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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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'Atlas Shrugged:' Is it really the movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see?

Paul_johansson If you regularly watch Fox News, as I do, you've probably heard all about "Atlas Shrugged," the new movie version of the iconic Ayn Rand bestseller that opens in 300 theaters this Friday. (Yes, on tax filing day, which must surely be a sly Randian joke.) The party line at Fox is that "Atlas Shrugged," as host Sean Hannity put it, is the movie "liberal Hollywood doesn't want you to see." In fact, it's the movie's own marketing hook. If you do a Google search for the phrase "the movie Hollywood doesn't want you to see," the first thing you find is the film's Facebook page.

Of course, it would be more accurate to say that "Atlas Shrugged" is the film Hollywood didn't want to make, but that doesn't have quite the same forbidden fruit zing to it. As my colleague Rebecca Keegan has reported, the film was actually in development at Lionsgate, with Angelina Jolie attached to a script by heavyweight writer-director Randall Wallace. The project fell apart, though not because of any liberal plot. The film's financier, John Aglialoro, wanted a more faithful version of the book, which even many of its admirers will admit is something of an unlikely commercial property. Agliatoro eventually handed the filmmaking reins to "One Tree Hill" actor Paul Johansson, who had never directed a feature before.

So Aglialoro is essentially distributing the film himself. He's already had tastemaker screenings for such influential conservatives as Big Hollywood's Andrew Breitbart and House Speaker John Boehner. But will moviegoers flock to a film just because its backers say it's a film Hollywood liberals didn't want them to see? After all, didn't that scheme work pretty well for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," which cast Gibson as an embattled outsider whose film had been turned down everywhere in la-la-liberal Hollywood?

Of course, to embrace that narrative, whether with "Passion of the Christ" or with "Atlas Shrugged," you'd have to be willing to conveniently forget that 20th Century Fox, one of the biggest studios in town, is owned by -- ahem -- conservative kingpin Rupert Murdoch.

With "Atlas Shrugged," you'd also have to ignore the reviews, not just from those pesky liberal critics who would never give Ayn Rand a fair shake, but from P.J. O'Rourke, perhaps the most distinctive conservative cultural critic of our time. Even though he's a die-hard fan of Rand, O'Rourke admits that the movie is a stinker. As he writes:  

"Atlas shrugged. And so did I. The movie version of Ayn Rand’s novel treats its source material with such formal, reverent ceremoniousness that the uninitiated will feel they’ve wandered without a guide into the midst of the elaborate and interminable rituals of some obscure exotic tribe. Meanwhile, members of that tribe of 'Atlas Shrugged' fans will be wondering why director Paul Johansson doesn’t knock it off with the incantations, sacraments and recitations of liturgy and cut to the human sacrifice. ... The movie’s acting is borrowed from 'Dallas,' although the absence of Larry Hagman’s skill at subtly underplaying villainous roles is to be regretted. Staging and action owe a debt to 'Dynasty' — except, on 'Dynasty,' there usually was action. ... In 'Atlas Shrugged' Rand set out to prove that self-interest is vital to mankind. This, of course, is the whole point of free-market classical liberalism and has been since Adam Smith invented free-market classical liberalism by proving the same point.  Therefore trying to make a movie of 'Atlas Shrugged' is like trying to make a movie of 'The Wealth of Nations.' But Adam Smith had the good sense to leave us with no plot, characters or melodramatic clashes of will so that we wouldn’t be tempted to try."

I think what P.J. is saying, in the nicest possible way, is that maybe the trashy Angelina Jolie version of the movie wouldn't have been so bad after all.

-- Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Paul Johansson at a HuffPost Comedy event at the Roxy Theater last February in West Hollywood. Credit: Angela Weiss / Getty Images


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Sad that the hollow and thin ideas of Ms. Rand, which have palpably collapsed in both theoretical and empirical realms, still charm a large corpus of faithful. That a dutiful spirit drove the Atlas Shugged movie project to a stale and flat product is sheer poetry.

Well, I liked it. Of course it was low budget, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the critics made it out to be. Maybe it's only for real Rand fans. I do think that the 2016 time horizon, with oil prices and broken down infrastructure driving the economy back to the rails for cost effective transportation was very creative. The acting was adequate, with everyone coming from TV series and not film. But I say, keep the big Hollywood machine out of this film. It will have a huge following as a cult classic. Hey fans! if you want to see Parts II and III, get out and see this one before they bury it!!

It's naive to think that just because 20th Century-Fox is owned by Murdoch, that the studio execs are conservative or have to ask Murdoch if it's ok to release certain movies, Mr Goldstein. That said, it's also naive to think that Big Hollywood wouldn't make a movie because it is anathema to their idiotic, liberal beliefs. I just finished the book recently and had no idea that the movie was coming out; I was thinking that it would be a great movie to make in this political climate. Thankfully more and more people are seeing the folly of our nanny-state government, which now closely resembles the sick and twisted individuals that ran the country in the book. Of course Obama more closely resembles Bertam Scudder than Mr. Thompson. Can't wait to hear the shrill denouncements of the movie by Big Media acolytes...can't wait.

@ David Ehrenstein who wrote: "Ayn Rand could see the problems of big government.....but she completely blind to the problems of big business........Ayn would have been completely blind to the deceit of Enron, the deceit of Bernie Madoff, the incompetence of British Petroleum and the General Electric nuclear plant in Japan that is making the ocean radioactive....

Ayn Rand is blind to the incompetence and deceit of big business........
Ayn believes big gov is bad and big business is good.......She was very amateurish in her FOX thinks she's a god.....we'll I beg to differ......"

You obviously did not read the book, so please leave the heavy mental lifting to those of us who did. Had you read the book, the theme was that innovators, not businesses, were demonized for being innovative. The rotters, read: liberals, in the book complained that it wasn't fair that innovative and capable people had an advantage over the morons, in business, who weren't as successful. The morons looked to the aparatchiks in government to level the playing field by stealing innovations and spreading them, "for the common good." Sound familiar, Mr. Ehrenstein? I thought so.

@doodad (Apr 16th): Thank-you. Well put. Precisely the thing D. Ehrenstein need to be told. There IS a difference between a corrupt Enron executive and an innovative entrepreneur.

Alas, I was a mesmerized and devoted fan of Rand in my college days, yet I lost faith in her because of her arrogant disregard for her own immoral and unhealthy lifestyle. Tawdry, irresponsibly "selfish" affairs and worship of cigarette smoking. Sheesh! Get over yourself, woman!

And eventually, after God (Jesus) finally got ahold of me, late in life, I could see, in hindsight, the foolish pride of the atheist mindset, which Ayn Rand embodied with a legendary sort of dignified blindness. Sure, she did everything she could to prove, intellectually, that God doesn't exist, and man ought to live for himself, but I am thankful that God DID prove Himself to me, with experiences that substantiated the teachings in the Bible, or I, too, would have continued my life with the smug, superiority complex that was the result of the influence of Rand's "Objectivist" attitudes. Being free and happy in Jesus is a lot better than claiming to be free in a dead woman's philosophy. Sadly, she is the ultimate loser. There is no chance for mercy in hell.

This movie is lame -- and not because of Ayn Rand's political views or historic significance as a writer. No, it was bad at the script level with cheesy set-ups and preachy dialogue, which carried over into the acting, directing and even the editing of this dim-witted waste-of-timer. Honestly, the guy a few seats away from me in the theatre this weekend had better dialogue with his "I got your engine right here" quips that floated out of the darkness as the audience realized that a story we'd thought to be profound was actually a comedy. Funniest of all was the card at the end stating that what we'd just seen was only part one of a series. Yes! Audiences love to leave the theatre with one big final guffaw! So, my theory on why Hollywood doesn't want you to see this movie? Because they would much rather you spend your hard-earned money on a good film instead. How's that for capitalism at its best?

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