Tales from the dark side
George W. Bush is a son of a bitch and an idiot. I detest Bush with a passion so intense it pains me to speak his name aloud. I eagerly devour every story that paints him as a fool and outright refuse to listen to anything that portrays him in a remotely positive light. Which is just one of the many reasons why it is a good thing I am a movie critic instead of a proper journalist.
Perhaps J.H. Hatfield should have been a movie critic, too. As it was, he aspired to be a sci-fi author, but when that didn't quite work out, he went on to write absorbing nonfiction books about such subjects as Star Trek, Star Wars, The X-Files. . . and George W. His 1999 Bush biography, Fortunate Son, made headlines with its allegations that Bush had gotten off on a cocaine charge in 1972 thanks to the help of a friendly Republican judge. The book came out just as Bush was starting to look like he had a lock on the presidency, and the idea that Dubya's candidacy might go down in flames sent a wave of relieved exultation through America's progressives that was like a vast, simultaneous orgasm rippling out across the nation from sea to shining sea. But of course, the universe being ruled by an angry God who feeds on the tears of his frightened subjects, the cocaine charge against Bush turned out to be just a little too good to be true. Investigations into Hatfield's background revealed him to be an ex-con who had done time for ordering a hit on one of his former employers; at first, he denied the charges, claiming that the ex-con was actually a different Hatfield and that there was a vast, X-Files-ish government conspiracy to discredit him. He eventually admitted that he was the Hatfield who had done time, and, facing mounting legal and financial woes, he later committed suicide.
Hatfield is to be commended for hating Bush; yielded properly, hate can be a powerful weapon in a journalist's arsenal. But Hatfield's hate so overtook him he lost sight of the reality of Bush's evil; as a result, the juicy little nuggets of awful truth about Bush buried deep within the steaming pile that was Hatfield's book would now go unexplored by all but the most avid conspiracy nuts.
But just as Fortunate Son and the hapless Hatfield were about to fade into obscurity, along comes the new documentary Horns and Halos. The picture chronicles the efforts of maverick indie publisher Sander Hicks to republish Hatfield's book after its original publisher, St. Martin's Press, had recalled it from circulation. The picture is more about Hicks' strange odyssey than Hatfield's, although both men get plenty of screen time, and both are memorably odd characters in their own right. Through it, we are introduced to the book's charges against Bush and to Hatfield himself in a fair and unbalanced manner; we come away more bemused than ever with Hatfield's outright fabrications, but also with the conviction that the fruits of Hatfield's research, for all their faults, cannot be entirely dismissed. And the more we learn about the mainstream media's complicity in covering up Bush's endless intentional and accidental offenses, the more angry we are at Hatfield for fucking up the book that could possibly have kept this very Fortunate Son out of the oval office.
On a human level, I can understand what Hatfield did; he wrote a wrong to right a wrong. I can pity Hatfield for the way he let his hate overtake his reason, very much like Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, the central player in the Star Wars pictures Hatfield loved so much. But as an American who will have to suffer for four long years under Bush's reign of terror, I cannot forgive Hatfield for allowing himself to succumb to the dark side.
Horns and Halos screens with the short The Horribly Stupid Stunt: Which Has Resulted in His Untimely Death, both attended by Horns and Halos filmmakers Suki Hawley and Michael Galinksy, at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., (323) 466-FILM; www.hornsandhalos.com. Thurs., July 11, 7:30 p.m. $7-$8.
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