Atlas Shrugged Part 1

Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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Early yesterday, the LA Times blog released quotes from Atlas Shrugged Part 1 writer/producer John Aglialoro which indicated that he was throwing in the towel on making Part 2 and Part 3. The reason, of course, was that the film just didn’t make its money back. Aglialoro spent a reported $10m of his own cash on the production, and a second week drop off hurt the independent flick considerably. The movie has currently only made $3.2m at the box office. It started with an impressive per screen average, but as with other films which zero in on an audience, everyone who wanted to see the movie saw it opening weekend. The numbers dropped, and an expansion was scrapped. Aglialoro very specifically blames critics and what he believes is a collective “fear of Ayn Rand” amongst them for the movie’s failings. So much for personal responsibility. However, it’s his ire and hatred of the critical response that has caused an about-face. Aglialoro now claims that, while he was once defeated, he now stands ready to proceed with making Atlas Shrugged Part 2 and Part 3. Like all misunderstood artists, he should.

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