Maybe, just maybe, Joe Carter is correct that Frank Capra gets less attention than he deserves because of the sentimentality in his films. I've seen that critique of his work. But it seems to me that Capra's legacy is in fine condition these days, as It's a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington are firmly embedded in American pop culture, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and It Happened One Night are hardly forgotten. I saw these films long before I chased down anything by Howard Hawks, John Huston, or Billy Wilder.
To suggest that Ayn Rand is a misunderstood “master of sentimentality” is weirder. Yes, she hoped to evoke a passionate emotional response from her audience rather than some ironic appreciation of her wordplay. I suppose that's the sentimentality. But it's what she wants us to respond to that puts off so many people, and that she's so direct in telling us how to respond to it. Carter admits in the comments that he never made it through Atlas Shrugged. Well, I did, and John Galt's twenty-something-page lecture is not the work of a master novelist.
I say this as a great admirer of Tolkien, who wrote a masterful, world-unto-itself heroic epic that contains its share of sentimental moments, and some lecturing on the part of its heroes, but doesn't kick the reader in the face with ham-handed philosophy like Rand does. I dare say a great portion of Tolkien's fan-base would have no sympathy with his strictly conservative Catholicism. Can you count many anti-libertarians/anti-Objectivists among Rand's admirers? And if Dickens was a sentimentalist, at least the man could write spellbinding prose. You can't read Atlas Shrugged for its literary merit because it doesn't have any.
Carter criticizes Rand in the rest of the post, and I'm not going to argue with him there.
For laffs, check out McSweeney's up-to-date rendition of Atlas Shrugged, which gets the theory a bit wrong but the weirdness of Dagney Taggart right. (Via Freddie.)