Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where's the Beef?

We at RandZapper have understandably grown weary of trolling Objectivist discussion groups in search of the latest Randian imbecilities. Today, however, in a spirit of duty and selfless public service, we manfully attempted to wade into these Augean stables yet again. What we found, however, was not what we anticipated.

Using the Google Groups search engine, we entered the catchall term "Ayn Rand." The search filter we employed leaves out groups in which Rand is merely mentioned in passing; it turns up only those groups explicitly organized around Rand.

Remarkably, only eighteen groups were listed. Moreover, the membership of most of these groups was minimal.

Oh, there was the redoubtable humanities.philosophy.objectivism, with a respectable 624 subscribers, and alt.philosophy.objectivism, with 150 subscribers. There was the New Intellectual Forum, with seventy-eight members. There was also something called Ayn Rand Dating, with forty-one members in search of rational romance.

But as for the rest ... well, here's a partial list.

AYNRAND [sic] THE GREAT: five members.

The Collective Philosophes [sic]: four members.

Rationalist: two members.

Who Is Afraid of John Galt: one lonely member.

Ayn Rand Forum: eleven members.

The amusingly titled alt.schmuck.dead.bad.lady.novelist, which sounds like the kind of group we might have cottoned to, sadly boasts zero members.

Objectivist Club Discussions: seven members.

And seven more groups, mostly international, featuring between two and three members apiece.

Curious, we tried searching for the term "Objectivism." This brought up more hits, fifty-two groups in all. Of course, some of them are the ones already listed. As for the rest, a few seem to depart radically from Randian purity - Christian Objectivists has seventy-eight deeply confused members - while the others mostly boast memberships in the one- to five-person range. After the first page of listings, none of the groups has even 100 members, and nearly all have fewer than ten.

How about the term "Atlas Shrugged"? Google Groups comes back with only five groups. One is a book club that discusses various books, mostly non-Randian. Then there is a group that characterizes itself thusly:

angleina jolie videos metacafe, jenaveve jolie feet movies, jolie lofties, angelina jolie skydiving, pitt jolie texas, angelina jolie video clips, angelina jolie s personal stylist, pitt jolie, aurora jolie fuck, jolie nude ass, is angelia jolie pregnant, jolie atlas shrugged

Probably not a nexus of New Intellectuals, though it does have 110 Jolie-besotted members.

Then there's a group calling itself Fransisco [sic] d'Anconia, which describes itself as follows:

all dose ppl who hav read Atlas Shrugged... this community is for dose who admire Fransisco d'Anconia, the man who supported John Galt throught. A loyal friend, a true lover and a man of great genius. mayb der's sumthing v all ought to learn from him. Lets discus his ideals, his life and him

It has one member.

A hopeful group called Ayn Rand Fans announces it will discuss Rand's works. The discussions must be rather dull, since (again) there is just one member.

Naturally we could generate many more hits by using the search engine to find any discussion in which our terms appeared, rather than limiting results to sites specifically devoted to these topics. Most of those hits would involve discussion groups that normally have nothing to do with Rand, but which were briefly invaded by some deranged Randian shill.

But it seems to us that the best measure of Rand's actual popularity on Internet discussion groups comes from groups that are organized around her works and her ideas. And there just aren't very many of these, and most of the ones that do exist have very limited memberships.

Which is ... odd.

After all, wasn't there supposed to be a lot of buzz and heat and a groundswell of excitement about Rand and Atlas Shrugged? Weren't Rand's ideas suddenly taking America by storm? Weren't we seeing a renaissance of interest in Objectivism, a revival of the Objectivist movement, a surge in book sales, a cresting wave of popular support?

If so, you'd never know it from Google Groups.

Objectivists are always asking, "Who is John Galt?"

Here's a better question:

Where's the beef?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Angelina, We Hardly Knew Ye

The original purpose of the RandZapper blog was to troll Objectivist newsgroups looking for the most idiotic statements made by Randian fanboys. But after a while, this pastime gets old. The idiocy is never-ending and always the same. And even though we have unlimited time on our hands (being a resuscitated and therefore immortal Aztec mummy), we still don't care to waste our time listening to the nattering nitwits who frequent Objectivism's online salons.

But there's still one feature (or is it a bug?) of the Randian mindset that continues to exert a certain morbid fascination, and that is the idee fixe that a movie version of Atlas Shrugged is "in the works" and will soon take America by storm (und drang).

If you ever need proof that prolonged exposure to Randism rots all critical faculties, consider this medical fact: People have been talking about Atlas Shrugged: The Boring Movie (or Atlas Shrugged: The Even More Boring Miniseries) since the early 1970s. It has never happened. It is never going to happen. Yet the twittering twits of O'ism blindly maintain their optimism that this time it will be different - this time the project will hit the screen - this time the obstacles will be hurdled and the challenges will be met.

This time.

Permit us, in our inimitable fashion, to offer our carefully considered reply to such Pollyannish puerility:


(In case you're wondering, that was a Bronx cheer, or as it was known to us in our youth, Quetzalcoatl's revenge.)

The latest evidence that Atlas Shrugged: The Incredibly Dumb Movie isn't going anywhere is found in an online post that tries manfully to talk up the project. Of course you have to read between the lines. Objectivists, most of whom seem to be high-functioning autistics and Asperger's patients, are congenitally incapable of doing this, so in the spirit of charity toward our benighted brethren, we will help them out.

The post begins with the exciting news that a powerful new money man may soon climb aboard the Atlas express to provide financing. A little history is in order here. Other powerful money men have tried to bring Atlas to the screen - Ed Snider comes to mind. But here's the thing about powerful money men. They didn't get that way by flushing their rubles down the toilet on vanity projects. They invest in something only if it looks like it will be profitable. So far, even Rand's most devoted and well-heeled admirers have not been able to convince themselves that a feature film of her unreadable magnum opus will not sink like a stone.

In fact, it appears that the current incarnation of Atlas Shrugged: The Exercise in Cinematic Tedium is sinking already. Here's the key quote from the article:

A number of stars have expressed serious interest in playing the lead role of Taggart. Angelina Jolie previously had been reported as a candidate to play the strong female character, but the list is growing and now includes Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Anne Hathaway.


Now, if you are a Randinista, you will no doubt wonder why we are grimacing in exquisite schadenfreude at this seemingly harmless paragraph. Isn't this good news for Atlasphiles and all their imaginary friends? Not only Jolie, but even Theron, Roberts, and Hathaway are in the running for the role of a lifetime!

Ah, you poor deluded saps. Permit us to explain a little thing we like to call reality.

In reality, if Angelina Jolie were still committed to this movie, the producers would not dare mention any other actresses competing for her role. It would piss off La Jolie, which is the last thing the moviemakers would want to do. The fact that they are floating these other names means one thing and one thing only: Jolie has put on her stiletto heels and walked away from the project.

That's right, Rand fans. Angelina is no longer in the building.

Even so, the bemused Galt fetishist may wonder, what's the big deal? Theron, Roberts, and Hathaway are big stars in their own right.

Sigh. It gets tiresome explaining the obvious to the simpleminded, but we will soldier on.

If Theron, Roberts, Hathaway or anyone else was actually signed for this role, or even close to being signed, then that name - and only that name - would be announced to the press. The fact that all three names are being bandied about means that none of these fair ladies has signed up. In fact, the post says as much, referring to these glamour queens merely as "candidates" for the role.

Translation: What we are reading is the producers' wish list. Having lost Brad Pitt's multiply tattooed, anorexic, baby-making significant other, they are desperately searching for a replacement and throwing out every plausible or semi-plausible name they can come up with, to give themselves the illusion of box-office credibility.

Because, unlike O'ists, we know how the real world works, we can say confidently that none of the above - not Aeon Flux, not Pretty Woman, not Shakespeare's wife, and not Mrs. Smith - has signed for the role of Dagny, and most likely Theron, Roberts, and Hathaway have not even discussed the idea. They would probably be as surprised as anyone else to see their names mentioned in connection with a "movie" they've never even heard of. ("Who the heck is Dagny Taggart?" might be a typical response.)

The post also contains the exciting news that Randall Wallace, having written the screenplay for Atlas Shrugged: The Interminable Waste of Time, is thinking about making his directorial debut helming the epic. This is, of course, because director Vadim Perelman already walked.

Wallace's last major cinematic effort was the screenplay for Pearl Harbor, a movie so bad an actual song was written about how stinky it is.

What kind of song will they write about Atlas Shrugged: The Celluloid Crap-Fest?

I miss you more than Randall Wallace missed the mark
When he made that lame Ayn Rand film.
I miss you more than that movie missed the point
And that’s an awful lot, girl.
And now, now you’ve gone away
And all I’m trying to say is
Atlas sucked, and I miss you.

It's enough to bring tears to a dusty old mummy's eyes. Sadly, that song will never be written, because Atlas Shrugged: The Weak-Ass Direct-to-the-Video-Bargain-Bin Movie will never be made.

And if any powerful money men are reading this, they can take that prediction to the bank.

Monday, January 12, 2009


RandZapper here. After a hiatus, we've returned to mock The Atlas Society's website promoting the "upcoming" Atlas Shrugged feature film.

As we have long pointed out, this movie is upcoming in the same sense that the migration of the San Bernardino Mountains into downtown L.A. is upcoming. If your time scale is long enough, you can mark your calendar, but don't expect either the mountains or the movie to hit your doorstep anytime soon.

Evidence that we're right is found on the Atlas Society's own site. (And by the way, shouldn't it be the Atlas Shrugged Society? That's A.S.S. for short.) Anyway, just click on "Current News" and you find yourself reading this breaking news story:

Angelina Jolie set to star in Atlas Shrugged

It's official: Angelina Jolie is set to star in the film adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. David Kelley, Founder and Senior Fellow of The Atlas Society (TAS) confirmed with producer Howard Baldwin that Jolie is "signed, sealed and delivered."

Woo-hoo! With super-mega-ultra-movie star/celebrity/diplomadonna Jolie on board, nothing can stop the Atlas express now!

But wait. This "current news" item is dated September 21, 2006.

Duuuuude. That was like, two years ago, man. Hasn't Jolie made at least three major flops since then? If she could find time to play Fox in Wanted between squeezing out babies, couldn't she fit Dagny Taggart into her schedule?

Even worse for Atlasphiles, this is the latest - in fact, the only - "current news" on the site.

For fun, we clicked on "Archive," where we found the exact same news item about the anorexic home wrecker. Previous archived stories offer breathless headlines like "Atlas Movie One Step Closer! The Inside Scoop," and "Film Company to Bring Atlas Shrugged to the Screen!" The latter is dated May 13, 2003.

2003? Bush was still in his first term. He hadn't even started pulverizing our economy yet.

Now, we may be only a resuscitated Aztec mummy on a mission to mock Objectivism, but even we know that if there were any heat behind this movie, it would have shown some progress over a period of five years. Instead, there's been no significant news other than the signing of Brad Pitt's creepily tattooed and disturbingly gaunt corpse-bride. Screenwriters have come and gone; plans for a Lord of the Rings style trilogy have been trumpeted, then scrapped; claims have been made of serious interest from a bevy of bona fide stars (none of whom have materialized); a director (with two bombs to his credit) was hired and then let go; and now the project appears to be languishing permanently in Development Hell.

Who could have predicted it? Oh, RandZapper, that's who. Not to toot our own horn or anything.

At this point, the only thing the Atlas movie is good for is playing pretend-casting games (as witness this Wall Street Journal Online waste of time from last April). And it provides an opportunity for Rand fans to sound off on whether the book should be dramatized as a movie or miniseries.

Here's a thought: how about neither?

There is actually just one format that would do true justice to the depth, insight, complexity and intellectualism of Ayn Rand's epic vision. Yes, that's right - we're talking about a comic book. (Or, for you bluenoses, a graphic novel.)

We can picture it now, Atlas Shrugged the comic, written and illustrated by Objectivist nutjob Steve Ditko. Price: $95, payable in gold bullion only. Binding: the gold-embossed pelts of baby harp seals, pasted together with glue made from past Kentucky Derby winners. Length: 4000 pages. Galt's speech alone would run 250 pages, since (obviously) not one bejeweled word of this magisterial summation of the Randian worldview can be omitted. Would you cut the Bible? Well, would ya, punk?

So our advice to all the Objectivists dutifully awaiting the debut of their nonexistent and never-to-be-existent movie is this: Pool your pennies and hire Ditko to pen-and-ink your favorite novel.

Or failing that, sharpen your Crayolas and get to work yourselves.

(They do let you have Crayolas in mental institutions, don't they?)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Stay classy

Randzapper doesn't always keep up on the latest Randian nuttiness, so we are a little behind the times in noticing this remarkable essay by longtime Randolator Harry Binswanger.

Disregarding the old adage that you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, Binswanger launches a salvo of personal attacks on the recently departed conservative pasha William F. Buckley. And when we say recently, we mean recently; Buckley passed away on February 27, 2008, and Binswanger posted his jeremiad on March 10. At least he waited till the body was cold.

The title gives you a pretty good idea of what you're in for: "William F. Buckley, Jr.: The Witch-Doctor is Dead."

Though personally, we think "Ding-Dong, the Witch-Doctor is Dead" would have had more of a, um, ring to it - so to speak.

In case his readers missed the implications of the title - always a possibility when addressing dimwitted Objectivist twits - Binswanger begins his essay with the words, "William F. Buckley, Jr. is finally dead."

Finally! You can just hear Binny breathe a heartfelt sigh of relief. Or it would be heartfelt, if he had a heart or was capable of feeling anything.

Having established his bold, take-no-prisoners stance in defaming a dead guy who can't fight back, the intrepid Binswanger expands on his thesis that Buckley's grave is not worth crying over.

Buckley was the man who initiated and sustained the movement to bring religion into the conservative movement. His first book was "God and Man at Yale," which I haven't read or looked at, but which is said to have criticized Yale education for being both leftist and anti-religious.

Now, ya gotta love this. Binny has not "read or looked at" Buckley's famous book - one of the most influential tomes in modern conservative history - but he just knows it's bad, 'cause somebody told him so. Objectivist intellectualism at its finest! Let's hear it for the independent reasoning mind!

(Has it ever occurred to you that the Randian movement is much like the crowd of disciples in Monty Python's Life of Brian? "You are all individuals," Brian tells them. "We are all individuals," the crowd chants in unison. Except for one guy, apparently untainted by Randism, who says defiantly, "I'm not!")

Anyway, back to Binny and his bete noir.

[Buckley] then founded the magazine National Review, which Ayn Rand in her Playboy interview of 1964 called "the worst and most dangerous magazine in America," because of its crusade to tie capitalism to religion.

Get it now? Binswanger knows Buckley was bad without reading his book - because Ayn Rand (peace be upon her) said so.

The guru has spoken. The oracle has prophesied. Case closed.

And she said so in Playboy, which apparently was not "the worst and most dangerous magazine in America," despite its reprehensible overuse of airbrushing.

Inevitably, Binswanger next brings up that continuing thorn in Objectivism's paw, National Review's devastating and brilliant critique of Atlas Shrugged.

The Whittaker Chambers piece on Atlas Shrugged was probably the most hostile and distorted review of that great work ever.

Actually Chambers' essay was amazingly prescient and brimming with insights into the twisted Randian mindset. Read it for yourself. Or, if you're an Objectivist, just take Binswanger's word that it's not worth reading. After all, he's already told you what to think.

In the intervening years, National Review has written at least two major attacks on Ayn Rand. I recall one titled, I think, "Saint Ayn," and it featured on its cover a drawing of Ayn Rand, as if on a stained glass window, looking heavenward.

Heaven forfend! A magazine about public policy and conservative ideas that actually addressed Ayn Rand as a controversial and significant figure! Didn't Buckley know that, having received the Randian revelation, we were all expected to fall to our knees, blinded by the light, like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus? How dare they presume to criticize - criticize! - the Greatest Genius of the Past Two Thousand Years (TM)?

Notice that Binswanger barely even remembers the cover story on Rand and has to guess at its title. Since he mentions nothing of the content of the piece, it is safe to assume he didn't read it, just as he didn't read Buckley's book. Apparently he did glance at the cover, though. That's what passes for serious intellectual engagement in Objectiworld.

After taking Buckley to task for a couple of policy disagreements, Binswanger retails this unsubstantiated anecdote:

Incidentally, Ayn Rand told me that in the years following her public condemnations of Buckley, he sent her more than one letter "crawling on his knees" (her words) trying to get her approval and/or a rapproachment. Needless to say, he failed in this attempt.

Why do we have trouble believing this claim? Is it because the supremely confident and ever-poised Buckley does not strike us as the type who would crawl on his knees? Is it because Buckley had no conceivable reason to care if Ayn Rand liked him or not, inasmuch as Buckley was an influential leader of conservative thought and Rand was (and is) a sad joke ignored by everyone but dateless college freshmen? Is it because Rand lied so often about other incidents in her life, such as her affair with Nathaniel Branden and her early years in America, that her autobiographical ramblings have not the slightest whiff of credibility? Is it because Rand was obviously a megalomanical, narcissistic, delusional nut whose addled brain chronically conflated fantasy and reality?

After careful consideration and much prayerful reflection, we think the answer is: all of the above.

Not having excoriated the dead man quite enough, Binny lays it on with a trowel in his poisonous concluding graph:

Buckley, more than anyone else, is responsible for subverting the "conservative movement," turning it into its current, depraved status as the anti-reason, anti-man, welfare-statist "religious right." The world is well rid of him.

Nice, Harry. Really ... nice. You and the dead witch you worship were just made for each other.

Now, because what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the goosestepper, let Randzapper emulate your style with this parting thought:

Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, is responsible for polluting the minds of hapless young fools and creating a sick cult of personality that has ruined lives for decades. The world is well rid of this cheap Russian import. Indeed, the world would have been infinitely better off if Alicia Rosenbaum had strangled on her umbilical cord in her mother's feculent womb.

In an uncertain world, at least you can count on Randzapper to stay classy. Always.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Atlas Fragged

Still on the subject of the Atlas Shrugged movie, RandZapper discovered a delightfully clueless report on the film, filed by longtime Objectivist Bob Bidinotto in July of 2006. The report shows up in the archives of the Laissez Faire Books website, but for some reason the page can be accessed only in Google's cache.

Posted on 7/13/06, the LFB entry breathlessly announces that Atlas will soon be a Super Duper Major Motion Picture. According to Bidinotto, who has all kinds of ultra-exclusive Grade A inside dope:

The plan is for the film to be shot and shown in three parts, as a trilogy, like "Lord of the Rings." Only that length, they said, would give sufficient scope to tell Ayn Rand's long, complex story. (The initial $40 million would go mainly to Part I.)...
Oops. Well, that part of the master plan seems to have fallen by the wayside, as there is now no hint of a three-part Atlas, but only a single two-and-a-half-hour snoozefest. Which is obviously just as well, since Lord of the Rings was a colorful, fast-paced story of heartwarming characters and fabulous monsters, while Atlas is a tedious ideological screed stocked with cardboard heroes spouting Randian cliches as they sit around their offices watching their profits shrink. Nobody but the most brain-dead Randroid is gonna pay to sit through nine hours of that.

But ... if "only that length" would do justice to Atlas, then can we assume that the producers now concede that the new slimmed-down movie will not do justice to the book?

LFB continues with its scoop:

The first draft of the script for Part I has been completed by James V. Hart, a veteran screenwriter among whose major credits are "Contact," "Hook," and "Tuck Everlasting."
Hart's script was promptly filed in the shredder, and a new screenwriter, Randall Wallace of Braveheart fame, was hired. It seems a natural choice. He has the word Rand in his name, just like Nathaniel Branden. And having worked with Mel Gibson, he's used to dealing with crazy people.

Philosopher David Kelley -- founder, past executive director, and now Senior Fellow of The Atlas Society (formerly The Objectivist Center) -- has worked closely with Hart to insure the screenplay's philosophical fidelity to the novel.... [Kelley] rates the screenplay about an "8" out of a possible "10."
That's the screenplay they trashed, remember.

The [producers] revealed that they have been deluged with major stars who want to play in the film.
Deluged with major stars, are they? Well, more than a year later no other "major stars" have been attached to the project, so can we assume that the deluge has slowed to a trickle?

While they were eager to hear our suggestions for various characters, the only name they emphasized, repeatedly, was Angelina Jolie for the Dagny role. They made it very clear that Jolie wants to play Dagny very, very much -- and that other actresses (e.g., Ashley Judd), while possibly excellent for the part, might not have the stellar box-office appeal that would allow the film to be a huge success, especially abroad....
RandZapper pauses for the laughter to subside. Jolie has "stellar box-office appeal"? In what star system, Alpha Centauri? In our solar system, the only profitable live-action flick Jolie has made in the last six years was Mr. and Mrs. Smith, co-starring Brad Pitt. It reaped a very healthy $186,336,279. Other than that, here is the dishonor roll of Angelina's big-screen flops since 2001:

Her most recent film, the star vehicle A Mighty Heart, grossed a pathetic $9,176,787.

The Good Shepherd managed to rake in $59,908,565, probably still not enough to cover production and advertising costs.

The laughable Oliver Stone epic Alexander amassed only $34,297,191.

Jolie did manage to make a profitable movie in Shark Tale - $160,861,908 - but since this animated kiddie film only relied on her vocal talents and was aimed at tiny tots, we're not sure it counts.

How about the retro sci-fi flick Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? $37,762,677.

The serial killer chiller-thriller Taking Lives, another star turn for Angelina? $32,682,342.

Something called Beyond Borders, which we have never heard of: $4,430,101.

The sequel to Tomb Raider, called Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life - a disappointing and unprofitable $65,660,196. The sequel's poor performance killed the once-promising franchise stone cold dead.

Another nobody-has-ever-heard-of-it movie, Life, or Something Like It: $14,448,589.

And yet another exercise in instant obscurity, Original Sin: $16,534,221.

We're now back to 2001, and the glory days of the first Tomb Raider and the car-heist movie Gone in Sixty Seconds, both of which scored north of a hundred million bucks. Jolie had box office appeal in 2001, no doubt. But since then? Slim pickings indeed.

This is the "major star" who's going to shoulder the burden of making a stupefying yawner like Atlas Shrugged into a money-making venture? Good luck with that.

But really, none of this matters - since, as LFB informs us:

Relative star status is probably being overstressed in the minds of the moviemakers. If the movie is done well, it's going to be a box-office juggernaut no matter, world-wide.
Hell, yeah! A box-office juggernaut, just like the political juggernaut of the Ron Paul campaign!

These sad, clueless bastards really do believe there's a vast audience of Randinistas out there just waiting to see the greatest novel in history, written by the greatest thinker in history, turned into the greatest movie in history.

Here is RandZapper's prognostication. The movie will open big because of the book's notoriety and the long lines of Rand fanatics who will sally forth from their parents' basements to show up on opening night. It will quickly fizzle, killed by murderous reviews, toxic word of mouth, and general public indifference to all things Randian. Within a month it will be a punchline, not unlike the Bennifer bomb Gigli (domestic gross: $6,087,542). Comparisons to Plan 9 from Outer Space will proliferate. And Rand will be even more of a joke than she already is (if such a thing is possible).

For all these reasons, RandZapper wishes the producers success in getting this turkey off the ground. It could be the final embarrassment for Objectivism, the massive self-detonating bomb that will end the Randist movement for good.


Update (11/20/07): Jolie's string of box office misfires continues with the overhyped Beowulf, which underperformed expectations on its opening weekend and seems primed to tank, big-time.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Wisdom of Netflix Users

Lately there have been reports that the much-delayed movie version of Atlas Shrugged may be underway at long last. The producers have apparently enticed international baby-adopter/all-around nutjob Angelina Jolie to play the role of Dagny Taggart, the quasi-female protagonist of the apocalyptic story. Given Jolie's box-office track record of mega-bombs, it's hard to see why casting her in the lead role constitutes any sort of inducement for the money men to pony up the big bucks needed to finance this project, but as P.T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute!"

On the eve of the dramatization of Rand's magnum opus, we at RandZapper thought it would be worthwhile to look at the last time Hollywood tackled one of her books. This was back in 1948, when The Fountainhead made it to the big screen, with the way-too-old, slow-talking Gary Cooper incongruously cast as young, dynamic architect Howard Roark, Patricia Neal going all melodramatic as crazy aspiring rape victim Dominique, and Raymond Massey doing his best to preserve his dignity as newspaper tycoon Gail Wynand. Rand herself penned the screenplay, refusing to allow any changes to her deathless prose.

Those unfortunate enough to have seen the resulting turkey know that it consists of embarrassed actors delivering stilted dialogue on expressionistic sets. Roark's "brilliant" architectural creations look like something an autistic preschooler might model out of dog poop. The mood varies from the lugubrious to the ridiculous. Frequent references to "the mob" (meaning ordinary folks) give the film a disturbing fascist air, despite the paean to individualism in the courtroom climax.

But don't take our word for it. Let's see what some of the ordinary folks - i.e., the mob - who rented this abortion on Netflix have to say about it. The most salient observations have been rendered in bold for your reading enjoyment.

So bad it's good. I am a huge Cooper fan, and came to this movie with no idea of what to expect. The lunacy of Ayn Rand's philosophy seems kind of creepy in a post 9/11 world. Blowing up a building to protest its architecture is really not something a likable or even sane character in a film should do. The plot is ridiculous and overblown, and the dialogue beyond trite and laughable.

This movie is truly awful, but entertaining and very compelling in its badness. When I first saw it, within 5 minutes I knew this was a stinker, but with every scene it keeps getting more absurd. So much so that I had to keep watching it to so how profoundly lousy it could get. It's the "Plan 9" of dramas. I don't have the time or energy to list all of the ridiculous plot points, dialogue and directing faux pas. My suggestion: watch this with friends and do a shot every time something idiotic happens or a character makes an overblown speech. You'll be trashed by the end of the flick and have a lot of laughs.

Occasionally interesting, mostly absurd, it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of Rand and her Objectivist worldview. It argues eloquently for freedom and individual achievement, but its absolute disdain and hatred for "mediocrities" borders on frightening as it seems to argue that the only point to their existence is as little more than cattle. What really sinks this movie, however is its absurdly, over the top melodramatic tone and almost religious worship of beauty and achievement. It's like a big, campy, philosophical soap opera.

It's full of ludicrously didactic speeches (by Ayn Rand herself) and mismatched performances (Neal's "expressionist" performance v. Cooper's exhausted naturalism). It is not a forgotten masterpiece, as some have claimed, but it is endlessly fascinating. Rand attempts to align Nietzsche (Roark = Nietzschean superman) with capitalism, as well as modernist architecture. Yet for all its attacks on the masses and mob mentality, the film seems to want us to submit to (to worship) the charisma and force of the male protagonist. How is this not unlike what the National Socialists attempted by claiming Nietzsche as a precursor to fascist ideology? Note, in particular, the final shot and its jaw-dropping symbolism: Roark astride the world's tallest skyscraper as the camera (simulating the POV of Dominique) slowly makes its ways towards his outstretched legs? You might think my write-up a bit exaggerated -- but wait until you see the film! My review is modest in comparison!!

It plays like a trailer, just showing off the highlights in Rand's novel. The music cues are so sledgehammer they end up being hilarious.

Phallus phallus phallus phallus phallus. The moral of the story: if you stick to our guns, you can have the biggest phallus in New York City.

Ayn Rand was a facile writer, and she's sometimes fun to read. But anyone who takes her at her own self-evaluation, as a philosopher -- nay, as a prophet -- has his head jammed where the moon don't shine.

As written philosophy, Rands work is at times compelling while in the end it rings hollow as a workable life philosophy. As theatrical art, Rands work is laughable. Most of the characters in the movie are one dimensional caricatures of Rands vision of good and evil. The only character that has a modicum of true character development is the publishing magnate, Wynand. His inability to maintain Rands view of purity and ultimate self-destruction seem the most human of all the characters. The monologues by the characters, while at first entertaining in its in-your-face manner, quickly becomes tiresome. Overall, this movie hits you on the head with a bat when a more subtle approach would have been more appropriate.

Irritating and bizarre. The novel has a sense of humanity -however marginal - that the film utterly and completely fails to convey. The film also fails to explore the dynamic between Peter Keating, Dominique Francon and Howard Roarke that makes the novel so powerful. Ayn Rand is a better novelist than she is a philosopher and, unfortunately, this film busies itself too much with Rand's Objectivist indulgences rather than just telling the story.

One of the funniest movies I've ever seen. Right up there with Mission Impossible 2 for the greatest all time unintentionally funny films of all time.

What the h#*l was this all about? Ms Rand's philosophical posturings here are ludicrous. The only person who'd enjoy this would be George Costanza who is in to architecture (oh, and importing/exporting and marine biology, of course). It was interesting as a look at a strange point in time when people actually took this story seriously but as entertainment well, the elevator came nowhere near the top floor.

Simply put: it is a mess. There is a point being made here, and that point takes over the plot, overriding any common sense or real drama. Most of the acting and dialogue in the film is very fake. It sounded like a high school kid trying to be a drama major wrote it. Almost every word spoken is stilted and cliched. The music is awful. It tries so hard to tell the story that it is distracting. Patricia Neal walks into the room, and DA DA DA DA, BOOM! It becomes kind of silly after awhile. All this adds up to a movie so melodramatic that you start to laugh. The movie is dead serious, and you're cracking up!

Whole sections of the text are spouted almost verbatim by the characters. And even from the mouths of several truly great actors, the dialogue is at turns mawkish, didactic and always tedious.

Stunningly awful: cardboard characters endlessly spout cliched dialogue in the service of a silly plot. Ayn Rand's screen adaptation of her novel stuffs so much of her very own loopy philosophy into this movie that only true-believing movement conservative types will find any humanity in it.

The dialogue and acting are so over the top that it is comedic. The final scene had us roaring with laughter.

Ayn Rand has some literary talent I will grant you, but as a philosophical tract this movie is positively awful. Very warped view of humanity.

This film is seriously unbelievable. While the architect may have some skills as an architect, he's a horrible leader and is unable to convince anyone to look at things his way. His lack of negotiation and leadership skills squanders what talent he has, making him egocentric, annoying and ultimately a failure. What confuses the heck out of me is that I think the author and director want us to side with him. How can anyone?

Sanctimonious malarkey. Wooden acting. Unlikeable characters.

Haven't laughed that hard in a long time--a five star comedy! Hilarious!

And, oh yes, there were a few - a very few - positive reviews from brainwashed Randolators blown away by the genius of it all. These people really do need to get out more.

RandZapper looks forward to reading the reviews of Atlas Shrugged when it opens in '08 or '09. We suspect they will be very similar to the ones above.

Angelina, baby, you'd better get busy and adopt some more kids. 'Cause when the notices come in on this flick, you're gonna need all the comfort you can get.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

You Don't Look a Day over 49

Today, Wednesday, October 10, 2007, is the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged, the gargantuan novel that launched the Objectivist movement.

Robert Bidinotto blogs about a dinner held in the book's honor. Surprisingly, many of the participants appear to have been adults. Some may even hold jobs, though this has not been confirmed.

Naturally on this special occasion we will hear many effusions of praise from loyal Randians, starting with Bidinotto himself, who declares that the book's issuance represents "a milestone in human literature, philosophy, and achievement."

Hmm. Literature? Doubtful. Philosophy? More than doubtful. Achievement? Well, the damn thing is really long!

Bidinotto also includes a photo of himself with Barbara Branden, confessing that when the shot was snapped, he was "still misty-eyed over her extraordinary tribute to Rand."

Careful, Bob! Emotions are not tools of cognition!

Ah, but we forget. Emotionalism of the most cloying kind is permitted in one and only one Randian context - tributes to the greatness, the genius, the sheer awesomeness of Ayn Rand herself. As Murray Rothbard incisively observed lo these many years ago, Randism is comprised of an exoteric and an esoteric teaching. The exoterica consist of individualism, capitalism, reason, selfishness, and all that good stuff. The esoteric teaching - the heart of the beast - consists of one tenet and one tenet only: "Ayn Rand is the greatest person that has ever lived or ever shall live."

On this semicentennial, no doubt many Randinistas will be moved to pontificate on how brilliantly their favorite novel (and for many, the only novel they've read since high school, except maybe for The Fountainhead) predicted the future. Look around us, they will cry. See how it all came true, just as Ayn in her infinite wisdom foretold! Then they will say something about high taxes and collapsing bridges.

But let's take a closer look. Here are a few political, economic, cultural, and other developments that Atlas failed to foresee:

A period of prosperity commencing in the late '50s and continuing, with only minor downturns, until the present day. (Atlas foresaw a Great Depression.)

The information revolution - personal computers, the Internet, and loathsome little blogs like this one. (In Atlas, people are still banging away on typewriters and getting their news from newsreels.)

The outsourcing of basic manufacturing industries to Third World countries, and the rise of a service- and information-based economy. (Sayonara, Rearden Steel.)

The eclipse of rail travel by the airline industry, and the eclipse of cargo trains by the trucking industry. (Happy trails, Taggart Transcontinental.)

The ubiquity of television. (Galt's speech is broadcast mainly on the radio. There is a passing reference to television, but TV does not play any role in the story. This is especially odd since TV was already well established by 1957.)

Americans' mass immigration to the Sunbelt and the West. (In Atlas, all the financial and commercial action is in New York City and its surrounds. The West is a lot of open desert, suitable for running train tracks through. Colorado is so empty that a whole valley can be hidden there, unknown to the outside world. The South does not appear to exist at all.)

New directions in science. (Gene-splicing, quantum theory, string theory or any equivalents are absent from Atlas, which presents a scientific community still mired in Newtonian assumptions.)

The demise of hats. (Nobody wears hats anymore. In Atlas, everybody does.)

Now, suppose someone had told Ayn Rand fifty years ago, on the day of her book's triumphant debut, that over the next five decades there would be a significant growth of government spending, taxes, regulations, and controls ... and that in the same period of time, there would be unprecedented prosperity, an unrivalled explosion of scientific and technological knowledge, and a blossoming of freedom around the world.

Would she have believed it? No way. In high dudgeon she would have insisted that such an outcome was logically untenable, entailing fatal contradictions.

Yet that's exactly what has happened.

So ... Happy Birthday, Atlas. Enjoy your cake and punch. But don't party too hearty.

Frankly, dear ... you're showing your age.