Friday, April 15, 2011

Atlas Shrugged...Humberside High intro! Tedious read by Ayn Rand adapted for screen!


When most of my fellow students were worrying about landing a spot on the football team, or the perils of teen dating,  a shy retiring adolescent in the chair next to me in Social Studies was hungrily gleening the passages from an ultra thick piece of fiction - Atlas Shrugged - by Ayn Rand.

I vividly recall the day one glassy-eyed student strolled up to me at my locker and hissed:

"Do you smoke grass?  If so, watch out, the coach is a narc!"

I half-turned with a puzzled expression on my face for two reasons.

I was so naive ( I was raised in the protective shadow of my foster parents for years in the suburbs of Scarberia, Agincourt & West Hill) that I was totally clueless about the "underground culture" and most certainly the lingo that came with it.


What the heck was she talking about.

Needless to say, the intriguing philosophical concepts that Ayn Rand spouted off about (in her well-read bestsellers) were out of my league at that point in my sweet short life!.


I hate to fess up, but - frankly - I was totally in the dark about heady subjects such as "Socialism" and "Capitalism" (the subjects Rand expounded on in her thousand-page books which I tried to struggle through one picturesque fall in the West End of Toronto).

"Oenone" - that was her first name, if I recall correctly - literally scoffed at me when I half-heartedly joked about the strenuous prerequisites (grey matter) necessary to wade through the thought-provoking book.

Essentially, as far as she was concerned, I was a silly popular boy in school who was quite simply shallow through and through!

That semester, I won an award for my portrayal of "Lomov" in Chekhov's two-act comedy - "The Marriage Proposal" at the Simpson's Drama Festival - and so - I was the center of attention (even to sexy Sue Helen Petrie who boasted her own TV sitcom on CBC TV) at Humberside High.

I tried to finish the book, but to no avail.

Over the years, there was always a lot of scuttlebutt and speculation  -as to whether "Atlas Shrugged" was ever going to be adapted for the silver screen.

After all - "The Fountainhead" (which starred Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal) - was successfully (some say not!) brought to movie theatres earlier.

When it came to "Atlas Shrugged", the flames continued to be fanned over the years, to a fever pitch.

In the interim, every major star worth his salt - who was popular at the box office - was considered for any one of the juicy lead roles.

Like - "On the Road" - the cult material eluded the grasp of Hollywood suits and power-players in the corridors of power in Tinsel Town.

Until now!

The current release of "Atlas Shrugged" has caused a big buzz and widespread interest on the Internet.


Because it appears to be uncannily timely!

"Rand's dystopian tale taps into the fears of conservative Americans about government spending, deficits and the social priorities of a Democratic president like Obama," one critic observed, at a press conference the other day.

"On the one hand, Rand's popularity points to the vigor and growth of the American right, particularly as seen in the Tea Party. On the other hand, it points to a certain intellectual weakness amid the conservative movement, given that their leading intellectual is a novelist who has been dead for almost 30 years."

The fans at the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif., also argue to all within earshot, that there are similarities between the rise of the Tea Party and Rand's philosophy of pro-capitalism and rational self-interest expressed through "Atlas Shrugged" and protagonist John Galt.

As Yaron Brook, the institutes's executive director puts it this way.

"People are responding with alarm at parallels between Atlas Shrugged and the rampant growth of government power today."

Interest in Rand and her philosophy is on the upswing, according to published news reports flooding the airwaves.

Since the 2008 presidential election, according to Brook, the novel "Atlas Shrugged" has sold more than 1 million copies (far more than in any similar period in the book's 54-year history).

In a nutshell, "Atlas Shrugged" is a complex story about a country in economic tatters.

Lawmakers and policy framers in Washington are crushing the entrepreneurial spirit and the titans of big business are giving up their once-burgeoning enterprises to disappear into obscurity some accuse.

The similarities between the world Rand describes in "Atlas Shrugged" and contemporary America "are striking" and explain the rise of the Tea Party, according to a video released by the Ayn Rand Institute.

"In Atlas we see a world crumbling under the weight of government interventions and regulations. The economy has ground to a halt. Each day more and more businesses are shutting their doors.
The government blames greed and the free market, and frantically imposes further controls. But the crisis only deepens. Sound familiar?"

At a special screening last month at the Heritage Foundation - co-producer Harmon Kaslow told National Journal - that the movie is an "excellent vehicle" for libertarian conservatives to use to broaden their base.

"They subscribe to the philosophy of the book and believe in the writing of Ayn Rand and her view of individual liberty," he underscored without blinking-an-eye.

The movie was written and directed by Paul Johansson who is an actor mostly known his deft work in Television circles.

I'll hold judgment until I catch the flick this weekend.