Sunday, April 22, 2012

WINGNUT WELFARE MAG AND HOLLYWOOD TAX WRITE-OFF MEET CUTE, PART II. Last year I and some few brave souls saw Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the shitty movie made from part of Ayn Rand's shitty novel. The Galtian supermen proclaimed the film a record-breaking smash, though the actual box office returns contradicted this assessment.

But where some saw disaster, others saw a market opportunity; as the sharks circled, the boys from Reason magazine kept faith with their Randroid readership and ballyhooed the film shamelessly. Nick Gillespie interviewed the principals, offering such deathless observations as, "Does it seem somehow in keeping that the critical reception might be mixed but the audience response is huge?" Matt Welch gave the film one of its rare positive reviews under the headline "This Objectivist Gives Atlas Shrugged Part I a Hearty Thumbs Up," which may have referred to the opinion of a Rand fan he quoted rather than his own -- Welch is slippery that way -- though he did offer that "the look and sound [of the film] were mostly (and surprisingly) handsome, Dagny in particular and Hank were good, and there are some pretty awesome capitalism, bitches!-style moments," which despite the plausible deniability must have goosed the punters good and proper. (They couldn't get Kurt Loder to do the same, for which he was probably forgiven; after all, he may want to work somewhere else again one day.)

Now Part II is in the works, and Reason's back to beat the PR drum for it. Brian Doherty draws the short straw and goes "on the set." He starts with a little revisionism about Part I:
Official critical reception wasn’t so great—though normal folk seemed to like it better than the credentialed tastemakers, according to fim review sites such as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes.
The film, we remind you, cost $20 million and made less than $5 million, so I guess Doherty means that guys who think their jobs in middle management make them "wealth producers" and that Patrick Bateman had the right idea are the new normal.

And hey look -- production news:
In a move that might prove controversial to fans of Part I, this new movie has been entirely recast—not a single actor reprises their role. Director Paul Johansson, meanwhile, has been replaced by John Putch (a TV veteran with many episodes of Scrubs and Cougar Town behind him).
That might be "controversial to fans," but I'm sure the agents of the escapees are pleased. How does co-producer Harmon Kaslow feel about it?
“The message of Atlas is greater than any particular actor, so it’s one of those pieces of literature that doesn’t require in our view the interpretation by a singular actor,” Kaslow says.
Well played, sir. Doherty seems to have seen some scenes, and reports:
The new Rearden, Jason Beghe (most recently of Californication), plays Hank with far more gruff menace than his predecessor, the suave Grant Bowler. Beghe goes with an intensity that draws you in to him rather than projects flashily, and delivers his lines with a deep growl that almost made him feel like a Hollywood take on a Randian crime boss, someone driven to organized crime in a world where just trying to be productive on your own terms had become illegal.
A crime boss in a world where just trying to be productive on your own terms has become illegal -- sounds like Tony Montana. I never fucked anybody over in my life didn't have it coming to them. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word... Does Rearden get coked up and take everyone out with an M16 and a grenade launcher at the end? They may get my $12 again!
And despite the fact that both Rearden and his metal were invented by Rand in the 1950s, while audiences today participate in an economy where more and more people are living not through mass production but by individualized creativity (what some social scientists are calling the “personalized economy”) Rearden and his troubles still feel more of the moment than they do some sort of outmoded industrial age castoff.
Well, of course. I can see kids watching the trailer and thinking, "As a seasonally-employed barista/DJ barely making enough to split a loft with six friends in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Hank Reardon with a face covered in cocaine is relevant to my interests."

But for the real Randroids -- and, face it, who else would pay any attention to this beside them and us? -- Doherty has some juicy come-ons:
Yes, Rand fans, “looters” and “moochers,” both delivered seriously in mainstream movie dialogue... 
... Rearden’s office set, complete with Randian modernist metal sculptures: shining, swirling ribbons and abstract geometries made solid. In fact, there's lots of great metal work everywhere.
If that doesn't have them breaking down the theater doors, I don't know what will. The makers also coyly deny that their intended October release date is a "deliberate attempt to have the movie’s pop culture impact influence the November election." This reminds me of a bit Paul Lynde and Alice Ghostley did on some variety show back in the 60s: the unprepossessing Ghostley, playing an aspiring actress, says she doesn't approve of nudity, but would perform unclothed if it were essential to the script, and Lynde replies, "Who asked ya?"

As I am increasingly wont to ask: Do these guys even know any real people?

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