I have no idea why I never heard of this film.
[u]Horns and Halos[/u] is the amazing story of an indie publishing company attempting to keep alive the unauthorized biography of George W. Bush called [u]Fortunate Son[/u]. The writer of Fortunate Son was an unfortunate individual named James Hatfield (not to be confused with the lead singer of Metallica, James HEtfield ;), who intimated that W, then running for President, had been busted for cocaine posession. This caused a firestorm of controversy that compelled St. Martin's Press, the original publisher, to pull what was on its way to becoming a bestseller. Enter Soft Skull Press, a publishing company ran out of the basement of a building managed by Sander Hicks, a slightly unhinged rabble rouser himself, who pick it up and decide to publish it independently. Their major obstacle? Author Hatfield was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder years prior and refused to give up his sources until much later in the game, sending his credibility into the toilet. In spite of this, several lawsuits, and a nation of millions trying to hold them back, Soft Skull presses on, and... well, I don't want to give too much away.
Here's my dirty little confession: I'd never even heard of this book or this film until now, and IMDB claims that it even won an award! And it's more than a shame, because this is simply one of the best documentaries I've ever seen! I don't know why sad stories like this appeal to me so much, but they do, and the sympathy you feel for Hatfield, the reporter who outs him, and his family (who don't even appear on screen) is painful, but absolutely compelling to watch. SO MUCH can be said about this thing, so thank God I started this website to touch upon them here ;)
I think that had Hatfield given up after being banned, laid low long enough and applied to do some little work here and there, this would have all blown over and he could have resumed his writing career. He may never have written schlock biographies again, but IMO, he would have been better off. But one of the implicit points this movie seems to make, to me, is that you'd have to be a little crazy, as both Hatfield and Hicks are, to put out a book like this, and that in and of itself is compelling. What kind of mind produces this kind of stuff? Fascinating character study, and a fascinating film overall.
For me personally, what was even more fascinating was to see this in the wake of the writer of the Hilary Clinton book appearing on the Al Franken Show on Air America Radio. Franken /proved/ that this person not only embellished all that crap (he describes the appearance of a woman he admits to having never even /seen/ as "mannish", for example), but continues to claim that it's all the God's honest truth, and the majority of this country, I'm sure, believes it. This film reveals that these cheapie biographies that come out when a public figure gets hot are a publishing tradition, rushed out and culled from known facts about said figure, and then given to any hack writer who's willing to do it to string it into some kind of narrative to make money. My first encounter with this was with [u]The Michael Jackson Story[/u] back in Elementary School, which you could get from a book order. These things are not only untrue, but unapologetically so, and yet, hit the media like major events. It's sickening.
But damn entertaining to watch. Great film.