I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Fountainhead

tn_fountainheadTHE FOUNTAINHEAD is the weirdest, most deranged movie I’ve seen in a while. I know you’re thinking wait a minute, that old Gary Cooper movie? He must mean ERASERHEAD or something. No, man, have you seen this thing? I guess to most people it doesn’t make sense to say that a beautiful 1949 drama from the director of DUEL IN THE SUN is more fucked up than THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, but that one was trying so hard to be outrageous. This one is effortless. It seems like a very well-made studio picture, but created by some very troubled individuals.

Director King Vidor designed and shot the thing really well, really stylish compositions and uses of shadows and what not. He did a good job filming this screenplay, and it’s a fascinating movie to watch, but I can’t let him off the hook morally. If he spent the time making this thing he must’ve agreed with it. I think he really believes the character you see at the upper left there is the ideal man. Yeah, he looks like one, but trust me, the guy’s a dick.

mp_fountainheadThat’s Gary Cooper as Howard Roark, a fiercely individualistic architect who stands manly and proud in the face of the cruel world that plots to suppress and water down his unique style of buildings. I think it’s fair to say I’m more for pure artistic expression and independence than the next guy, but even I squirm a little bit when the first lines in the movie stack the deck so blatantly. The dean at the school says to Howard:

“Do you want to stand alone against the whole world? There’s no place for originality in architecture. Nobody can improve on the buildings of the past. One can only learn to copy them.”

Howard begs to differ so he struggles to survive, getting very few commissions. It’s not like DEAD RINGERS where you get in trouble for making your own gynecological tools but then patent them and make a fortune. When Howard’s down to his last $14 he finally gets a really good gig, but the clients tell him in bizarrely straight-forward language that oh yeah just one more thing before you sign the contract – you have to agree to compromise your work and make it less bold and more middle-of-the-road and Ron Howardy for the masses, and if you don’t do that you’re making a big mistake because it will ruin you forever and you’ll never work again, you understand, okay just sign here thanks. So he declines the offer.

What’s wrong with me? I should be loving this shit. I don’t build skyscrapers, but I take pride in my work too. I’ve had my frustrating disagreements with the way my work was presented, I’ve passed up the occasional dollar or opportunity for exposure because I wanted to do things my way. Man, I stayed on Geocities for ten years just to freak out the people who think having a slick websight is more important than good content. I admire original voices and subversives, I hate blandness and conformity, I have great respect for anybody who pulls a Dave Chappelle or a Redbelt and chooses their personal sense of integrity or code of honor over a big pile of money. In fact, that’s central to my world view. I’d like to see more movies glorifying that type of philosophy instead of all this materialism and ends-justifies-the-means business. I want to see more turning down money.

But there’s a real sign that something’s wrong here. It happens before Howard even turns down that money, when he turns down some earlier money. His old college buddy and mediocre rival Keating (Kent Smith) finds out how broke Howard is and tries to loan him some cash. Of course Howard turns it down, but it’s not out of pride. He says, “I don’t give or ask for help.”

Wait a minute, did I hear that right? He doesn’t believe in giving help? And is so proud of that that he throws it into conversations where it’s not relevant, before the part that is relevant?

So, like, okay, a guy tries to bum a cigarette or get some change from you, you’re not ever gonna give it. I guess that’s not a big deal. He asks you for the time, you refuse, that’s just bizarrely dickish, but oh well. But let me ask you this one. The other day I saw an elderly lady trip on the sidewalk and fall flat on her face, so I helped her up. Are you saying you wouldn’t do that, Howard Roark? You don’t believe in that? You would feel your personal sense of integrity violated by helping her up off the ground and making sure she was alright, because you never asked that bitch for a favor and you’ll be god damned if she’s gonna get one out of you? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s what he’s saying.

Let me ask you something else Howard. Do you got a brother? Does your brother ever need help moving? Does your mother ever need help around the house? Do you wonder why they don’t invite you over for Thanksgiving? I’m just curious.

It’s not a misunderstanding, it really means that he doesn’t believe in helping others, because it comes up again towards the end. But first there’s some other wacko shit I gotta tell you about. I don’t know if this is meant to be some kind of satirical or stylized world, but alot of it has to do with one of those newspapers that has two competing architecture critics. One of them is pretty much the lead villain, Ellsworth M. Toohey (Robert Douglas), an exaggerated snob (complete with accent) who consciously argues in favor of conformity and against originality. He says things like:

“Oh, but surely you’re not in favor of so-called ‘modern’ architecture. It’s worthless because it’s merely the work of a few unbridled individualists. Artistic value is achieved collectively by each man subordinating himself to the standards of the majority.”

and

“I don’t like geniuses. They’re dangerous.”

Later he admits, “Maybe I wanted to dishonor and discredit all greatness.”

These are all actual quotes, and they talk like that all throughout the movie.

The other critic is Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal), the daughter of a famous architect and object of the newspaper owner’s desire. She’s introduced skipping work to throw her Greek statue out the window of her apartment, because it’s too beautiful and her love of it can only hurt her. Her whole personality is built around obnoxious dramatic gestures and mopey “fuck the world” philosophies. I hope she was written to be funny, like the goth girl in BEETLEJUICE, but in the movie at least I think you’re supposed to find her attractive and witty. Which she might be if she wasn’t so crazy and horrible.

Howard declares that he’d “rather be a day laborer” than compromise his vision, and he says it with disgust the way you’d say “I’d rather eat a horse’s asshole” or something like that. As if being a normal, hard-working person is beneath contempt. But sure enough he ends up working in a rock quarry, and that’s where the creepy sexuality starts to rear its gimp-mask-wearing head. I think people tend to make too big a deal out of phallic symbols, but it would be hard to miss the suggestiveness of the shot of muscular Howard jerking off his drill as Dominique stands watching, biting her lip, clutching a riding crop. I’m pretty sure she picked up on the symbolism since it then shows her at home daydreaming that same shot. Unless she just really appreciates good rock chipping.

You may be asking wait a minute Vern, am I mistaken or does that movie poster above depict Howard Roark leaping from the pages of the “Fountainhead” book by Ayn Rand to rape Dominique Francon in the real world? I’m glad you hypothetically ask because I felt a little uncomfortable bringing it up myself. There’s a whole thing where she pretends to need him to work on the house, hoping to get some more experience with his drill, and he obviously gets it but messes with her head by sending another dude to finish the job later. That pisses her off so bad she gets on her horse, tracks him down and hits him in the face with the riding crop. So that night he breaks into her bedroom and starts shoving her, she hits him a bunch of times and tries to run away, then they kiss passionately, then she falls to the floor crying and the scene ends with a closeup of him smiling.

(In Google I found an essay about it called “The Rape Scene in The Fountainhead: Why it was not rape”, but unfortunately it was removed for plagiarism.)

So of course after the brutal rape they’re in love, but she hates love and it would ruin his greatness to be in love, so she immediately runs away to marry the newspaper guy. She doesn’t even have to pretend to love him because he’s prone to INDECENT PROPOSAL type rich people social experiments and asked her years ago to marry him even though she doesn’t love him. Now he says, “What I want to find in our marriage will remain my own concern. I exact no promises and impose no obligations.”

That’s another thing about this story, it’s full of weirdos masterminding bizarre plots that take years to pan out and achieve very little. At one point the evil critic Toohey approaches Howard on the street and reveals that he has personally plotted to destroy Howard’s career, and wouldn’t he like to know why? And Howard just says no and walks away. If he hung around he’d find out that Toohey didn’t really believe originality was bad, he just said that shit because promoting blandness is a way to gain power. (I’m tempted to point out that there are very few cases on record of architecture critics becoming very powerful by unfairly criticizing good buildings, but I’m sure that’s just because people have kept an eye on them ever since Rand’s book.)

The newspaper man has indecent proposals for other people besides Dominique. He loves Howard’s work but tries to force him to compromise just to see if he’ll break. He hires him and demands, “You will take your spectacular talent and make it subservient to the taste of the masses.”

Roark has kind of a devious plot of his own. Years after Dominique left him because she loved him too much he sneakily agrees to build her a new house, not revealing their rape/love past to the new husband. So she lives in his house, it’s like his architectural way of fucking her again. The first time she saw one of his buildings she said, “I wish I had never seen your building. It’s the things that we admire or want that enslave us. I’m not easy to bring into submission.” Now she has to live inside the building she loves so much she despises it. He keeps bringing her into submission.

Dominique tried to get Roark to quit architecture because she was convinced that the world would have no choice but to crush him, seeing as how it’s so dangerous to the powers that be to have some buildings that don’t have statuary on them. But he’s got a giant drill-penis so he refuses to back down and makes his bones designing gas stations and grocery stores for small business owners who dig his unbridled individualism. Everything boils over when he ends up designing a housing project that his old buddy Keating is gonna take credit for. Howard demands no payment, just the guarantee that his vision will be followed exactly, so you can see where this is going. Yes, he ends up heroically committing a terrorist bombing of the housing project.

(okay, maybe not terrorist. There doesn’t seem to be anybody inside. It’s like when they blow up the credit card buildings at the end of FIGHT CLUB.)

(also please note that Dominique is there and has to injure herself to not raise suspicion, so the ol’ drama queen slits her wrists with a shard of glass)

Of course, the fucking sheep in the media, law enforcement, world, etc. are a little unclear why it was necessary for him to blow up the building, so they put him on trial and he has to make a big speech to explain to everybody that “the world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.” He goes all the way back to the invention of fire and how every great thinker, artist or scientist, every new idea and invention other than the iPod, the microwave oven, electricity and the wheel were denounced and suppressed. And, you know, you can do the math. Galileo got screwed = blowing up buildings is legal.

So he’s a free man and he poses real manly on the top of one of his buildings as Dominique goes up the elevator toward him where she no doubt will be romantically raped again (SPOILER). It’s appropriate that he poses on the building that was made as a vanity monument to a rich guy instead of the one that was made for the poor people. Well, not made for the poor people I guess, they just happen to live in it but “that’s not the motive of my work, nor my reason, nor my reward! My reward, my purpose, my life, is the work itself – my work done my way! Nothing else matters!”

I knew this was a book by Ayn Rand and I vaguely knew of her reputation as an influence on libertarians and what not, but that’s about it. So part way through the movie I couldn’t stop thinking “what’s the deal with this crazy bitch?” and I had to pause and do the ol’ Wikipedia look-up. It turns out she wrote the script and they stayed very true to what she wrote although she still despised the movie because they fucked it up so bad or whatever, and she was really mad because they tried to trim down the big speech at the end where he explains why it was really the right thing to blow up the low income housing project instead of let somebody else add some balconies that he didn’t like. (I wonder if Ridley Scott tried to blow up BLADE RUNNER when they added that narration?)

I read about how Ayn Rand started “the Objectivist Movement,” still around today and following her ideas even though she’s dead and buried with a wreath of flowers shaped like a dollar sign (no joke). Although from what I understand the Objectivists believe the same things preached in this movie I know that it’s a big thing with a long history and I’m not gonna pretend to be knowledgeable about it. So I won’t make any generalizations about them. I will speak only of the fictional characters in this movie version of Rand’s story, who I would say are part of the Toughshitist Movement. They believe that you gotta look out for yourself and if somebody else needs any help then tough shit, they should’ve thought of that before something bad happened to them.

There are two tempting ways to interpret the destruction of the building in THE FOUNTAINHEAD:

A. Howard Roark is a big whiny baby who refuses to accept the realities of working in a medium that requires you to use millions upon millions of other people’s dollars. Sure, they should’ve let him do it his way, and it probly would’ve been better. But guess what dude, you’re an architect hired to do a job for somebody else. If you want to stay pure you’re gonna have to use your own money to build it, like Christo does with his art. If you hate it then take your name off of it – oh, whoops, your name already wasn’t gonna be on it anyway. It’s too bad you didn’t get to make the building but dude, you gotta quit blowing shit up in my opinion.

2. You can’t really take this literally, only as an operatic gesture to show an artist going all the way over the edge to stand up for the integrity of his work. It’s meant to be extreme and going too far as a tribute to pure artists. It’s kind of like CECIL B. DEMENTED.

I wish I could go with #2, but the extreme asshole philosophies of Howard Roark make it impossible for me to side with him. The rape already did the job but there’s another more unusual scene that makes it even more impossible for me to sympathize with this prick.

When Keating asks Howard to design the housing project it’s a pretty ridiculous request. He’s behaved badly in the past, Howard owes him nothing, and he’s asking to take credit for Howard’s work to improve his own career. That’s all fine with Howard, but Keating’s mistake is trying to appeal to Howard’s heart, as if he has one. Keating says, “But it’s a humanitarian project. Think of the people who live in slums. If you can give them decent housing you’d perform a noble deed. Would you do it just for their sake?”

Howard stands up out of his chair, pissed. “No. The man who works for others without payment is a slave. I do not believe that slavery is noble. Not in any form, nor for any purpose whatsoever!”

To the Toughshitists, helping the old lady up off the sidewalk is slavery. Unless she pays you. (When it happened to me she offered me a Dick’s burger, but only afterwards, it was not a previously agreed upon form of payment, and I didn’t accept anyway because what kind of an asshole would want to be paid for helping somebody?) Rand was a strong atheist, so she wouldn’t be put off by her philosophy being the opposite of Jesus and basically the same as the Church of Satan, minus the emphasis on evil goatees and eyebrows. But the Toughshitists are opposed to Santa Claus, with his self-promoting mission to spread Christmas joy. They’re anti-John McClane, because he wasn’t on duty, he shouldn’t have tried to help everybody there unless some kind of a reward was offered. The Toughshitists say “Do be Ellis.” To them, Mother Teresa is no Mother Teresa. They read “A Christmas Carol” every winter, but to them it’s a tragedy where a great man is ruined at the end.

I’m not sure what the Toughshitist stance would be on the first responders who ran into the burning buildings on 9-11. We consider them heroes because they risked (and in many cases lost) their lives to help others, but THE FOUNTAINHEAD argues that this type of behavior is not actually noble and you should get pissed off just thinking about that somebody would do that. Roark may go light on them because they did that while performing a job that they’re paid for, but I think since they could’ve chickened out and still gotten their paychecks (and since many of them were off duty) that he’d be against it.

Since Howard’s Toughshitist philosophy made more of an impression on me than his art, I was forced to take the bombing more literally than symbolically, and I couldn’t help but think of the consequences of his actions. Not only is he offended by the implication that he might possibly be motivated by helping others, he also doesn’t mind going way out of his way to prevent people from being helped. Here a building has already been constructed to house the poor, and he fucking destroys it. What’s that? You’re a single mother living on the streets, feeding your kids out of garbage cans, and you were really looking forward to being able to afford shelter? You think you have it bad, I had it in my contract that they had to stick to my designs, but then the assholes tried to make the stairways more fancy than I wanted them to be!

The movie tries to make you look past that by having the building eventually be rebuilt (faster this time I bet, like the second Death Star) to his specifications, but there was no way he could’ve known that was gonna happen, considering how unlikely it is that he actually got a jury to buy that ludicrous horse shit he shoveled in front of them. Even he thought he was pretty much for sure going to prison, and he’s a mad bomber. He didn’t care that he could ruin hundreds of lives by blowing it up. Tough shit. I’m an artist. I will not compromise. This movie pays well deserved respect to the value of artistic integrity, but it neglects the at-least-as-important value of not being a huge fucking asshole.

Howard and Dominique really are a couple of fountainheads, two useless fuckers stuck in their own heads, living for no other reason than to endlessly spray out their self-involved intellectual bullshit and suck it back in. They deserve each other. I wouldn’t be that sad if a beautiful Greek statue fell on their heads. But I’d still try to help them get out from under it.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Saturday, September 11th, 2010 at 1:18 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

111 Responses to “The Fountainhead”

  1. I have not seen this one. Shame on me. Must see this movie now.

  2. As messed-up as the film might be it’s still a lot better than the book, which I found unreadable. I doubt many here would share most of Rand’s political/ideological sensibilities, and I’m sure as hell no exception but that wasn’t my problem, I find that side of it interesting. Rand’s prose is IMO terrible; clunky and extremely excessive.

    I thought the SIMPSONS take on THE FOUNTAINHEAD recently was actually pretty cute, even the episode as a whole was terrible.

  3. yeah, Ayn Rand is pretty damn crazy, I bet she used to “fantasize” (if you know hat I mean) about big, strong, individualistic men who liked it rough, oh John Galt! take me away!

    I never actually read any of her books though, but I DID play Bioshock

  4. I’m an atheist, please don’t hold Ayn Rand against me.

    I can understand how she would get hung up on her themes of repression individuality and oppressive society, seeing as she fled from communist Russia where intellectuals *were* being locked away. That doesn’t mean her ideas weren’t exaggerated to the point of bullshit. It’s sad that she influenced and continues to influence so many college students who get blown away by a thousand-page rambling essay, and even sadder that many of them don’t grow wise and think she was onto something even when they should know better.

  5. Oh, Ayn Rand and your “virtue of selfishness”. If I had only known sooner about the toughshitist philosophy, I would have choked out quite a few pseudo-intellectuals and used it as my defense…”TOUGH SHIT your honor, I’m an artist! The greatness of my chokehold is undisputable. The world cannot be allowed to crush my superawesomeness, I will not allow my talent for ultraviolence to be subservient to the whims of the collective!”!!!!!

  6. I worked as a screen printer many years ago. I never considered myself to be an artist. I was an artisan. I did a semi creative job, but ultimatly worked for the man. I didn’t go round telling my bosses I would only screen print things my way, in my own style thinking I was Toulouse Le Trec. I did however smoke shit loads of pot while working and went to the pub for as much beer as I could push down my neck every lunch. My point is, this asshole believed he was a great artist, totally forgetting he was a complete and utter architec. Where I was a complete wreck head who always knew what I was (an artisan/pot head).

  7. I’ve got mine, fuck you. The Randian manifesto.

    I’m an atheist too, but you don’t need to believe in Jesus to understand the concept of not being a huge asshole. Ayn Rand was batshit insane.

    Oh yeah, “It’s too bad you didn’t get to make the building but dude, you gotta quit blowing shit up in my opinion” – brilliant!

    Great read, thanks Vern.

  8. Off topic, but just yesterday I discovered that that one icon bar under every blog post, has also one icon that lets you turn the post into a nice looking PDF.
    And today it’s gone. :(

  9. Great review, Vern. No shit, I’m sending the URL to everyone I know.

    However, I’d like to take a second to point out that libertarians are rarely objectivists. True, many were influenced by Rand and her writings, but her philosophies are so heartless, humorless, and deviant, that very few stick with her long.

    In my experience, atheists and libertarians are some of the kindest, most charitable people I’ve met. (And actually, the few objectivists I’ve met have “back-slid” into being pretty decent folk, athough I’m sure Ayn wouldn’t approve.)

  10. “When it happened to me she offered me a Dick’s burger”
    That…doesn’t sound very appetising.

    “They’re anti-John McClane, because he wasn’t on duty, he shouldn’t have tried to help everybody there unless some kind of a reward was offered.”
    Though ironically, that poster, depicting the movie as an adaptation of a book and showing a building blowing up, and a woman in distress, could in a fucked up way be a Die Hard poster. Maybe that’s why McClane gets to say “That was Gary Cooper, Asshole”. Hans’ original line was probably “This time John Wayne does not force himself on Patricia Neal and later win her back by symbolically doing it again with his architecture!”

  11. Oh, and fucking excellent review, Vern.

  12. The “golden rule” predates baby Jesus by as much as a 1/2 millenium.

    Confusius (550 BC): “Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” – Analects 15, 23

    Zaraostrianism: “That nature alone is good which refrains form doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.” – Dadistan-I-dinik, 94, 5

    Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” – Mahabharata, 5, 1517

    Taoism: “Regard your neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss.” – T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien

    It’s in the Udana Varga: “Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.”

    And, of course, the Ancient Greek philisophers:

    Herodotus: “If I choose I may rule over you. But what I condemn in another I will, if I may, avoid myself.”
    (Herodotus, The Histories, bk. III, ch. 142. Roughly 430 BCE.)

    Isocrates: “What things make you angry when you suffer them at the hands of others, do not you do to other people.”

  13. Socrates: Don’t be Ellis.

  14. Sir Vince; only one of those puts the GR positively, though. (The Taoist version.) The negative version is fine, but it doesn’t encourage helping other people. It only discourages hurting them.

  15. Meanwhile, off topic (or, I dunno, maybe on topic in a weird warpy backhanded sort of way, now that I think of it…???):

    You probably know about Norton’s awesome ad campaign from last year and this year for their (overpriced and rather blah) internet security, Vern. But just in case you don’t:

    http://www.everyclickmatters.com/dangers/dolph.html

    Dolph Lundgren wants to do bad things to your magical unicorn. That is all.

    (The other equally hilarious ads can be found one root directory up at /dangers . The latest is Hassellhoff vs. your oscillating fan.)

  16. I recently read a good 2009 biography “Ayn Rand and The World She Made” by Anne C. Heller which I would recommend to the curious. Her life was not dull. Did you know for example, that among her small circle of devotees was the young Alan Greenspan? The entire time that the housing bubble was blowing up, thanks in part to the Fed’s easy credit policies, Greenspan believed that the market would magically correct itself. Greenspan looked on this mess and gave the creative geniuses of the banking industry all the credit they needed to blow up the economy…because he was a Randian. He testified to Congress after the market collapse that he never dreamed bankers would be so irrational.

    If you’re watching all these right wing movies, Vern, you may as well watch Who Dares Wins. The politics are cartoonish Thatcher/Reagan anti-commie insanity, not virtue-of-selfishness dickishness, but still on your current beam.

  17. I think Patrick has it spot on, you can see where her philosophy came from due to her upbringing in Russia but it’s taken to such a ridiculous extreme. Yeah I dig the “a man must stand up for his beliefs” etc but as you point out Vern it’s taken to this level of “yeah I think charity is shit”. Rand was really into wanting “selfishness” to be seen as a positive word, not a negative one. That it shouldn’t be a bad thing to stand up for your ideas, that sacrificing what you want for others shouldn’t be seen as the “better” thing to do. But it’s a situation that I don’t think ever existed. I don’t think anyone was out disparaging intelligent people and saying they should stop inventing etc.

    However despite that I liked the book when I read it 4 years ago. I know many of the characters are just intellectual exercises, but they were ones I found interesting to read about. Like Toohey for instants, comes across as a James Bond supervillain, wanting power and world domination…except it’s via architecture articles in the newspaper? I love the ridiculousness of it. Or the newspaper magnate, who started the papers believing he could control what the masses read and believed, even if it’s shit. But it backfires on him and he finds himself unable to change what his paper supports or reports because the readers now dictate what’s in the paper.

  18. Rorschach in Watchmen is Alan Moore’s example of an Ayn Rand true believer. That kinda says it all.

    Although Rorschach isn’t selfish, and does help other people, and is ultimately fairly noble, so it’s not really point-for-point….Just inhumanly rigid, fanatically driven and utterly insane.

    Anyway, I’m in agreement–Ayn Rand was a godawful writer. Awful prose, as someone mentioned, her characters are just cardboard thin figures reciting various philosophies, and her “plots” thinly veiled Mary Sue type fantasies attacking stuff she doesn’t like or promoting what she does. Her novels have all the artfulness and charm of the LEFT BEHIND books (who’s authors probably really dig Ayn Rand, come to think of it, and who seem to share a similar notion of “We’re going to give you an excuse unbeleivably selfish and hateful and justify your worst behaviour”).

    For a long time Micheal Cimino was trying to do a new adaptation of THE FOUNTAINHEAD, all the way back to the mid-70s, and who knows, he (?) may still be developing it. Given his (?) hysterical perfectionism for it’s own sake, I’m frankly sorry it never got made, you know it would have been, at the very least, pretty memorable.

  19. I see Toohey lives

  20. You know I don’t think some of Rand’s ideas are necessarily bad but they’re not just unethical in the real world, they’re impractical. Scott West brought up the Greenspan stuff, but also that ideology has been used as an excuse by Wall Street to be ruthless and greedy, damn the consequences. Even when he was alive, William Buckley thought it was fucking silly and one might have thought he would eat that shit up but he didn’t.

    Never bothered with FOUNTAINHEAD but I did read ATLAS SHRUGGED. Or tried at least. SOUTH PARK summed up perfectly my thoughts on that nonsense. Interestingly, Angie Jolie had ATLAS on her development docket one point or another.

    Interestingly I’m surprised you all didn’t mention a recent movie that (allegedly) was Randian inspired, THE INCREDIBLES. Except that one isn’t as noticeable I suppose because well the way Brad Bird wrote it, yeah you could back these guys having to scale back their abilities in public so they won’t be found out. Which isn’t the same as being a dick with a license to be a shithead.

    Griff – Funny enough, Rand apparently up into her 50s was a pioneering Cougar.

  21. Good afternoon, Vern and all.

    Every so often, a voice in my head says, “You should really try reading Ayn Rand to see what all the fuss is about.”

    And every time, I’m reminded of how god-awful her plots appear to be, and the voice is silenced.

    Thanks, Vern, for the help this time around. Maybe I’ll read a Wikipedia synopsis of this and then be on my way.

  22. Wait, today is September 11 and this is a review of a movie about a building being destroyed?

    Awkward.

  23. Kevin – I guess Vern found UNITED 93 to be checked out.

  24. RRA The one part I really didn’t enjoy about THE INCREDIBLES was the whole idea that the little kid with super speed should play sports with the other kids, even though he could clearly beat them all. Brad Bird compared it to telling Michael Jordan he shouldn’t be allowed to play basketball because he was so much better at it then any body else. But I think its more like, what a dick Superman would be if he just want and won every gold medal at the Olympics year after year.

    As for Rand, I won’t bother writing anything about her, I’ll just say I’m surprised the Ayn Rand Trolls haven’t started trying to burn your comments section to the ground yet.

  25. Even though we all know Hollywood is basically a commie haven (nb: not a serious comment), a surprisingly large number of notable Hollywood “lefties” have been attached to adaptations of ATLAS SHRUGGED or “come out” as Rand fans at one time or another. This is presumably because the way art and creative expression forms such a central, even sacrosanct part of Rand’s universe appeals to their egos. Though the cast for the forthcoming ATLAS film strikes me as strictly C-list, so maybe Hollywood A-Listers are ultimately weary about having too strong an association with Rand.

    And as an aside, Michael Caine named his first daughter after a character in THE FOUNTAINHEAD (Dominique).

  26. Does M Night like Rand?

  27. great read vern, great comments everyone. i actually read this whole book about 10 years ago, on the suggestion of a particularly lovely/nutty set of XX chromosomes. unfortunately, things didn’t work out – our relationship was just missing something. i now know that ‘something’ was rape.

    now i’m no satanist, but i’ve read that the golden rule of the modern church of satan tells followers to “do unto others as you have been done” or some shit like that. very useful and american, actually. and WAY more virtuous than Howard Roarke’s world view. anyway, you gotta put in some hours to be worse than satan, i reckon. way to go Ayn Rand!

  28. This is such a great review I almost feel I owe it to this awful-sounding film to watch it as well.

  29. Great review, I actually really want to see this now, the quote on the box should be “more fucked up than Human Centipede!” I don’t know why but it seems like Rand pops up a lot more in public consciousness lately than I previously remember, though maybe I’m just noticing it more. I still need to see “The Passion of Ayn Rand,” if for no other reason than Helen Mirren playing Rand.

    Also the bit about the old lady reminded me of this little essay, “Our Daughter Isn’t a Selfish Brat; Your Son Just Hasn’t Read Atlas Shrugged.” http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2010/8/12hague.html

  30. RRA- Wouldn’t a Randian THE INCREDIBLES actually result in Mr. Incredible telling that old lady looking to cash in her insurance to fuck off, then saying “fuck ’em” about that guy he saw getting mugged, and in fact, wouldn’t he only use his powers for personal gain, since Superheroes generally work to help people for free? In fact, Syndrome would be a hero in a Randian story judging by this, because he wanted to put his talents to use at a young age, but gets told not to, but grows up to do it anyway.

  31. I read a lot of Rand’s stuff when I was in high school-FOUNTAINHEAD, ATLAS, ANTHEM, miscellaneous crappy essays-and I am glad to say that I only lasted about a year with it. It is practically a religion, or maybe more like a cult; Rand speaks to you and says “Hey, you there… you’re one of the most important people in the world… not like THOSE people, those worthless chumps.” And if you’re some 17 year old unsure of his place in the world, that sounds pretty good.

  32. @dudeman…”Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law”.

  33. Rand is the only author I wish I could un-read. The Fountainhead is actually a pretty cool story. But its ideals are a little fucked up. Atlas Shrugged is even worse. The problem is if you read these books and consider their ideas seriously (as I once did) but then never realize their faults (fortunately, I did).

    The Randian philosophy works if humans are perfect and logical. It works if humans are satisfied to do the following; “the best job they can”…even if its digging in the mud; “Follow their passion”…even if it means self destruction; “working for a company”: if the companies interest, your passion and the bosses interests are all the same. Its ideas of each person an an idealistic individual are untenable. Imagine running a company with 100 Roarks. They’d all have to agree on everything.

    Basically, it only applies to robots, has no room for compromise, life, love or anything fun. Just work. I love my work and its important to me. But I’d rather be on the beach/porch than standing up for my right to not have my boss make a few changes here and there.

  34. Red – I’ll immediately jump on the most critical part of your post. You have a PORCH? I have a doormat…

    Anyway, it’s surprising how many overtly left-wing movies have assholes as their protagonists. One might make the case that Michael Moore meets that description himself occasionally. (He definitely didn’t come off well when confronting Charlton Heston – in fact I wasn’t exactly sure who the bigger asshat was supposed to be there.) “Blues Brothers” is another movie with overt left-wing overtones where the protagonists are dicks. I haven’t seen this one, and I gotta say it doesn’t pique my curiosity very much. But I might watch it if it comes on TV sometime.

  35. It’s funny , I’m in the same black and white , old school period , right now. Not 1949 but 1959 , since I’m currently re-watching the old Twilight Zone episodes from the very first season ( I’m watching them sometimes in English , and sometimes in Italian . Here the Twilight Zone is called “Ai confini della Realtà” translated as “At the limits of Reality”) . I see a lot of parallels between this movie and that old serial . First of all , it’s incredibly smart , I really don’t see anybody ready to geenlight something like this in today market-controlled release schedule ( and I can’t believe that today TV is what it is when back then TZ was on the air ), plus the plot looks like an episode of TZ (minus the supernatural/SF angle ): basically a man with an obsession or some kind of problem that will drive the story forward with some heavy consequences. Second , TZ is really all about artistic integrity and having a vision ( no shit , in an interview Rod Serling said that he turned down a quarter of a milion a year to do the show , and that was in 1959!). At that pioneering time in television history there wasn’t really anything like that , so I can see why it was a huge gamble to produce a show like that. Third : Literary roots . TZ was written by Serling himself , but also Matheson and Ellison . One day I will read Ayn Rand , because she sounds batshit carzy ( and I’m not against that , just curious) , but with lots of people who at least love some of her concepts and understand part of her reasoning . I own Atlas Shrugged , but I always find something more interesting to read when I decide to give it a try.We will see. But I still don’t approve being an asshole to others. That’s just rude.

  36. It seems as though Rand basically compiled a philosophy for sociopaths. I’d like to see this film remade only instead of architecture as the chosen art form, make it about filmmaking in Hollywood.

  37. Toughshitism may be the best religion in the world. I bet it takes off in Philly.

  38. I believe the current adaptation of ATLAS SHRUGGED is only being made to prevent the rights from lapsing. Same situation as that Roger Corman FANTASTIC FOUR movie that they made but never officially released. Angelina Jolie was attached for a long time, and for all we know might still be interested, but if they didn’t get a movie into production by X date they would have lost their chance to make anything. So they make a piece of crap on the cheap with C-listers and unless it’s a total lightning-in-a-bottle fluke we probably won’t actually see it. But they get to retain the rights for Y amount of years and maybe take a proper prestige shot at it when Jolie’s schedule loosens up or whatever.

    That’s my understanding of the situation anyway.

    Amazing review, Vern. Never actually read any Rand but studied her philosophy in university. What a selfish twat!

  39. How about someone make a randian war movie?
    “Agh! I’m hit! Go on, leave me behind, I’ll-”
    “You’ll only slow me down. Way ahead of you, chump.”

  40. I’ve always wondered if Ayn Rand was tied to a chair and set on fire, you had an extinguisher, but she had to ask for you to put her out. Would she ask for help of just sit there patiently cooking like a Monk? Furthermore if you went ahead and helped her anyways would she be mad at you for proving her wrong?

  41. I should’ve mentioned in the review that Chuck Norris in DELTA FORCE took a piss all over Toughshitism when he went back and saved that guy at the beginning.

  42. I hate Ayn Rand. Too many words to basically say “Fuck you all, I’m taking my ball and going home.”

    I’m not going to hold this against King Vidor, since he made three of my favorite movies. A guy’s gotta eat, you know.

  43. I’ve got a draft of ATLAS SHRUGGED by James V. Hart….who’s not credited on the C-list version on IMDB. It gets up to pg. 128 and then CUTS TO BLACK: End of Part One–“WHO IS JOHN GALT?”

    That’s followed by a four page synopsis for “Part Two: ATLANTIS”. I can’t figure out whether that’s meant to be the second part of like, a 200 page script or something, or a second movie.

  44. ‘The Toughshitists say “Do be Ellis.”’

    Best argument against libertarianism, ever.

    Thank you Vern, I hate that phony philosophy, its just craven selfishness, and it needs to be ridiculed as the ridiculousness it is. So many earnest fools buy into it.

    People watch “Reefer Madness” for the sarcasm. They should watch this vintage flick too, for the same sarcastic insight into an insane way to view the world.

  45. Read this about 4 years ago, never saw the film even though I’m a Gary Cooper fan. Enjoyed the book even though I didn’t take it seriously. Read it for the hell of it after I had graduated college, where nary a professor once mentioned Ayn Rand. Guess she wasn’t significant enough to squeak into the syllabi of an English major.

    Most notable thing about The Fountainhead, to me, was that in seemingly every paragraph Rand manages to use a superlative or an absolute. Haven’t checked this for technical accuracy, but I just seem to remember an abundance of words like “never,” “must,” “could not,” “refuse,” “always,” and such in the text. The diction admirably supports & augments the themes of the work (except the primary theme is Toughshitism, so that’s not cool).

    Anyway, I read this beast during an amazing burst of couch- & pool chair-based laziness one late summer/early fall, during which I also consumed the entire Dan Brown oeuvre to that point, a bunch of Spanish language literature, and Camus’s The Stranger (in English). All I can say for certain is, Angels & Demons and Deception Point are fantastic thrillers in my opinion. (I’m not sure which author I should have been most embarrassed about reading publicly in the shallow end amongst all those bikinis.)

    Speaking of The Stranger, that reminds me of G. W. Bush (since he claimed to have read it once on one of his 2,000 vacations during his terms), which, along with seeing W on TV at the Yankees-Rangers game tonight reminds me of Paul1’s post. Earlier I’m just watching this game on MLBTV between football plays and I guess W decided to hit up his front row connect for tickets for his wife and himself for the 9-11 game between the team he used to operate and the greatest sports franchise in history. A couple of times between pitches the camera focuses on W & Laura, and I’m seeing how gray he’s become, especially next to his still decent post-Cougarrific wife.

    And I start to, I dunno, feel bad for the guy, like I’m going soft because I see how he’s clearly older than he was a couple years ago, no longer the above-average golfer and strong cyclist that he was when he was my fucking president, my boss, in fact, at the top of my chain of command when I joined the war effort I didn’t believe in. And I see that same kind of innocently stupid, wide-eyed look we’ve seen him project when he sits next to Bill Clinton in those charity commercials. And again, I tell myself that this is just a guy out to enjoy a good baseball game, gotta applaud that, right? It’s a healthy public way to celebrate American wholesomeness on the anniversary of this horrific event that happened when he was reading that children’s book between vacations & unjust elections. Just seeing him enjoying one of the capitalistic perks of American citizenship (before the rain delay) is a nice FUCK YOU to al-Quaeda and whatnot, right?

    And all these thoughts are crossing my mind in a matter of a few seconds, and I’m on the verge of forgiving this guy for most of his transgressions and stupidity, like it was really all Cheney & Rove & Rice & Rummy & Wolfie & Brownie & Woo & Scalia & Mehlman & the state of Texas who are more responsible for the disgraceful dawn of the 21st century in my home country. And I can’t hate this guy W any longer cause, hey, look at him, he’s old and frail and still as stupid as ever.

    But no, that won’t fly because he’s the darsh who put most of those above-named assclowns into office or shared common special interests ties. He raised money & argued for the same disgusting causes that same gaggle of GOPers supported.

    And that’s the same reason I still have to despise Charlton Heston. Even if he made level-headed pleas for causes near & dear to his heart, that echoed the sentiment of his constituency or the NRA’s membership, he was still a guy who supported the perpetuation of gun ownership in this nation no matter what. He was still the guy who fought every attempt at gun regulation ever brought to any level of government. He was the guy who presided over the group that made a candidate’s stance & record on gun control more important than that candidate’s stance on education reform or his/her foreign policy expertise. He was the leader of a bunch of fucking rednecks, the same base of rednecks who somehow got W into office twice. No, that interview with Michael Moore doesn’t bother me one bit, even if Heston looks frail and defeated, even if Moore edited it to manipulate our feelings or whatever.
    Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, like it or not, saved people’s lives. It’s activism at its absolute best. Heston’s efforts with the NRA facilitated the loss of many lives. It was activism at its absolute worst.

  46. Also, Darryll’s idea is a good one. **I’d like to see this film remade only instead of architecture as the chosen art form, make it about filmmaking in Hollywood.**

    Woody Allen’s Bullets Over Broadway might interest you, Darryll. (“I’m a whore!”)

  47. I’m an atheist AND a libertarian*, but I have a special 10-foot-pole just for ayn rand and her selfishness gobbledegook.

    the selfishness thing is interesting only if you look at the context of rand growing up in the soviet union and formulating all her ideas as a rejection of everything that place stood for. it’s like, wow the soviet union must’ve been REALLY bad if it made somebody THAT bitter

    so yeah rand is great when she says people should be free to be overachievers and whatever, but i think you should also be free to not be a total dick to other people if you don’t want to.

    also, it’s kind of retarded of rand not to realise that kindness is a form of selfishness – in that we do it because we don’t want others to think we are dicks, and because we might need a favour ourselves one day.

    *actual real libertarian, not the scary gun nut american version

  48. Not to offend Mouth (in fact I agree with most of your post), but I had to ask – Deception Point is a great thriller?

    Isn’t that the one with the ultrafast superdupersonic plane?

    You should read Ice Station by Matthew Reilly; it’s terrible, but in a Michael Bay on steriods way. It’s the heroic US versus the calculating British and the dirty French, too. It is hilarious.

  49. Deception Point features a crazyass plot that had me giggling and quickly flipping the pages the whole way through. It’s “great” in the sense that it was a perfect poolside read for 2 afternoons. I know the literati are anti-Brown, but I’m the exception.

    It has a Delta Force operator who kills a dude with a snowball.

  50. I like guns. I like the second amendment. So I pretty much have no problem with anything Charlton Heston did and I think the attempt by Michael Moore to publicly shame him for his beliefs and to set him up as some kind of villain by misrepresentative editing, lying, and maudlin sentiment is one of the sleaziest things Moore has ever done.

    Anecdotally speaking, where I live is pretty much the movie Roadhouse without the cool parts and I’ve never actually met a scary gun nut. I’ve met people who’ve owned lots of guns but never the scary gun nut cliche that gun-control types see in their fever dreams. Also, I’ve known two people who’ve used guns to save their lives (one of them was a 90 year old man) and one person who was almost killed in a robbery…with a knife. So, yeah, as far as I’m concerned, gun control can suck it.

    As for Rand, I think what she was doing was basically a comic-book version of Nietzsche (which is not necessarily a bad thing) and if you understand what “Will to power” actually means there’s a lot more to what she’s saying than “It’s ok to act like a dick.” Unfortunately, I think that’s something that both her fans and detractors have seized on. Do I agree with everything she’s written? Nope – for one thing, I can’t stand her taste in architecture – but I think there’s something entertaining and almost punk about arguing for volition in the extreme in-your-face way Rand does since almost every other moral system we have seems to say that volition is evil.

    (Also, there are quite a few recent movies that have struck me as, in some way, commenting on Rand – There Will Be Blood, The Aviator, Iron Man 1 and 2. Even the show Parks and Recreation.)

  51. Higharolla Kockamamie

    September 12th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    http://www.movieheavendvd.com/images/Duel%20in%20the%20Sun.jpg
    Somebody should publish a collection of weird rapey movie posters and whatnot.

  52. W.S. – Speaking of guns and their virtues, what you think of that new popular issue (in my South at least) to allow guns in churches?

  53. “Gun control can suck it”….Because two people defended themselves with legal (?) firearms? As opposed to the dozens or hundreds of victims of violent homicide killed by the mind-boggling number of cheap, easily available guns flooding our country?

    ‘Cause, I mean, how about semi-automatic AK 47 knock-offs that can be converted to full auto? The ones being bought in Arizona and Texas by the gross and shipped down to Mexico, where they’re converted and used in drug wars that’re rapidly bringing Mexico to a state of anarchy? That are killing people every day? The ones that were a lot harder to get until the Bush Administration loosened the, yes, gun control laws?

    And should just anybody be allowed to walk into a store and buy a gun with no background checks or restrictions or anything? Can mental patients get a special discount?

    However, I’ll add that, despite being a left-wing liberal Massachusetts Democrat, I also like guns. I also know a lot of people who own guns. I like living in a country that allows us to own guns. I’ve worked on movies that feature vast amounts of gunplay and probably trivialize and / or fetishize firearms in questionable ways. (and enjoyed the hell out of it, and I’ll do it again tommorrow if I can.) I recognize that everything I cited are extreme examples, and I agree with something John Milius once said: “Forget gun control–how about people controlling their guns?”

  54. CC – The problem that NRA and gun control advocates just absolutely FAIL to comprehend is the fact that guns have different purposes and functions in rural and urban areas.

    Rural lands, guns can be used to take care of rampant deer/rabbit/wolf/etc. wildlife overpopulation, and such critters trying to fuck your farm by getting a free lunch born out of your hard sweat labor. Also if you’re bored, there are always rats at the local dump for target practice.

    That said, in a city there are only two reasons why you have a gun: To kill, or to kill someone trying to kill ya.

    I’m reminded how NRA put alot of lobbying effort into getting the Supreme Court overturn the D.C. gun ban, voted in by popular majority ballot. But then the right wingers bitch when Prop 8 in California got overturned because they think a majority-voted law is immune to the judicial branch.

    State’s Rights: The principle mantra that everybody uses until it goes against them. Then they go promptly federalist without hesitation.

    But back to W.S.’ post, I live in so-called Bible Belt, in East Tennessee. Yet I must ask: Why own a AK-47? Is North Carolina invade us?

  55. “Rorschach in Watchmen is Alan Moore’s example of an Ayn Rand true believer. That kinda says it all.”

    kinda. He’s Alan Moore’s version of Steve Ditko’s version of The Question/Mr A. Steve Ditko was the co-creator of Spider-Man but he eventually went really, really Ayn Rand. tried to turn Spidey into an Objectivist. that didn’t fly with Marvel’s general left-wing/hippie ethos, so Ditko went independent and cranked out stuff like Mr A, a creepy Randian vigilante

  56. CC & RRA raise excellent points. I respect where W.S. is coming from, but I simply have to operate from the fundamental belief that guns are altogether much more harmful than helpful. They detract from much more than they add to civilized society. The statistics back me up, but I prefer to be a silly idealist who aims to alter thought and to make others believe in the fundamental stupidity of the NRA’s policy positions. This thread ain’t exactly the place for it, though.

    I *would* like to stay updated on this North Carolina invasion of our Smoky Mountain neighbor, however.

  57. Mouth – North Carolina never got over that whole State of Franklin shit.

    Meanwhile in TN, last few years there has been a major legislative war over a bill which if passed would allow people to carry concealed weapons into bars.

    You know I don’t drink, I admit it. I’m not that afluent on bar culture (I’ll surrender my Man Card if asked) but….I’m certain guns and booze just don’t go together. It’s like a law letting me light up a smoke at a gas station.

    You’re only asking for trouble.

    I wouldn’t be shocked if in the next 5 years, TN passes an Act allowing kids to better protect themselves in school by carrying weapons. It just might save lives.

  58. Fuck gun rights. What “right” am I depriving you of now? Your “right” to own a device designed solely for the purpose of killing other human beings? Cry me a fucking river.

  59. I’m getting a bit of culture shock. I applaud Australia’s strong gun laws but, as an American ex-pat, they still bug me. and they extend to things like knives, MACE, and Tazers
    now, i’m not a strong dude. some patriotic dickhead gets offended at a pub ’cause i say the wrong thing about his precious country… bam! i’m done
    so i gotta be really non-offensive
    it brings things back to basics – it’s all decided on strength and toughness. maybe that’s why rugby players are so strong?

    but the lack of the Randian, Objectivist thing is neat. people go on welfare and get free healthcare without being treated like sinners

  60. “some patriotic dickhead gets offended at a pub ’cause i say the wrong thing about his precious country… bam! i’m done”

    Brimstone – That’s what you get for dissing Yahoo Serious.

  61. Oh and reminders, FOUNTAINHEAD airs tonight on TCM at 8:45 PM EST.

  62. Vern has inadvertently started a movie group, and he’s the Oprah.

    Shoulda seen this coming.

  63. The limey—

    haha exactly. You gotta like Vern’s prose but guys come on, his word is not scripture. Of course the “don’t give help” line is crazy but the speech in court? Hell that’s plain awesome.

  64. LOL!!! This is hilarious, Vern!!! God, I so agree with this shit! The whole movie is so contrived! Rand’s philosophy doesn’t work realistically–only as shown in her novels! You gotta wonder about Roark’s day-to-day life: “My asshole smells but I won’t compromise! I shant be unclean like the masses! I will stay in this tub and scrub and scrub until the purity of my essence is unmistakable and blatantly announced to the world!!!!”

    Lighten up dude. You smell just like everyone else. Live a little. :)

  65. This is the best review you have ever written, Vern.

  66. As despicable and laughable as I find Rand, I still kind of wish that I could visit an alternate reality where she played herself as a recurring character on CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Rand and Larry David would be like combining plutonium and battery acid.

  67. No, the AK-47 isn’t needed against other states. Regular old hunting rifles are all we need for that. The AK-47 is needed against _other_ Tennesseans with hunting rifles.

    (Unless a bunch of other states gang up and bring all their hunting rifles; then the AK-47 might be useful I guess. Seems like that’s happened before, now that I think of it…)

  68. Rand as an atheist is like Tomás de Torquemada as a catholic or Mathew Hopkins as a protestant. You can’t have true atheist without humanism. Rand was an heartless psycho disguised as an intellect.

  69. There’s a whole rant Nietzsche goes on in (The Antichrist? Genealogy of Morals? can’t remember) about how religion doesn’t hold the monopoly on morality. How, in fact, it is perhaps more valid to arrive at one’s own morals through rigorous intellectual exercise and the trial and error of living, rather than obeying a proscribed set of rules set forth by something as arbitrary as organized religion (or in this case, “atheism”). Point being that religion/spirituality and morals/ethics are separate values, and danger can arise when one dictates the other. It’s been a while since I’ve read this stuff and I’m probably butchering Nietzsche’s ideas to the extent that he’d declare me the worst thing since Kant, but there you have it.

  70. Gwai Lo, are you saying that “atheism” prescribes a set of moral rules? Just like the “other” religions?

    Because you know atheism is a religion in the same way that “off” is a TV channel.

    Atheism is not believing in god. That’s it. No rules. I hope you’re not using “atheism” and “objectivism” interchangeably.

    Apologies if I misread you there.

  71. Anaru – To be perfectly fair, atheism is very much a theology in itself with its own conditional beliefs. Any supernatural divine being(s) can’t be proven. Or disproven.

    What annoys me is the idea that without a God or gods, you’re unable to be ethical. East Tennessee we see men drink their savings, abandon their wives and kids, and those that don’t slap’em around like a trout. Proudly ignorant too.

    But they make sure to make the sunday sermons. Or for that matter, George Dubya was a rather devout Christian. How many people died in those wars because of his decisions?

    Flipside doesn’t necessarily mean an atheist culture would necessarily be a superior alternative. I think that South Park episode about the future atheist crusades makes that point.

    “Agnostics are atheists without balls.” – Colbert

  72. Anaru – here I go down a slippery slope…

    I don’t think is “atheism” is a “religion”, but I do think many atheists have a tendency to be “religiously atheist”. And by that I mean that once invested, a lot of atheists are as fanatical about their beliefs and the intrinsic rules of their chosen belief system as anyone with your garden variety religious convictions.

    I consider myself an atheist, but only as a rather unsatisfactory last restort, because I don’t really consider the terms “atheist” and “agnostic” sufficient to cover the vast spectrum of variables involved.

    Atheism is the rejection of belief in God(S), active denial of the possibility of a sentient higher power. The general misconception is that atheists don’t believe in anything.

    Agnosticism is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or nonexistence of God(s), a sentient higher power, as knowable or unknowable. The general misconception is that agnostics are wishy-washy fence sitters who won’t pick black or white.

    How am I an atheist, and how am I not? I do think all organized religions are bullshit. I actively deny the possibility of a deity *as humans so far have been able to conceptualize one*. Asshole in the clouds, magic elephant, virgin pimp, etc. That might disqualify me as an agnostic. But I can’t quite actively deny the possibility of a sentient higher power altogether, because I can’t go all the way along those lines. Despite total absence of tangible physical evidence I think there’s a high statistical probability that other civilizations exist in the universe, perhaps more advanced than ours. I can’t actively deny the possibility that there is a design to the universe, that we aren’t just some bacterial culture in some cosmic motherfucker’s petri dish in 11th dimension science class. Highly fucking unlikely, but bear with me here. My point is we’ve been up in the clouds and nobody’s up there, but we haven’t figured out much of what’s going on outside our own solar system yet. One of my favorite books, Stanislaw Lem’s HIS MASTER’S VOICE, is much like the beginning of CONTACT in which humans discover a cosmic signal that turns out to be some sort of neutrino stream that may or may not have prompted evolution fo all life on earth due to its constant bombardment. They don’t figure it out at the end (SPOILER) and that’s kind of the point. What if it’s that shit, man? I don’t want to be the backwards rube that future centuries will look back on as totally ignorant. Man those twentieth century dopes didn’t even know about the neutrino stream? HAH! These are still higher power concepts *as humans so far have been able to conceptualize them* though, so I don’t BELIEVE in them. They’d make better sci-fi movies than the religious versions but that doesn’t mean they come close to being a reasonable thing to “believe in”. I am just flexible enough that I think I could roll with it if something, you know, came up.

    Now a lot of the time atheists will “believe in science”. Or “evolution”. Or “whatever can be empirically proven”. Etc. Which I abide by. It’s the best we have right now. But any attempt to explain the world we live in is just that: an attempt to explain the world we live in. Scientific theory constantly changes, and pursues dead ends and false leads relentlessly on its way to the truth. It’s a more intellectual approach to the question than religion, but it’s trying to do the same thing. And although we’re pretty sure about a lot of it, half the time we’re guessing. And at our best we’re really just draping our inefficient languages and thought processes over a total abstract. Science isn’t analogous with religion, but sometimes you hear these guys talking about string theory and whatever because they saw a special on NOVA and they will tell you with a straight face that there are however many dimensions and that the universe is made up of strings and some mathematician proved it. And most of these slobbering zealots are, of course, atheists. The average person is not scientifically inclined, so for many people science involves a certain amount of faith: trusting that the information you’re getting in this or that textbook is correct because nerds somewhere did the math and conducted the experiments.

    The point of all this rambling is that I’m highly fucking skeptical of anyone with an “answer”. Whether it’s a religious answer, a scientific proof, or a matter-of-fact denial of an unknowable, poorly defined question. Or a doctrine like Toughshitism. I identify as an atheist, but I think it would be more accurate to just call me “highly fucking skeptical of anyone with an answer”.

    Wow, this is getting long. Time for another beer.

  73. RRA and Gwai Lo – you both seem to be saying that atheism can produce either an ethical person or a prick, so I think we’re all good there.

    I actually think “atheist” is a silly word because you’re defining yourself by something that you don’t believe in. You’re denying god, but at the same time you’re acknowledging that god is important enough for your not believing in him to define you. Plus definition by negatives is reductive – I don’t believe in the tooth fairy, but I don’t go round saying “I’m an atoothfairyist”.

    I know some people say “humanist”, which I like in that it IS all about celebrating people’s ability to think for themselves, make their own moral decisions without having to be threatened with damnation, etc.

    But at the same time “humanist” is just such an airy-fairy PC word…

  74. Anaru – ahh, but you see, “ethical person” and “prick” are relative terms, not absolutes. What is it to be ethical? That’s part of what Nietzsche criticized Kant for, his idea that there were these moral imperatives that one could measure with relative accuracy. Nietzsche said that “ethics” and “morals” are often just reactions to the existing “ethics” and “morals” of the ruling class. ie. If the people in charge believe in greed and debauchery, a reactionary system of ethics will emerge that emphasizes selflessness and chastity. A lenient, permissive, liberal society may cause a revival of restrictive, conservative values. (Take the recent revival of the religious right in North America, for example.) And eventually you have a situation where so many values are piled on top of each other/in opposition to each other that it’s just bedlam. Human beings, when making their own decisions, rarely act in a way that defies what they *believe to be right*. That’s why Hitler was able to justify slaughtering millions of people. Whatever qualms he may have had about killing people were outweighed by what he considered to be a moral imperitave to purify the German/Aryan race. Those were his moral/ethical values. The man was a vegetarian and an animal lover, he clearly had a sense of “right” and “wrong”. It just so happens that most of us strongly fucking disagree with his opinions. To wrap up my thoughts on the whole morals/ethics thing, I think deciding what’s right and wrong is part of the human experience and all of us start working it out for ourselves as soon as soon as we’re cognitive of the world around us. Religion has stepped in and declared this their field, but hey, so has the law, psychology, Dr. Phil, etc.

    Anyway, I think we’re asking the wrong question. “Do you believe in God?” is misleading. A more appropriate question may be “have human beings thought of anything worthy of belief?” and right now my answer is “not really”. I don’t believe in “God” because I think all existing definitions of that word are completely fucking ridiculous. But I am not willing to say “I deny all possibility of something our species is not qualified to understand”. I mean if you asked a spider to do your algebra homework it wouldn’t have the first clue where to even start. Maybe that’s the order of magnitude we’re grappling with as a species here.

  75. I don’t define myself as an athiest — I just am one. Athiesm is so completely logical that there would be no reason to even have a name for it except that this planet is so inexplicably dominated by theists of one stripe or another. Identifying as an athiest doesn’t necessarily mean you’re defining yourself by a negative, just differentiating yourself from a fairly widespread cultural assumption of religiosity. I don’t believe in unicorns, either, but there’s no need to define myself that way. The only reason to do so is in a culture which presumes religion as a defining factor in people’s lives.

  76. Subtlety,

    Well put. I don’t really talk to folks about religion any more, because it’s not an interesting subject to me, but back in college I had plenty of religious friends (still do today) who were curious about it why I was a “non-believer.” And it was weird, to me, to be defined by something I didn’t do. I don’t go to meetings or specifically hang out with atheists or really even spend time thinking about atheism. I don’t believe in god or an afterlife, and I find that to be an incredibly boring fact about myself. I don’t even like the label “atheist” because it implies some sort of belief, when in fact I don’t HAVE any beliefs on this subject.

    So, in that sense, I understand Anaru’s point. I don’t see myself as an atheist, just as I don’t need a term that expresses the fact that I don’t really follow sports, because it’s weird to label myself with a term that explains something that’s NOT part of my personality.

  77. Gwai Lo: You’re going to be so pissed when you die and discover that God exists. And she looks just like Helena Bonham Carter.

    Just kidding, bud. I tend to reject all totalizing theories as well, and I applaud your well-phrased insistance that we “re-evaluate all values” (to borrow Nietschze’s phrase).

    But I kind of wish there was a god, if only to hear the conversation he has with our old pal Equinas at the pearly gates. Probably something like:

    God: So you’re the horse fucker.
    Equinas: Was that wrong? The bible wasn’t especially clear on the subject.
    God: Dude, you FUCKED HORSES.

  78. If God didn’t want Equinas to fuck horses, He shouldn’t have made horses so sexy.

  79. Why’s it always come back to horse-fucking with you people? I swear, you review one horse-fucking movie one time, and suddenly everyone wants to talk about horse-fucking for the rest of their lives.

    As far as religion and atheism go, Dan’s right that there’s just not much to say that intellegent folks haven’t already thought about. I do object to the idea that atheism is a discreet set of beliefs, however. Not believing in something for which there is no evidence is a pretty standard part of life, not something you have to even make an argument or hold any particular beliefs in order to do. The modern “atheists movement” does make a variety of different claims which could be called beliefs, but atheists themselves merely go about their lives not believing or thinking much about dragons, goblins, or supernatural father figures.

  80. How about I drag this thread kicking and screaming back on topic by pointing out that Clint Eastwood is a libertarian…

    http://www.libertarianism.com/pop_celebrity/clint-eastwood

  81. Anaru – Eastwood also rescues animals. He’s like Seagal, except not full of shit. And a much better fashion sense.

  82. RRA – there’s nothing in Libertarianism that says you can’t rescue an animal. It’s Objectivism that obliges you to be a jerk.

  83. Also Clint’s soundbite definition of Libertarianism – “everyone leaves everyone else alone” – doesn’t that just sound like something he’d say in a movie? Or Snake Plissken would say? Or John Rambo?

    Libertarianism is a badass philosophy.

  84. Dixie Carter and Drew Carey also identify themselves as Libertarian, as do Penn & Teller. Not sure how badass POINT BLANK would be with that cast.

  85. Nothing more badass than having a country directly and legally controlled by corporations, rather than indirectly. Libertarianism sounds great until you actually think about how it would work and who it would benefit.

  86. Mr. S – Pretty much. Nevermind that under every American President since FDR, the federal government has grown. Funny shit too in the irony that from Nixon to Dubya, every one of those elected Presidents campaigned against “big government.”

    Which maybe is why the Tea Party stuff comes off as less white cultural backlash (as liberals are dismissing it) and more for me its metaphysical bitching about the fact that the American people, especially those welfare-check cashing bums on the right, hopelessly depend upon the government.

    Pathetic really.

  87. Also, if one thinks about it the purest form of libertarianism and capitalism exists and can be found in the crime world. Crime is pure unbridled, unsackled capitalism, free of individual ethics and societal morality, and especially can be free of “big government” with the “locals” controlling their local politics and economics.

  88. I am very late with this, as a result of spending time recently in the place called “Off-of-the-Line.” (I’ll tell you guys about it someday — it’s really weird out there.)

    But I still want to commend Vern for his on-the-money review, and to relate my personal FOUNTAINHEAD story, even if everyone has moved on and no one reads this: I saw the film years ago at a rep house, on a double-bill with, no lie, CITIZEN KANE. This has to be some kind of programmer’s joke, because one of these films is a work of genius and the other is really very much not.

    As hilarious as Vern’s review is, he’s not exaggerating at all. If anything, he’s understating just how loopy this thing is. The art-house audience, inclined to appreciate older movies, began by giving the film the benefit of the doubt. But at some point somebody giggled, and then it was open season. We were slapping our thighs by the whip scene, and rolling in the aisles during the Very Long Elevator Ride at the conclusion. It was a true bonding experience for everyone who happened to be there that night. I’ve never revisited the film, but can still remember it vividly all these years later. Watch it with a group of friends.

  89. Great, great review…

  90. Keith Olbermann & Chris Hayes just slammed Randian principles in the first 15 minutes of Countdown tonight. Glenn Beck overtly stated that he supports Toughshitism. It’ll piss me off too much to go into the details of why they brought it up tonight, but it’s some good stuff. Good to know we aren’t the only ones fighting the shittiness of Toughshitism.

  91. The main probelm with Ayn rands philosophy is that there is no place in it for fighting for Ayn rands philosophy. If we are all supposed to be selfish, and supporting here philosophy is a good unselfish act. Then, there is no reason for a person living her philosophy to expend any effort to support it. That seems to me a big flaw. That was one of the reasons I quit following her philosophy. Yeah, enlightened self intest is usually a good thing, but this flaw shows that her philosophy is not all-encompassing enough to be a complete philosophy of life.

  92. So it turns out Rand was full of shit afterall http://www.boingboing.net/2011/01/28/ayn-rand-took-govern.html

    Can’t say I’m massively surprised.

  93. I think we could all do with another Ayn Rand adaptation review…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6W07bFa4TzM&feature=player_embedded

  94. I try to say something good about everything. I can say this about The Fountainhead: Rand did
    capture perfectly the prevailing ethos in architecture schools in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The thought
    was that the field was static and nothing more could be created than had already been created. So at
    least there she did do the research.

    Beyond that, if you ever run out of toilet paper the hardcover edition should last you for about a year
    or so. Even her central message is nothing new. Rand herself in later writings said she cribbed a lot from
    Aristotle–except Aristotle couldn’t possibly have been as much of an asshole as the ideal Randian Man
    is supposed to be. A more appropriate ending would have been the jury sentencing Roark to 20 years
    in state prison, where he’d spend the rest of his life getting what he gave to Dominique. :-P

  95. Wasn’t it Ben Franklin who said, in Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”?

  96. altas shrugged pt. 1 anyone?

    the asylum would be proud

  97. Hey Vern, Snyder is set to direct an adaptation of The Fountainhead. Looking forward to the comparative review!

    Of Course Zack Snyder Wants To Adapt An Ayn Rand Novel

    He's working on THE FOUNTAINHEAD.

  98. Ugh, of course he would. Why not make the ultimate film which would play to every one of his weaknesses and none of his strengths?

    My only hope is that it tanks exactly as miserably as the ATLAS SHRUGGED trilogy, but with enough money on the line that people actually notice this time.

  99. Crushinator Jones

    March 17th, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Why not Snyder? 300 sold the appeal to fascism to people, why not pump up Objectivity?

  100. I had a vague memory of Vern reviewing that Atlas Shrugged thing that came out a couple of years ago but when I try to search for it, I get a dead link.

    What’s happening? Are they trying to suppress the truth? The people demand ANSWERS.

  101. This doesn’t surprise me. I liked Man of Steel and the opening moments of Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, but I’ve never been much of a Snyder fan. His films have too much of a late-90s music video aesthetic, and I actually think Man of Steel benefited from the fact that he moved away from his usual look.

    In interviews, Snyder always strikes as just kind of dumb, so it makes complete sense that he would be an Ayn Rand acolyte. There were slight changes in both 300 and Watchmen that showed how little he really understood the source materials.

    300 the comic has been accused of being racist and fascist, which is probably a fair criticism, but there is one moment in the comic where it looks like Miller is criticizing the Spartans. In Miller’s version, Ephialtes, the hunchback , is rejected by Leonidas with a shrug because of his deformity. When Ephialtes kills himself, the king doesn’t seem to care all that much. When Ephialtes does finally betray the Spartans, you could possibly read it as partly the fault of Leonidas and Spartan society because they are unable to imagine that a person with a disability could be a useful member of society.

    In Snyder’s version, he adds a line where Leonidas tells Ephialtes that he can’t join the Spartans in battle, but he can help them out by clearing the dead, or something like that. (It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film). The possibility that Miller could in be in any way critical of the Spartans goes right over Snyder’s head.

    In Watchmen, Snyder excises all suggestions that Rorschach is a hard right anti-semite. In the original comic, Moore is playing with our sense of identification by making us see the world through his eyes, and then reminding us that the man is a hardcore bigot. Again, this goes completely over Snyder’s head, and Rorschach ends up positioned as the hero of the story.

  102. Crushinator Jones

    March 18th, 2016 at 8:46 am

    You’re being extremely naive if you think that Rorschach’s anti-Semitism was excised because Snyder didn’t “get it”. It was excised because when you make a 120 million dollar movie you can’t afford to get picketed by the Anti-Defamation League.

    As for 300 they literally show Spartans throwing babies off a fucking cliff and children fighting children within the first 10 minutes of the film. If you need an extra scene of Leonides shitting on a hunchback to get clued in that these guys are monstrously hardline fascist assholes I don’t know what to say.

    But if you’re one of those people who thinks that Zack Snyder is a dumb fratboy who makes music video movies then there’s no convincing you of anything.

  103. Crushinator Jones

    March 18th, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Having said that, he does do some dumb stuff…Rorschach heroically fighting the cops in the Director’s Cut was dumb as heck.

  104. I’ve liked moments in Zack Snyder’s movies, but Man of Steel was the only one of his where I felt the entire enterprise was mostly satisfying. (Although I never got around to seeing Sucker Punch). With 300, I know I’m kind of nitpicking differences between the comic and the end product, but you don’t have to try too hard to demonstrate that a movie released in the throws of post-9/11 hysteria that’s heroic white Europeans holding back hordes of Middle Easterners is kind of racist. Sure, much of this is the fault of Miller, but I guess I was trying to point out that even moments in the comic that could be read as slightly complex were glossed over.

    Snyder’s affection for The Fountainhead and (I would assume) Ayn Rand’s worldview only reinforces what I had already gathered from Watchmen: he sees Rorschach as the hero. In his defense, Watchmen’s a near impossible comic to adapt and there are plenty of dumb people on the internet who also see Rorschach as a hero. I don’t really buy the argument that people would confuse Rorschach’s bigotry with endorsement of his bigotry. It would only reinforce the fact that the character is an unhinged psychopath. Without that unsavory detail, he quickly becomes one of the easiest characters to root for.

  105. Crushinator Jones

    March 18th, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I don’t think anyone who declares Superman his favorite superhero and whose upcoming film features an extensive montage of him saving people is a true Objectivist. I do agree that it’s bizarre that he thinks that The Fountainhead is a story about an artist’s struggle because it has always seemed a very thin polemic about being a greedy piece of shit to me, personally.

    Also you simply cannot have a high-profile character in a mainstream blockbuster movie spout anti-semetic stuff unless they are cartoonishly evil because your average audience member is going to say “well hey the protagonist is saying it and so it must be ok and what the filmmakers really believe” and there you go. I mean we’re basically having that conversation right now. You’re saying “oh yeah it’s racist to have white guys fight a middle-easterner in 2007” but two things there 1) the guy who invaded really was a Persian dude from the middle east, they didn’t turn him into a middle easterner or anything like that, and 2) there’s a part in the movie that’s supposed to tip you off that this is Spartan propaganda, it’s the part where the bad guy literally turns into a inky black silhouette with eyes and a mouth. I mean for goodness sake the bad guy is a huge imposing dude who could snap Leonides in half in about 2 seconds but of course he’s a liberal caricature, talking about unity and peace, and mincing about in a feminine way. And of course there’s massive homosexual overtone to the entire conversation.

    I just don’t believe that a dude who made a movie about men objectifying women and lobotomizing them is a secret fascist and Objectivist. What it seems to me is that Snyder falls in love with an idea and then just goes about showing you how it works in context. Like I said, 300 is a great way to understand the appeal of fascism. All that stuff about being the most elite and fighting for your country and what monsters the Persians are while asking you to forget the pile of dead babies at the bottom of the hill that you saw at the beginning. Oh do you want to see a Superman who uses super-violence to solve problems? Ok but let’s not pretend that innocent people aren’t going to get caught in the crossfire. Violence is messy like that. Oh you want to see badass women wear hot clothes and fight? Ok but by forcing them to behave this way you’ve trapped them in a lousy system. Etc. etc. etc. There’s always a sting to his movies, and I appreciate that.

  106. SUCKER PUNCH is low key his masterpiece. But I think only members of this sight will ever truly understand that.

  107. Crushinator Jones

    March 18th, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    It’s definitely the most Peak Snyder of all his movies, for sure.

  108. I recently used “You have all the weapons you need” as part of a completely sincere pep talk for a ladyfriend going through a rough time. It’s a great and wise film.

  109. Rightwing filmatistical artists produce all sorts of great/fascinating art. Sly. Bruce. Mel. Clint. Milius.

    I don’t think Snyder is latching onto that pantheon; he’s constructing his own. And he’s not endorsing Randism; she wrote a book ripe for profitadaptationability that happens to have some controversial sex and some dynamite involved in the climax. I for one welcome Snyder’s potential weird turn as a guy whose work I love despite a troubling undergirding (<- architecture word) sense of anti-liberalism in some of his directadaptational choices. Cf. Seagalogy and Michael Bay.

  110. The Original Paul

    March 18th, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I feel like the least qualified person to talk about Zach Snyder movies on this site, since I’ve only seen two of them – SUCKER PUNCH and WATCHMEN. I haven’t seen 300 or MAN OF STEEL, which are probably his most controvertial.

    Of those two… SUCKER PUNCH is a movie that I want to love a lot more than I do. (That’s an understatement actually; I find it virtually unwatchable, despite some gorgeous cinematography and a fantastic score.) Mouth did an excellent analysis of it a while back, which I think corrected some of my thoughts regarding both the movie’s subtlety and its message; which is not to say that I think the movie as a whole was a worthwhile experience. What I’m saying is that an appreciation for some of its more subtle touches doesn’t make the experience of watching the movie as a whole any less unsatisfying (unfortunately).

    WATCHMEN, I thought, was a lot more engaging, but still never quite “grabbed” me. And reading some criticisms of it – both positive and negative, by people who’ve read the source material and people who haven’t – has again given me more of an insight into why that is. That’s my takeaway from the Zach Snyder movies that I’ve seen – they’re more fascinating to read about than to watch. They may have some great ideas, but they’re not put onto the screen in a way that I find fascinating. He’s like the anti-Verhoven in that sense. Reams and reams of prose has been written about STARSHIP TROOPERS’ portrayal of fascism, and most of it makes the movie sound incredibly dull. If I hadn’t seen the movie a dozen times before reading a word about it, I think the stuff that’s been written about it would actually put me off. Whereas SUCKER PUNCH sounds like the most interesting thing, until you actually try and sit through it.

    Is it me? Am I just not the audience for the movies that Snyder is making? I don’t know. I’m certainly not a fan of what he does in SUCKER PUNCH, but that’s for subjective reasons, at least as far as the feminist stuff goes. That doesn’t explain why I find the film or its characters so unengaging though, when others obviously don’t have the same problem. I think I’d have to watch 300 or MAN OF STEEL to be able to attempt an opinion on this one, and the problem there is that 1) both films have been thoroughly spoiled for me, and 2) everything I’ve heard about them pretty much convinces me that I’d be better off avoiding them. This has been a really good year so far, and I don’t want to put myself through a film I have no interest in just to “form an opinion” on the guy directing them.

    I do agree on the “portrayal =/= endorsement” sentiment though. If it wasn’t clear enough from my thoughts on that other action movie that came out recently, which I will not name here because I’ve wasted far too much energy arguing about it already!

  111. I try not to be that guy who dislikes a film solely because of their politics. I think the Nolan Batman movies readily shift rightward as they go along, and I enjoy the entire trilogy, even the uneven third movie. I can get caught up in Dirty Harry even though the film has questionable views of civil rights and due process. I’ve stuck it out with The Walking Dead mostly because I think it offers insight into the present day conservative mind.

    So while I do have problems with 300 (which goes back to the source material really) and Watchmen, on a basic gut level there’s just something about Snyder’s aesthetic that didn’t work for me in those films. I could probably get around some of the politics if I just found the movies more engaging.

    Still, if Snyder wants to make a Fountainhead movie, then he should go right ahead. At the very least, the guy has had an interesting career, especially considering the fact that only about half of his movies were financially successful. It’s crazy to think that Warner Bros. put him in charge of building up their superhero subsidiary. But they must know what they’re doing, I guess.

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