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Atlas Shrugged: “Who is John Galt?”

In This Just OUT on September 14, 2014 at 8:39 pm

Who-Is-John_Galt-PosterI don’t even know who Atlas is, so I had lots to learn in seeing “Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?” It was like finding out “What is the Matrix?”

John Galt (Kristoffer Polaha from “Back in the Day“) used to work in an automotive plant until the company changed the rules and decided to pay each employee based upon his needs instead of what he produced. He said, “No.” No to the company and the country that wanted to exploit his talent and hard work instead of reward it. Soon many other captains of industry disappeared to escape the crusade against the accomplished. They also said no to the government whose regulations strangled their prosperity.

You would know all this if you watched the first two movies in this trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

One person has been on a mission to find John Galt, and she finds him in the first real scene of the movie. Dagny Taggart (Laura Regan from “How to be a Serial Killer”) crashed a plane to discover his secret valley of exiled excellence. Hidden from world, Galt and all the missing scientists and business leaders live in a self-supporting, utopian community. They have abandoned the rest of the world to live under one guiding principle: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

While Dagny decides whether she will join Galt, her precious railroad company is taken over by the government with her incompetent brother at the controls. To say the movie is preachy is to not understand the sermon that was Ayn Rand’s life work. The format of this final installment played like a newsreel, serving the filmmaker and author’s intent to reveal the societal crime of excessive regulation as the break on man’s engine of ingenuity.

While this movie served my flavor of Kool-Aid, the pace and production quality played like a TV movie. For decades this was to be a mini-series, and perhaps those fingerprints couldn’t be removed. It didn’t help that this third installment had the third cast, as all the leads were recast over the three years it took to do three movies. So, this is the third actress to play Dagny.

One thing that spiced this movie up was the cameos of current pundits beating the drum against the growth of government as the private sector is described as a bunch of selfish greedy capitalist. Rand may have written the book 57 years ago but she looks like a prophet to me now. With a third of the country on food stamps and the generators of wealth vilified as the top 1 percent who must give it up to the other 99 percent I now see why Atlas shrugged.

This movie will be studied in the future to help understand Rand’s principles and how not to turn a thousand-page novel into a movie. I do think this movie has the bulk of the “truth” in it and can almost stand alone, though I wonder if Rand would have allowed that. I am willing to make allowances and I give this movie 3 stars out of 5. Now that I know who John Galt is I wish I could find him.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 http://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Magic in the Moonlight

In This Just OUT on September 7, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Magic_in_the_Moonlight_posterIf you are looking for “Magic in the Moonlight” I have found it. You don’t have to believe in magic to appreciate this movie; you just need to have faith in Woody Allen movies.

Stanley (Colin Firth from “The Railway Man“) is a world-renowned magician, although he performs as an old Chinese man. This deception allows him to have a simple and practical private life. In his spare time, Stanley debunks would-be mystics and psychics. Everything he does in his act is a trick designed to fool people, but these charlatans who think they can talk to the spirit world turn people into fools. His best friend, Howard (Simon McBurney from “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”), asks him to unmask a young American woman who he is convinced has supernatural powers.

When Stanley meets young Sophie (Emma Stone from “The Amazing Spiderman”), he resists her beauty and gentle nature and digs in for the inquisition. Over the next few days she peppers him with bits from his life that make him start to believe that she may be the real thing. But he does not believe in the real thing – or anything he can’t understand.

Firth and Stone work well together with his proper British gentleman bit and her aloof and coy glances. Add in Director Woody Allen’s (“Blue Jasmine”) standard 30-year difference in their ages and his method of stuttering and bumbling into a love affair and it’s all rather charming.

When Stanley embraces the possibilities of a spirit world, so many more things seem possible in his life. He finds there is a difference between contentment and happiness. Believing in things you don’t understand is a requirement to be in love. Logic has no place in such things, though Stanley has not given up those tools.

There are some other great actors in the movie, but the focus is kept on the leads. While I would normally consider this an asset, it leaves many of the other talented people on screen as mere props to the simple construct of the story.

I admit this movie was fun and annoyed me less than most Woody Allen movies. For that reason I must give this movie 3 ½ stars out of 5. There is a little magic here if you believe in that kind of thing… or if you just like Woody Allen movies.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 http://bashmovies.wordpress.com

Boyhood

In This Just OUT on August 30, 2014 at 8:05 am

Boyhood-POSTER“Boyhood” should seem familiar to me, since I had one of my own. I know my life is based on a true story, and in a way, so is this movie.

It begins with 6-year-old Mason (Ellar Coltrane from “Fast Food Nation”) growing up in rural Texas with his single mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette from “Girl in Progress”) and his older sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater in her feature film debut). Life is tough for Mason, and that’s what this movie is about – his life.

We follow Mason’s life from age 6 until he goes off to college. We have seen this kind of thing before, but not like this. They could have gotten a series of actors to portray Mason at various ages as the story unfolds, but that’s not what Director/writer Richard Linklater (“Before Midnight”) did here. The groundbreaking technique he used was to shoot for one month a year for 12 years. That’s right, it’s the same actor at age 6 as it is at 18. We also watch his mother, sister and father (Ethan Hawke from “Before Midnight”) age and change as people and how they relate to Mason.

As for what happens next – well these things usually have a beginning, middle and an end. Maybe something like Mason gets into trouble, tries to fix it, gets deeper into trouble and in the end he comes out fine. Forget about that old three act standard – this a boy’s life. He is always getting in trouble and suffering the consequences and it seldom gets better. Even the good parts only look decent when they are in the rear view mirror.

Most of the things that happen to Mason are out of his control because he is a kid. Most of the time he just has to deal with it. They have to move a lot, mostly to get away from his mother’s poor choice in men. Mason’s father hangs in for the part-time parent position in a way that seems real and rewarding for both of them. In fact, Mason’s dad matures along with him, which is something I can identify with myself.

The patience it takes to wait for someone to come of age to complete a coming of age movie is astounding. Much like my life, there was no script and they made it up as they went along and grounded the story in the kind of person Mason grew into. The characters tell the story cloaked in the fabric of the real lives of the actors. Time marches on, and Mason elbows out his place in the world while his parents each separately try to figure out their own lives.

The movie was touching, and it touched me in a very special place. For that reason I must give it 4 out of 5 stars. This is more than a slice of life – it’s the whole pie.

Tom Basham is an indie filmmaker. Here is a link to his movie review site:
 http://bashmovies.wordpress.com

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