Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The One about the Atlas Shrugged Movie

Didja know? They made a movie about Atlas Shrugged!

There are so many good blog posts (and videos) by others that go into the specific pros and cons. I agree with many of the critiques (and disagree with a few, too). I'll refer you to those posts, because I'm not going to rehash all of the itty bitty things I liked, hated, wished they'd done differently, etc.

I think it goes without saying that any adaption of a huge major novel (especially one that evokes strong passion in its readers--both positive and negative) is not going to please everyone, and carries with it the potential for utter disaster. For example, Brendan and I have been watching the Lord of the Rings movies, and while I enjoyed them thoroughly, there are a few things I don't care for about what the director/writers chose to do. Oh well.

See? This is what the world gets for not asking my opinion about EVERYTHING. When I am not consulted on such important matters, there are natural consequences for everyone. Just sayin'.

Anyway, I'm going to tell you instead about my experience of seeing the movie in the theater. Because that's more important to me than the actual movie.

For the longest time, they weren't planning to even show the movie in Georgia. And then, finally, a theater agreed to show it! Excited as I was by this news, I wasn't sure we could go see it right away, fearing babysitter-related logistical issues. And to be honest, I'd been very underwhelmed by the trailers I'd seen.

Then Brendan heard a radio interview a couple of weeks ago of a representative of Wealthcare Capital Management. This company, as it turned out, is pretty much responsible for getting the local theater to agree to show the movie. (Oh look on their website! They've got the Who is John Galt? poster up there. Also, don't miss this message from one of the principals.) WCM pre-purchased all of the tickets for the evening showings on Friday and Saturday nights, as a guarantee for the theater. The radio interview was to let people know that they could get tickets to those shows!

Brendan contacted WCM right away and secured 20 seats, which we advertised to the ATLOS email list. Response was enthusiastic and I ended up asking for an additional 15 seats. The people at WCM were super nice and even let us put our business cards on their table in the theater!

Here's the thing--the second I found out that the movie would be here in metro Atlanta, I started thinking about what this opportunity could mean for our local group (and many other ATLOS members were thinking along the same lines). In short, it meant that we could promote our group really effectively in a relatively short amount of time.

One of our ATLOS peeps who is a graphic designer peopleguy created business cards for us to hand out at the movie (and in the future). We had some Ayn Rand Samplers on hand from the ARI that we passed out, too.

I haven't exactly added it up, but I think we handed out over 300 cards that night. Maybe more. And that is a Good Thing.

It was fun to hang out in the lobby and meet the people from WCM and talk to others who were in line for the show. Everyone was so enthusiastic and nice! (Except the security guard peopleguy--I suppose there's little use in that line of work for Assume Positive Intent, hmph.) I shook many hands and introduced myself and told people about our group and our events and our conference. And I'm not the only ATLOS peopleguy who did that, either. :)

I caught the end of Neal Boortz's appearance before the beginning of the show, and missed my chance to give him an ATLOS business card. (He's not an Objectivist, but he's a friendly.) Next time, I guess...or maybe he picked up a card at the WCM table?

The experience of seeing the movie (outside of the actual movie, I mean) was great! Here I was, sitting in a packed theater with a couple hundred other people who like this book, knowing there was another packed theater at the exact same time filled with a couple hundred other people who like the book! I looked around at everyone and all I could think was "Potential ATLOS Members." Because I'm like that.

Seeing Ayn Rand's name up on the big screen was surprisingly emotional. I'd had a brief taste of this outside the theater when I saw the movie poster for the first time, but it was nothing compared to see her name up there. I have my doubts about whether she'd have liked the movie, but part of me wished she could have been there to see that it was made, that so many people were smiling and clapping for it.

It was kind of a moment.

After the movie, we hung out in the lobby and talked with people about what we saw. There were zillions of people taking pictures of themselves in front of the poster. We handed out more business cards.

It was a good night for letting people in our city know about our group. We got a couple of emails from new people and many people added themselves to our email list. Not as many as I'd have liked, but I still think it's a success.

And tonight is our monthly ATLOS Happy Hour! I'm anticipating a bigger crowd than usual (attendance has dropped off a bit in recent months) in part because of this movie. We're trying to find a way to host an Atlas Shrugged trivia night for  next month's Happy Hour. And then, the conference!!!

So no matter what you might have thought of the movie, overall I think its release is a positive thing. As I wrote in my Thank You Email to the Wealthcare Capital Management peopleguys:

This movie coming out at this point in time is especially significant, as I'm sure you are well aware. And historical, too--when I first read The Fountainhead 22 years ago, I never imagined I would see this level of interest and enthusiasm in the ideas of Ayn Rand.

(By the way, feel free to skip doing the mental math suggested by that passage--it makes me sound much, much older than I am feel.)

It's true. Never in a million years did I anticipate the kind of opportunity we Objectivists have today. And I am determined not to let this opportunity go sauntering on by!


Andrea said...

I'm a huge Rand fan and am sad to be currently travelling in South America at the time of the movie's release. I don't have high hopes for it because, let's face it, most movies don't live up to the books, but it is good to read your account of being in the theatre and to hear that people were clapping! Hopefully I'll get to see it sometime soon.

HaynesBE said...

Great story Jenn!!

Kelly McNulty Valenzuela said...

Nice post, Jenn! I shared your excitement about just being at the theater with so many others who were excited about the film. And I also was surprisingly emotional just seeing Rand's name and the words "Atlas Shrugged" on the big screen. I was also surprisingly emotional during the first run of The John Galt Line. I doubt those moments were as emotional for someone who hasn't read the book, but it looks like the movie is encouraging people to read it, so that's great!

Chris L said...

Many objectivists have a level of concern for how the movie adapted the novel that's almost parental.

Understandable, but do recall that the novel will continue to stand on its own for decades to come.

Jenn Casey said...

Thanks for your comments, all!

Chris L: Agreed. I had similar concerns about LOTR and the Harry Potter films, though less riding on it in terms of how it might affect my life. :)

I was less-than-whelmed by the AS trailers, and a bit worried that the ideas would be completely mangled, too, to be perfectly honest.

The ideas weren't mangled, hooray!, though more glossed-over than I'd have preferred, but even if the movie had been a complete train wreck (ba-dum-bum!), its production represents two wonderful GLORIOUS things: that our world today is the kind of place where such a movie could be made (to paraphrase Rand) and that we Objectivists have an amazing--and rare--opportunity here.

These two points are more important to me by far than the quality of the movie itself, which is why I decided not to pick my nits. I did like the movie a great deal, and I hope that the next two are even better. :)

Mary Anne said...

Jenn, thanks for the feedback on the movie.
I had pretty much the same feelings - just how exciting that a movie has been made; that theses ideas, no matter how brief, are being brought to thousands of people.
And if it encourages more people to read and think all the better.
I've seen it twice. I was very emotional when Ayn Rand's name and the BIG WORDS Atlas Shrugged came on the screen. How amazing to see that!
I was also very emotional at the Reardan Metal bridge scene and when that awesome track was seen running through that mountain wilderness. And of course when Dagny saw the oil fields...
It may be far from perfect but it's a start. We just need to ride it's wave to keep educating the world.

Christina said...

I love Atlas Shrugged, so I'm iffy about seeing the movie. I honestly don't want to destroy what I see in my head. My husband and I are also worried about it being portrayed in an un-Ayn Rand fashion... You know how those Hollywood people are. Anyway, I hope it gets people interested in reading the book though. I personally like The Fountainhead best.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I enjoyed the movie, and am well aware at the same time that it was not what it could have been. Low budget and hurried filming--we all know the story. But I enjoyed it just the same.

And it was exciting to be sitting in a theater in Albuquerque,where we weren't certain we'd get to see the movie until less than a week before the show. The audience rocked, applauding at Hank Rearden's "Is it good? speech, and again at the end of the movie. It's been a long time since I've been at a movie where the audience applauded.

And most gratifying indeed, is the fact that the sales of Atlas Shrugged the book have taken a leap. Number 4 on Amazon yesterday.

It's all good.

Chris L said...

From Glenn Reynolds: "The left is extremely frightened of Rand’s ideas. As always, that fear is displayed as a mixture of hatred and contempt, backed by lies."


Jenn Casey said...

That makes me think of a quote (from Ghandi or someone like that, I think) that goes something like "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

We're wavering between the second and third thing here these days. People (philosophers, academics, pundits, politicians, etc) ignored Rand and for a long, long time.

Then the dismissive ridicule ("Oh Rand? I grew out of that after college.") and now the fighting. I see some of both strategies now. They are beginning to fight and I do think it's because they're scared. It also makes me think that things will get uglier than ever...the uglier and more public, the more scared they are. While it will be amusing to see some public temper tantrums, it will also present a bit of a challenge for us.

I think the "ignoring" and "ridicule" steps are just passive-aggressive ways of fighting anyway. "I'd prefer a straight fight instead of all this sneaking around" (guess what we've been watching lately?).

I'm just thinking off the cuff here, but I do wonder how ugly it will get and what some good strategies (besides, you know, having Mr. Reality on our side) could be to withstand and counteract the ugliness.

Jenn Casey said...

PS: I looked up the quote and it's Ghandi and then I remembered I caught flak once for quoting this on my blog (because Objectivists are apparently never supposed to quote anyone who wasn't an Oist or a Founding Father or Aristotle, I believe).

So anyway, Ghandi said it and even though he wasn't an Oist, I think it's an astute observation. Anyone reading this is free to disagree and judge me accordingly, yada yada yada...