This DVD captures the unlikely connection of three men. An ex-con biographer, a janitor turned publisher and U.S. President George W. Bush whose paths to power and popularity become tangled in the controversial book Fortun... more »ate Son. Winner "Best Documentary" 2002 New York Underground Film Festival, Winner "Best Documentary" 2002 Chicago Underground Film Festival.« less
Horns and Halos shows both the horns and the halos
James H. Swan | United States | 04/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Excellent film, showing the history of the book Fortunate Son, a biography of George W. Bush, from its withdrawal from publication by St. Martin's Press through two editions with its new publisher, Soft Skull Press. The camera follows the author and the publisher as they encounter the ups and downs of a publishing and media world that is hostile to their enterprise. The movie pulls no punches about the author, who was a felon convicted of procuring an attempted murder, showing varied sides, including loving father. The movie also follows the ins and outs of the developing friendship of the author and his publisher. Overlying this is the political story of an author who picked the right candidate for biography; overcoming efforts to suppress, sidetrack, and censor; making a political statement in an environment ruled by big money; and the U.S. media circus, that follows the juicy personal scandal while ignoring the major political and economic scandals detailed in the book. The movie ends on a somber note, at the suicide of the author; but the book, and this movie, live on. I saw the movie tonight and came straight to Amazon Canada to buy it."
A New Kind of Doc...
S. GRAHAMFELSEN | Brooklyn, NY | 10/12/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is unlike any documentary I've ever seen before. It combines various cinematic styles-- from Albert Maysles' uncut, "direct cinema" approach, to Michael Moore's "guerilla documentary" approach.
The characters are all nuanced, complex personalities, and the filmmakers do a startingly good job at not passing judgment and allowing us to see the characters for who they really are.
Rather than being a simplistic anti-Bush doc, the film is a meditation on how media, money, and politics combine to reak havoc on the life of an already troubled man.
I highly, highly recommend this film, not only to those who are interested in the intersection of media, money, and politics, but to those who are interested in experiencing great filmmaking."
"We don't burn books in this country."
anomie | 06/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Horns and Halos" is a fascinating story behind a book that became so controversial, its publisher, St Martin's Press issued a recall a few days after the publication date, and promptly burned all of the copies. The name of the book is "Fortunate Son" a biography of George W. Bush. The book's author, J.H.Hatfield had a few other star biographies under his belt (Ewan McGregor and Patrick Stewart) and also authored an unauthorized guide of X-Files when he pitched the book successfully to St. Martin's Press. "Fortunate Son" was supposed to be one of those glitzy tribute bios, but it turned into something much more, and what happened to the book, and J.H.Hatfield is the meat of this riveting documentary.
Hatfield added an afterword to the book, which he claimed was at St. Martin's insistence. The afterword included a juicy acknowledgment by three unspecified sources about Bush's alleged cocaine addiction. Hatfield insisted that he didn't want to add this info, but did so when the publisher pressed the issue. Immediately after publication, Hatfield's sordid past--which included a murder-for-hire scheme came to light, and the dirt on Hatfield--combined with the segment on Bush's alleged cocaine use led to the books' recall and destruction.
Enter Soft Skull Press, a tiny independent press who then republished the book and tried to distribute it. A great deal of the film follows the trials and tribulations of the rogue founder of Soft Skull Press, the intrepid, idealistic Sander Hicks as he and J.H.Hatfield attempt to re-launch the book. Hicks and Hatfield attended book conventions, and even appeared on 60 Minutes to try and promote the book. The two men form an unlikely sometimes-difficult bond. There's Hatfield with his glum, fatalistic realisation that he's "dead meat", and then there's Hicks, who refuses to give up. Unfortunately, the content of the book faded behind its controversy and the author's past. And even when Hatfield revealed his sources, nothing could salvage the situation.
The film "Horns and Halos" is a two-disc set. One disc is the film, and the other disc is devoted to extras including: protests at Bush's inauguration, band White Collar Crime in performance, 11 deleted scenes, director's commentary, interviews with Hatfield, protest coverage, KCET coverage of the documentary, and an interview with Sander Hicks. If you are interested in reading more of the story (the 60 minutes transcript, for example), Sander Hicks has a website (sanderhicks.com). Hicks no longer works for Soft Skull Press and is now--amongst other things--working on a bio of Karl Rove--displacedhuman"
Film with Balls!
jake smith | NY, NY | 10/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At last, here is a film that pulls no punches and delves into the little known story of Jim Hatfield and his book Fortunate Son... This is a really well made documentary that will knock your socks off and tell you all kinds of stuff you didnt know about Bush (pre-2000 election) and some of his more dubious habits. The question remains, how did this book about Bush get spiked and what really happened to its author? Buy this film and at least formulate an opinion..."
Gripping Accounts of Two Men Publishing a Controversial Book
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 12/27/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This short documentary film 'Horns and Halos' features two very fascinating persons -- James Hatfield and Sander Hicks. Frankly, its subject matter about Hatfield's book 'Fortunate Son' unauthorized biography of George W. Bush looks no longer fresh and arresting as before for too many things happened since then. Still, this documentary is fascinating in its own way because of these two men's unique characters.
The most interesting part of the film is the long and winding road to re-publish this controversial book. Hatfield's book first published by St Martin's Press was withdrawn because some part of the author's biographical facts were unearthed. Then, a small publishing company Soft Skull Press, led by one young guy Sander Hicks (with a haircut like 'Travis' of 'Taxi Driver'), thinks of publishing the book again.
The film follows their efforts to promote the book, their promotions being several appearances on TV or radio shows (including '60 Minutes' though you can see only the introductory part of it). However, I believe the incongruous relations between Hicks and Hatfield is the best part of the film. These two guys are really something, I mean, if you don't know that this is a documentary film, you might think that they are the characters coming out of David Mamet dramas. See the publisher Hicks quote the e-mail from Hatfield, who obviously didn't like the way Hicks was talking to him. Reading the angry words themselve, like spit-fire, Hicks is also gradually carried away by the language, yelling before the PC in the basement floor where the publishing company is. You rarely see that kind of image on screen.
I don't know to what extent the comments they make before the camera is realiable. Still, I know, and you will know too, that Hatfield's life is, as he confesses, falling apart. It's sad to see the last five minutes of the film, which shows us what happened to James Hatfield after the Book Expo. where the film starts, and aptly ends.
Unlike Micheal Moore's '911' film, this is no attack on George W. Bush. As a result, the film's theme sometimes looks unfocused when it tries to include the Bush footages during the campagin (from archives), because the film is after all about the writer who wrote about the president, not the US president himself. So, see for these two central figures, who are so fascinating that they will remain in your mind long after watching it."