Sunday, October 14, 2012
Atlas Shrugged Part Two (2012) or "Fear and Loathing in Galtsylvania"
Let the record show that I had to pay $10.50 at the Woburn Ma multiplex to finally hear Raymond Joseph Teller (of "Penn & Teller" fame) actually say something in a motion picture. Too bad that motion picture is "Atlas Shrugged Part II" a cheaply made, crudely acted mishaugas that doggedly cashes in on the classic objectivist novel and it's cult appeal. Teller must have wanted to speak up in defense of his well know libertarian principles in the worst possible way....and so he did. There is just something grimly ironic about a group of artistic nonentities creating a two hour long piece of utter hackwork whose core mission it is to denounce and deplore the mediocrities that persecute the producing class. *** It is important to locate Ayn Rand within a larger continuum of 20th century political thougt, that is the ongoing quest for a rigorous Counter-Marxist system of thought. For a while there, Counter Marxism was Big Medicine within and without political science with a diverse range of players everyone from Dr. Fred C. Schwarz to Billy Graham, William F. Buckley, William Simon (that founder of numberless conservative think tanks in Washington DC) along with heavy hitting intellectuals like Eric Voegelin and Friedrich Hayek and numerous others along for the ride. There were some serious charlatans mixed in there as well, Counter-Marxism could be a lucrative intellectual discipline if you played your cards right. And right there at the center of the maelstrom was Russian refugee, novelist, screenwriter & philopher Ayn Rand who saw no validity to anyone else's system of thought but her own, even her fellow Counter-Marxists. It is ironic to note that in some ways, Rand was a better Bolshevik than she herself realized, utterly humorless, zealous to the point of fanatism and a militant atheistic to her dying day....and indeed its her Godlessness that put her at lifelong odds with the more conventionally spiritual US Anti-communists, the William F. Buckleys and Billy Grahams. No, Rand believed in elites, good old fashioned Pre-Marxist Nietzchean elites, success was the indispensible indicator of superiority, as long as wealth favored cunning then the elites were secure and the masses can go hang. This is a ideology of particular appeal to US Sophomores, everyone wants to belong to an elite, especially in college, unself conscious mediocrities on the other hand always crave a caste of helots and thralls to patronize and deplore. It was all so simple simple enough to ensnare two generations of college sophomores. What unites Rand with Buckley and Schwarz and all the rest is the unstated notion that the confrontation with Marxism-Leninism is somehow a crisis of faith, and that what gives communism its power over the masses is the fervor and density of the belief system. The response therefore is simple anti-communists must generate and then simultaneously proclaim a powerful Counter-Marxist Creed and transform the whole confrontation into a cosmic war for intellectual, spirit and physical supremacy. There is something ironic about so famous an atheist as Ayn Rand birthing an entire system of theology for others to moon over and worship, but then again there was always a dead void where Counter Marxism's sense of humor should have been. To which I stand athwart the whole process and cry HALT!! A clash of faiths, especially synthetic ones derived from political philosophy is a conflict uniquely freighted with fantasy distortion and cognitive dissonance. Moreover you read history, economics, sociology and mere factuality right out of the argument. Faith is easy, the facts are always hard to find and tougher to proclaim. *** Ah but the movie is was awful, the SyFy does it better with it's Saturday Afternoons devoted to "Mega Octo-Squid versus the Atomic TornadoQuake" they certainly take the time to collect and rehearse better actors. I think SyFy stalwart Debbie Gibson would definitely make a better Dagny Taggart than Samantha Mathis...Gibson would pout less and wouldn't perhaps bark her orders with so much uncertainty. Ah but these are true believers we are talking about, all they need is a threadbare $20 million dollar production to sell to the true believers for the next generation or more. Certainly a mere two years ago word on the street was the two planned sequels to "Atlas Shrugged" were cancelled on grounds of poor box office, clearly DVD sales made up for this or a new collection of suckers were dug up to back the franchise. It is also notable that nearly the entire franchise was recaast from part one to part two with no appreciable improvement in the delivery of Rand's leaden self satisfied dialogue. And indeed we must recall when we see films as bad as "Atlas Shrugged Part II" that to the end of his life Ed Wood Jr. insisted that "Plan Nine from Outer Space" was a very serious anti-nuclear movie.