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Shrikant Rangnekar

Atlas Shrugged Movie: A Roman Copy of a Greek

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I just saw the New York showing of the Atlas Shrugged Part I movie. This is a brief review of it. If you would rather watch the movie first before reading a review–which is what I would do and recommend–please do not read any further.

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1. Firstly, making a movie is a large-scale endeavor, and working over a decade to actually bring the movie to fruition required considerable tenacity, resourcefulness and purposefulness–I must thank especially John Aglialoro, the producer who spearheaded the project, for making that happen.

2. I found that this is a sincere attempt to portray Atlas Shrugged–the production team genuinely liked and respected Atlas Shrugged and it appears they tried their best to portray it to the best of their ability within the constraints they had.

3. My overall impression of the movie can best be described by an analogy...

Read the entire review here: Atlas Shrugged Movie: A Roman Copy of a Greek Original by Shrikant Rangnekar

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I have posted Three Ayn Rand Movies: Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead & We the Living on my blog.

How does the new Atlas Shrugged Movie compare to We the Living and The Fountainhead movies?

Ayn Rand’s ideas grew in depth, breadth and explicitness across her three novels: We the Living, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Concretizing them in a movie form grows progressively harder with successive novels.

We the Living dramatizes the sacredness of one’s own life and the destructive evil of dictatorships. The movie was made during Mussolini’s dictatorship in Italy in 1942, and the story of its making is fascinating in its own right...

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What will be the impact of the Atlas Shrugged Movie on our culture?

I am raising questions about the factors that will shape the magnitude of that impact, and am answering them before the release of the movie in the hope that doing so will get people thinking about this opportunity, and will enable them to devise their own strategies for making the most of it.

Atlas Shrugged Movie: Ten Million Dollar Questions

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That's awesome. They've added a theater in Nashville to the list, so I'll be going. Also, Vanderbilt's YAL is hosting an Atlas Shrugged panel discussion after showing a 15 minute clip the day before the movie comes out. Although, at this point, the only person that's agreed to be on the panel is... me, so we'll see how that goes.

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Seems that the best thing you liked about the movie is the fact that Aglioro pulled it off against so many odds!

I'd like to add that some of those odds, that "Gordian knott" as you put it, are ghosts:

Atlas has become a Totem with an aura of (deserved) reverence that probably constains movie-makers.

Another ghost is the fact that there has to be only one Atlas Shrugged: The Movie, when this is not the case. I congratulate Aglialoro on being the first and opening the gates. New versions and even adaptations of Ayn Rand's Opus could come out more easily now that it's not longer taboo to depict it: as Aglialoro has broken the taboo and sliced the knot.

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Reason.com has written up a piece for the upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie. I believe a month or so ago one of their writers saw an early screening and gave it a lukewarm review much like Yaron Brook et al.

At any rate, the main reason I bring up this article is because it has a section on page 3 titled "All the Objectivists Are Going to Fucking Hate Me"

http://reason.com/archives/2011/04/08/atlas-shrugged-the-movie/2

‘All the Objectivists Are Going to Fucking Hate Me'

Aglialoro and company have a big advantage: the vivid hold that the novel has on the imaginations of millions of readers. That is also a big disadvantage. The filmmakers can't compete with a passionate fan's dream vision of what his favorite book should look and feel like on screen, Kaslow says—or with fans who decide to take on the dead Rand's mantle of control and disapproval.

In the novel, Dagny is a brunette. Would Rand tolerate a blonde woman in the role, as many griping on the Internet cannot? Well, she did once imagine Farrah Fawcett-Majors in the role. Could she tolerate a black Eddie Willers (Dagny's assistant), as again many fans apparently cannot? She never thought of skin color as essential, condemning racism as "the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism."

Screenwriter O'Toole has been grappling with possessive Rand lovers daily on the movie's Facebook page. He will give out his phone number and personally win over people who are down on the movie before they've seen anything other than stills.

It would be unreasonable to expect Atlas Shrugged's actors to be Rand mavens. Bowler and Schilling are not much interested in discussing whether they are prepared to face Rand's philosophical enemies in the press as the embodiments of her heroes. Bowler tells me that dealing with the ideas of someone "so much loved, and so much challenged—that's an argument worth having." But he follows it up with the very un-Randian observation that "when you make ideas a certainty, you have the danger where you wind up wearing jackboots."

Even the two people doing most of the front-end promotion, Kaslow and O'Toole, walk the line between wanting Rand fans to be enthusiastically on board and downplaying the weight of the movie's message. "If you are asking, ‘Am I going to have to defend the philosophy?' " Kaslow says, "from my perspective in Part 1 there isn't very much that's really radical." Both men seem more comfortable selling Atlas as a corking tale of feminist empowerment—Dagny is one of the strongest, most complicated female leads in modern literature—than as a story of how the morality of the welfare and regulatory state is damning us all to hell.

Rand is a curious cultural and intellectual phenomenon, loved by millions but in essence telling the world that its dominant values are hideous moral evils, and that if you compromise with them (that is, if you try to live anything like a "normal" life), you are hideously evil yourself. It's not a feel-good Hollywood message, nor is it the typical Hollywood feel-bad message.

The actors are aware that Ayn Rand is a controversial figure of some sort, although Jsu Garcia—playing Francisco d'Anconia, the formerly brilliant business mind, now dissolute playboy—says he can't believe Rand was an atheist, as he finds so much spirituality in her work. Matthew Marsden, somewhat of a Hollywood right-winger with a honed contempt for politicians, does a subtle, cool job with Rand's villain, Dagny's brother James. He chuckles to himself after a line reading: "All the Objectivists are going to fucking hate me, aren't they?"

Surely, many of them will, and not just for being the villainous Taggart, but for being part of a public vision of Atlas that isn't theirs. Atlas was shot indie and on the fly, and it will be distributed the same way. The filmmakers plan to place the movie in theaters in 11 big American cities on the official release date of April 15, hoping for a huge per-screen opening weekend and to spread out from there. Kaslow points to the slow-rollout indie success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a model, and holds out hope that Atlas can be the "top-grossing indie film ever made."

Aglialoro has kept Rand devotees close from the beginning. He is on the board of the Atlas Society, a group that promotes Objectivist ideas, and has used the society's philosophical chief David Kelley to vet scripts for Objectivist bona fides all through the process. On the other hand, Rand's official heirs at the Ayn Rand Institute (owners of the atlasshrugged.com website) declined to comment on the movie, and if you only knew what they told you about the popular spread of Rand's ideas, you wouldn't know the film was even coming out.

The producers are working closely with various groups interested in Rand's small-government message to get early word out on the film. In mid-February, just as the film's trailer went public, Kaslow said they will be working with the Tea Party–oriented small-government organization FreedomWorks' online "Freedom Connector" program to gin up audience demand for showings of the film in specific cities across the country. Kaslow says they are initially most focused on letting Rand fanatics know that the film is really done and really coming out, "because the whole idea of a film has been in people's mind for a long, long time, with lots of false starts, expectations, and hopes. We want to create noise among that population and from that noise we think that then opens the door at least on a curiosity level to a broader population."

Edited by CapitalistSwine

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Reason.com has written up a piece for the upcoming Atlas Shrugged movie. I believe a month or so ago one of their writers saw an early screening and gave it a lukewarm review much like Yaron Brook et al.

At any rate, the main reason I bring up this article is because it has a section on page 3 titled "All the Objectivists Are Going to Fucking Hate Me"

http://reason.com/archives/2011/04/08/atlas-shrugged-the-movie/2

The Reason essay on the Atlas Shrugged movie is written by Brian Doherty, Senior Editor and libertarian author of Radicals for Capitalism. He says he's been a fan of Ayn Rand since his late teens. Now that's interesting. Here's how he introduces the discussion of Ayn Rand in his book:

"The Russian-born novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand was the most popular libertarian of all and simultaneously the most hated. As I libertarian, if you don't love her, you are apt to feel embarrassed by her, burdened by her omnipresence and the occasional fanaticism of her followers."(p. 11)

That was written by a fan of Ayn Rand? I never would have guessed. Here is how this “fan” describes Atlas Shrugged in his book:

"Rand and her fans think Atlas presents an inspirational vision. Rand's aesthetic philosophy says that art is meant to provide emotional fuel for man by showing him values made real, by providing him with the joy of living temporarily in a world where everything is as it should be. However, the novel is for most of its length literally nightmarish. It focuses more intensely on the terror of destruction and decay than it does on the glory of achievement and growth. While Rand clearly spoke in the name of peace, liberty, and achievement (though her ideological enemies have rarely granted her the respect of noticing that's what she explicitly stood for), the novel supplies plenty of ammunition to those who accuse it of being written in a spirit of hate." (p. 227)

With fans like this, Rand did not really need detractors. The article seems to drive home the point that the movie is a poor vehicle for the philosophy. That may well be true, but how the heck would Doherty know?

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"Rand and her fans think Atlas presents an inspirational vision. Rand's aesthetic philosophy says that art is meant to provide emotional fuel for man by showing him values made real, by providing him with the joy of living temporarily in a world where everything is as it should be. However, the novel is for most of its length literally nightmarish. It focuses more intensely on the terror of destruction and decay than it does on the glory of achievement and growth. While Rand clearly spoke in the name of peace, liberty, and achievement (though her ideological enemies have rarely granted her the respect of noticing that's what she explicitly stood for), the novel supplies plenty of ammunition to those who accuse it of being written in a spirit of hate." (p. 227)

I think it's interesting how revealing it can be, what you take away from Rand's work.

I remember when I first read Atlas and eencountering critics who thought it was about destruction and "killing everyone". My own reaction being that I had to stop and think for a moment before concluding that, now that they'd mentioned it, that most of the world was indeed going to hell(though as a consequence of evil). I'll never understand how some people will only see that, completely missing the concept of justice, and miss the inspiring portrayal of heroes and her sense of life.

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My wife and I have our tickets for tomorrow at 7:00 at the Empire 25 near Times Square. We'll be attending with another couple and we can't wait to see the movie!

John Link

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Roger Ebert's review:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110414/REVIEWS/110419990

Cliff's notes version: he pans it, criticizing more or less the same flaws that I thought this film would have, when I first heard it was being made. To his credit, though quite the liberal, he sticks to the artistic value of the movie and doesn't stray into criticizing its philosophy.

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Roger Ebert's review:

Cliff's notes version: he pans it, criticizing more or less the same flaws that I thought this film would have, when I first heard it was being made. To his credit, though quite the liberal, he sticks to the artistic value of the movie and doesn't stray into criticizing its philosophy.

The good news is that the long wait is finally over and we can see it first hand for ourselves. This reviewer says this, that reviewer says that. Blah-blah-blah ad nauseum. I understand there is a fancy premiere in New York tonight. I will be attending tonight's midnight screening in Torrance, Ca. To heck with sleep. I have waited long enough.

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I would have seen it if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had remained attached, as they were at one point. Not because I'm huge fans of them, but because they're too well-known to allow themselves to be involved with a movie that is likely to get such a scathing review. Had A.O. Scott given this review, I might not have been so pessimistic, because his reviews often seem constructed for the sole purpose of pissing off the fans of overwhelmingly popular movies (like Inception, which virtually all other critics adored). I find Ebert's taste to be very close to my own, even if his politics aren't. But, like I said, politics aren't really discussed here.

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The good news is that the long wait is finally over and we can see it first hand for ourselves. This reviewer says this, that reviewer says that. Blah-blah-blah ad nauseum.

Exactly!

I understand there is a fancy premiere in New York tonight.

I had heard the tickets were going for $150 per person, but now I see that they were $250!

http://nycpremieratlasshruggedmovie.eventbrite.com/

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I had heard the tickets were going for $150 per person, but now I see that they were $250!

http://nycpremieratlasshruggedmovie.eventbrite.com/

I would love to be there. I hope someone took a videocamera to the reception and red carpet premiere. It's so rare to have a public Objectivist event of this importance. I imagine it would be like a dramatic party scene from the novel made real. Imagine going to a party and meeting the celluloid personages of Dagny, Francisco and Rearden.

It truly would be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

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I was initially very skeptical that the film would be good, based on the hasty shooting schedule and the fact that so many elements seemed to have been thrown together at the last minute.

Well, I just returned from the midnight showing of the film--the first showing in Los Angeles--and I am pleased to report that I was as wrong as I could be. The film is spectacular. Unbelievably good. Much more philosophical than superficial or purely political. And very respectful of the source material.

Kudos and humble apologies to everyone involved with this project. It may not be a perfect film adaptation, but it is a lot closer to perfection than I would have thought possible.

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I'm not being a smartass with this question, but it's one I want to ask based on the other reviews I've read:

What about the movie did you think was so good? Is it that you agreed with the dialogue/philosophy, or did you also think it was a well-made movie?

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I'm not being a smartass with this question, but it's one I want to ask based on the other reviews I've read:

What about the movie did you think was so good? Is it that you agreed with the dialogue/philosophy, or did you also think it was a well-made movie?

I didn't want to go into specifics last night because I had to get to sleep. I also have only a few minutes to add this brief note today. But I will say that I thought it was very well done. Taylor Schilling was outstanding and really carries the film. For the most part, even the computer graphic imaging was superb (with one minor exception). But what really floored me was the underlying philosophical message, repeated in numerous scenes--the evils of altruism, of living for the sake of others. Those who say that the film lacked that implicit philosophical element must have slept through half the scenes.

I will write a longer review over the week-end.

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I didn't want to go into specifics last night because I had to get to sleep. I also have only a few minutes to add this brief note today. But I will say that I thought it was very well done. Taylor Schilling was outstanding and really carries the film. For the most part, even the computer graphic imaging was superb (with one minor exception). But what really floored me was the underlying philosophical message, repeated in numerous scenes--the evils of altruism, of living for the sake of others. Those who say that the film lacked that implicit philosophical element must have slept through half the scenes.

I will write a longer review over the week-end.

See, this is exactly why I don't want to see it. If the philosophy is what makes it valuable, then I'd say the filmmakers didn't do their job as filmmakers. If I want the philosophical message, I'll reread the book or watch a series of lectures. I can't imagine watching a movie for the sole purpose of it's philosophy...I need some entertainment value. I don't want to see it for the same reason I wouldn't want to watch a movie based on Locke's writings.

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