional (leftist puke) reviewers hate it.

Edited by Steve D'Ippolito

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(I personally insist, contrary to the numbers of people who've posted here what a piece of dreck this is, that if the movie gets a good emotional response from me and from people who have NOT read the book, it must have considerable merit and the Objectivist haters need to rethink their premises and/or quit judging the movie against the "movie" they have constructed in their heads that includes everything in the book.)

I thoroughly agree with this sentiment. One thing to keep in mind is that people are often attracted to radical political and philosophical causes for reasons other than rational, independent thought. Many people may join a movement they regard as countercultural because they feel inadequate to conventional cultural standards. They would reject any contemporary cultural standards because they feel unable to meet any such standards. They oppose standards, as such--even while pretending to simply oppose existing standards.

Such people have a vested interest in maintaining an angry, defiant, oppositional stance. They would be uncomfortable with anything that came along to make their fundamentally negative universe suddenly appear more benevolent.

I have seen the movie six times and love the feeling of living in the universe of Atlas Shrugged. A defiant, oppositional personality would likely have the opposite reaction. He would likely feel threatened by an artistic depiction of his alleged ideal--because his only ideal is actually metaphysical hatred as such.

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an angry, defiant, oppositional stance.

Insisting this movie is good by any objective standard is impossible. Insisting that it is good anyway is itself an emotional, defiant, oppositional stance where the opposition is to objectivity.

It is possible to like a bad movie. It is not the case that if you like a movie that must mean it is good.

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There's nothing wrong to my mind with Rearden dressing well now that he is successful, in fact I recall a scene in the novel where Rearden is coming out of some sort of conference of steel magnates (a phrase you definitely have to watch your spelling on!) and he was the only one who wore his monetary success well (and was also the only one to have earned it).

Rearden's style was described as simple, traditional menswear(my words, not Ayn Rands). It was upon closer inspection noticed as being finely tailored and expensive.

I'm not saying this as having any significance to your debate. I havent seen the movie so I can't say anything about it. I only offer it as clarification(and, might I add, I think your recollection is correct so i'm not disagreeing with you). I also think that the clothing was part of the characterization of Rearden. He dressed as he did because he valued purposefullness and competence(another way this is shown is by the description of his officce as being ascetic, which also supports the same characterization).

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it must have considerable merit and the Objectivist haters need to rethink their premises and/or quit judging the movie against the "movie" they have constructed in their heads that includes everything in the book.

I'm not sure I'm included in the above quote, but I judged it based on elements I expect to be in any good dramatic movie, not just an Atlas Shrugged movie. The characters are one dimensional and they do not develop in any significant way in the story. The dialog is fired at the audience like there is a race to get it all out before the end of the movie.

You can ask people who did not like the movie to "rethink their premises" in the same manner that you could be asked to rethink how objective you are being in judging the quality of the movie.

I liked the fact that the material is getting out there in a more visible medium, but as far as I'm concerned, the movie is poorly done. Even if the follow up(s) are equally poor, I'd still go seem them just the see the material on screen.

And though this is not a part of my argument as to the quality of the movie, my wife fell asleep during the movie and she loves a good drama as much as the next person.

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It is so easy to wrap yourself in a protective shroud of vitriolic negativity because things are less than perfect—and Atlas Shrugged Part One is far from perfect. It is much more challenging and courageous to speak out in defense of that which is good and admirable in this world. Our society desperately needs positive values to emulate, not the destructiveness of reckless condemnation.

Look, I'm glad you enjoyed the movie.

I'm glad that you find the positives to greatly enough outweigh the flaws that you've seen it many times.

But I do take offense to your implication that there is something wrong in the thinking of those of us Objectivists for whom the flaws are an insurmountable obstacle to holding any affection or respect for this piece of work.

Ayn Rand had something to say about second hand people who take the work of others, bastardise it, change it to suit their own whims and cash in on the vision and achievements of their betters. It's a little novel called The Fountainhead.

And that is why the producers of this movie will not be getting any of my hard earned money.

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It is so easy to wrap yourself in a protective shroud of vitriolic negativity because things are less than perfect—and Atlas Shrugged Part One is far from perfect.

Not only is it far from perfect, it is understandable why it didn't get a wide theatrical release for reasons aside from its message. My criticism is based on what I expect from any "good" dramatic movie.

It is much more challenging and courageous to speak out in defense of that which is good and admirable in this world.

But it is only right to do it when it is deserved. As the saying goes, "you can't polish a turd".

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The theme of The Fountainhead is that the individual creative mind is the source and ‘fountainhead’ of all human progress and advancement. And that sheep-like second handers who live by and through the judgments and thinking of others amount to little more than road kill in the ultimate scheme of things.

In the world of art, a second-hander would be someone who takes credit for achievements that are not his own. Aglialorro and Kaslow did not do this. They acknowledge that they did the best they could with limited resources. Is every film-maker who does his best to transform a novel into a good movie on a limited budget a second-hander? Obviously not. It is not the case here, but many films turn out to be significantly better than the novels on which they’re based.

Whatever their shortcomings, a number of very brilliant creative thinkers were involved in the creation of Atlas Shrugged Part One. And by helping to spread the philosophy of Ayn Rand, they are clearly succeeding in advancing human life.

Which is quite a bit more than I can say for the film’s ‘Objectivist’ detractors.

Incredibly, it appears that some people are actually condemning the film without seeing it. In other words, they are literally reaching their "independent" opinion by looking at it through someone else's eyes. That is the essence of living life as a second-hander.

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Judging the film is separate from judging its success in spreading awareness about Rand's ideas.

Judging criticism is separate from judging the critic's success in spreading Rand's ideas. Not to mention, an artistic work's main purpose is not the spreading of ideas, and neither is a critic's criticism.

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Judging the film is separate from judging its success in spreading awareness about Rand's ideas.

Judging criticism is separate from judging the critic's success in spreading Rand's ideas. Not to mention, an artistic work's main purpose is not the spreading of ideas, and neither is a critic's criticism.

My reason for addressing the potential impact of Atlas Shrugged Part One on the culture--i.e., its' value in spreading Rand's ideas and thereby advancing human progress--was to underscore the film's relevance to the theme of The Fountainhead and a "second hand" approach to living one's life. Someone else alluded to that issue (inappropriately) in a prior post.

I agree that a work of art should be judged primarily on its own esthetic merits and not from the perspective of its cultural impact.

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Which is quite a bit more than I can say for the film’s ‘Objectivist’ detractors.

What you can or can't say about the film's detractors is probably very limited and largely uninformed outside of their participation on this forum so it's probably best not to embarrass yourself with such inane commentary.

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Whatever their shortcomings, a number of very brilliant creative thinkers were involved in the creation of Atlas Shrugged Part One. And by helping to spread the philosophy of Ayn Rand, they are clearly succeeding in advancing human life.

Which is quite a bit more than I can say for the film’s ‘Objectivist’ detractors.

Incredibly, it appears that some people are actually condemning the film without seeing it. In other words, they are literally reaching their "independent" opinion by looking at it through someone else's eyes. That is the essence of living life as a second-hander.

"Which is quite a bit more than I can say for the film’s ‘Objectivist’ detractors.

On this in particular I'm not sure if you are referring to any specific persons without having the onions to come out and say so.

I, as one of the "Objectivist detractors" have seen a total of 26 minuts of it that had been made available (legally) online at one point or another. As the film is 97 minutes that is more than 25% of the film.

Since you seem to have declared yourself arbiter of taste as far as this goes may I ask how much of something one must go through to decide it isn't worthwhile? Must one read every painful line of Judith Kranz or Anne Rice to declare it unfit for them to read? It wouldn't matter if the film built to some glorious finale (to me personally) because in the 25% of the movie I saw the costumes were horrible, the acting was leaden, the dialogue inane, the sets on par with some puppet shows I've seen. So if 75% of the movie was much,much better than what I witnessed that would still be a middle C gradewise.

And Rand's works deserve better than a middle C unless one is choosing to suspend one's personal judgement in favor of acting like a fan boy.

I'm just not capable of that and I think Rand would sneer at the notion.

I could take it in stride if you could just say that you love it and it doesn't matter what anyone says about it- you see greatness in it and that is all that matters to you.

But that you appear to feel the need to constantly lash out at those who see the opposite shows a level of insecurity.

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Does anyone know when this film is coming out on video?

Check your local Rite Aid bargain bins...

In serious though, Googles are my friend: all internet points to this fall, and amazon.com will notify you if you sign up:

http://www.amazon.com/Atlas-Shrugged-Part-Taylor-Schilling/dp/B004Z29XAC/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1312836224&sr=8-3

http://www.prweb.com/releases/AtlasShruggedMovie/DVD/prweb8626359.htm

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2011/07/atlas-shrugged-part-i-coming-to-dvd-and-blu-ray-in-the-fall.html

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I think that "Women" had to make this movie..

Women had to script, direct, film, edit and score this film.

It is not incidental to Rand's work that Atlas Shrugged was written by a Woman.

If you have ever been self-employed, or CEO, that position is loved by Women.

Alot of Atlas Shrugged can only be framed properly by a Woman.

That is why it works for men.

And only a Woman can properly script, write , direct, film and score The Movie Atlas Shrugged..

If you have ever been in an position of Authority, WOMEN LOVE CEO'S .. BECAUSE THEY ARE SHARP, HOT, ETC.

CEO'S ARE THE ULTIMATE TURN ON FOR WOMEN..

And that is why its not incidental that a Woman wrote Atlas Shrugged..

Who else can take all of a man into his proper frame but a Woman..

Because being in positions of private control and authority is a turn on for women.

Atlast Shrugged is ultimately Rand's sexual expression of her turn on's , her desires etc.

That is why it comes across like it does.

Atlas Shrugged is part Flirt with a certain type of man by Rand.

Atlas Shrugged was written by a Woman.

The Movie Atlas Shrugged had to be made by a woman.

That is why it works in the book, but doesn't work on film as well.

Edited by NOTJOHNGALT?

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Parts of it seems to work, and parts of it don't.

The objects in the movie tend to remind you that the world as we know it exists.. Which detracts from

some aspects of what Rand is trying to say and adds to other aspects of what Rand is trying to say.

Its just getting the objects in the movie to line up with the context's which Rand's dialogue is taking place in.

So it is detractful when Dagny pulls up in a modern car, while trying to deliver some meaningful dialogue about Atlas Shrugged.

Rand's work grew in popularity as it grew older because the objects in the world Rand created

take on a Nostalgic feel.

Hanks' car was probably a Rolls-Royce Phantom or Silver Ghost.. So the very objects in the book

have lost their actual existence as they existed in that day and take on a glamorized nostalgic

quality, so the further ahead you go in time the more beautiful Atlas Shrugged will become

to people.

Taggart Transcontinental in my mind were 8-4-4-2 Steam Locomotives all stream lined, and black and sleek.

So their is this huge Nostalgia to Atlas Shrugged in 2010...

But It does get its point across to audiences, because what is the ultimate point of Atlas Shrugged,

to get people to stop trying to destroy acheivement and acheivers which is Rand's point from the Book Anthem onward.

So it will still have its proper effect on audiences.

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The gender of the people involved? The fact that they modernized cars and trains? These are non-essentials that have little to nothing to do with making an effective film version of Atlas Shrugged.

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I finally saw the movie.. it wasn't playing anywhere near me, so I had to wait for it to come out on dvd.

In almost all cases where books are turned into movies, the books are much better because there's so much more information in them. That was definitely the case with this film, but I really enjoyed seeing AS finally hit the screen. I was a little surprised, though, by the chosen actors.. I imagined James as a much older (uglier) man, and almost all of Galt's guys as insanely handsome.. especially Wyatt! He was much too old.

But I guess this (and all the modernness qualities) made it seem more realistic. :)

Edited by Michele Degges

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Yeah, I was waiting for the Franciso money speech at the Rearden's anniversary party, and was disappointed when it wasn't included. But otherwise good movie, even though it's annoying that it wasn't mass released.

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