Independence Day: Resurgence
It’s just dull and hollow—a massive waste of time and money.
Documentaries became a box office factor with the rise of such films as "Hoop Dreams" and "Roger & Me." Before then, there were hit music documentaries like "Woodstock" but most other nonfiction films could expect short runs in few theaters before dutiful audiences. What a small but growing minority of Friday night moviegoers is beginning to discover is that there's a good chance the movie they might enjoy most at the multiplex is a doc.
In alphabetical order, these were the best documentaries I saw in 2010:
"45365" is the zip code of Sidney, Ohio. The brothers Bill and Turner Ross were born there perhaps 30 years ago. They knew everybody in town, and when they spent seven months of 2007 filming its daily life, their presence must have become commonplace. Their film evokes what Winesburg, Ohio might have looked like as a documentary.
The film is privileged. No one is filmed with a hidden camera. The camera must have been right there, in the living room, the river bank, the barber shop, the back seat, the football practice, the front lawn when a man agrees to put up a sign supporting a judge running for reelection. The Rosses must have filmed so much they became trusted and invisible. They know this town without even thinking about it.
Sidney has what can only be described as a great radio station. Local human beings sit before the mikes and run the boards. It looks like rain on the day of the big parade, but the station's reporter is on the spot. He's hooked up via his cell phone, and interviews a woman on the street with a tiny mike he holds up to his mouth, and then to hers. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Music on Radio 105.5 Lawns. Good looking old buildings. Sidney still looks like a town, not a squatter's camp of fast food outlets. I could go to Sidney, Ohio tomorrow and feel right at home.
"A Small Act." This heartwarming documentary centers on the life story of Chris Mburu, who as a small boy living in a mud house in a Kenyan village had his primary and secondary education paid for by a Swedish woman. This cost her $15 a month. They had never met. He went on to the University of Nairobi, graduated from Harvard Law School, and is today a United Nations Human Rights Commissioner.
The film shows Mburu seeking the Swedish woman "who made my life possible." She is Hilde Back. She is now 85 years old, a German Jew who was sent to Sweden as a child. Her family died in the Holocaust. She never married, was a school teacher, has lived in the same apartment for 35 years, is a tiny woman, but robust and filled with energy.
She is flown to Kenya, serenaded by the choir from Mburu's village, feasted, thanked, gowned in traditional robes. In the village the students study by the light of a single oil flame. The schools are not physically impressive; crowded classrooms with simple board benches and desks. A gym? Don't make me laugh. Hilda Back is asked if, since she never had children, she thought of Chris as a son. We see in the film that they stay in close touch. "But I have had children," she replied. "I was a teacher. I had many, many children." And one lived in a mud house in Kenya.
"Art of the Steal." Dr. Albert C. Barnes invented a treatment for VD, and he founded the Barnes Foundation, an art museum in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion. The first paid for the second, so the wages of sin were invested wisely. How important was the Barnes Collection? It included 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modiglianis and seven van Goghs. Barnes collected these works during many trips to Paris at a time when establishment museums considered these artists beneath their attention. One estimate of the collection's worth is $25 billion.
Barnes hired some Philadelphia lawyers and drew up an iron-clad will, endowing the foundation with funds enabling it to be maintained indefinitely 'where it is and how it is." It was his specific requirement that the collection not go anywhere near the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That's where it is today. He hated that museum. He hated its benefactors, the Annenberg family, founded by a gangster, enriched by the proceeds of TV Guide, and chummy with the Nixon administration. The Annenberg empire published the Philadelphia Inquirer, which consistently and as a matter of policy covered the Barnes Collection story with slanted articles and editorials.
Don Argott's "The Art of the Steal" is a documentary that reports the hijacking of the Barnes Collection as the Theft of the Century. It was carried out in broad daylight by elected officials and Barnes trustees, all of whom justified it by placing the needs of the vast public above the whims of a dead millionaire. The vultures from Philadelphia were hovering, ready to pounce and fly off with their masterpieces to their nest at the top of the same great stairs Rocky Balboa ran up in "Rocky." It is not difficult to imagine them at the top, their hands in triumph above their heads.
"Best Worst Movie." I always intended to view "Troll 2," which has a Perfect Zero on the Tomatometer, but, I dunno, never found the time. Now comes "Best Worst Movie" to save me the trouble. This is a documentary about what happens to you when you appear in "Troll 2." It's about the star of the original film, a dentist from Alabama named George Hardy. This is one nice guy. Even his ex-wife says so. He has a Harrison Ford head of hair and a smile so wide, it's like a toothpaste billboard. He treats poor kids for free.
He made the movie 20 years ago when he was living in Utah. It was being directed by an Italian named Claudio Fragasso, who didn't "speaka the English" but said he understood Americans better than they understood themselves. The movie was originally named "Goblin" but the title was changed to "Troll 2" because that sounded more commercial. Don't ask me to explain it. It's about vegetarian goblins who cause their human victims to start growing branches and leaves.
For years, George Hardy forgot all about having made the movie. Then some of his patients started looking at him strangely and asking him if he'd appeared in this horror film they'd seen on cable. The film had been discovered and embraced by the bottom feeders of horror film fandom. The actors got standing ovations and Hardy started autographing photos, T-shirts and body parts at conventions. At one point he observes, "There's a lot of gingivitis in this room."
"Collapse." Michael Ruppert is a man ordinary in appearance, on the downhill slope of middle age, a chain smoker with a mustache. He is not all worked up. He speaks reasonably and very clearly. "Collapse" involves what he has to say, illustrated with news footage and a few charts, the most striking of which is a bell-shaped curve. It takes a lot of effort to climb a bell-shaped curve, but the descent is steep and dangerous. He says we are running out of oil fast -- faster than anyone knows.
He argues we have passed the peak of global oil resources. Demand is growing larger. It took about a century to use up the first half. Now the oil demands of giant economies like India and China are exploding. They represent more than half the global population, and until recent decades had small energy consumption. If the supply is finite, and usage is potentially doubling, you do the math. We will face a global oil crisis, not in the distant future, but within the lives of many now alive. They may well see a world without significant oil.
He recites facts I knew, vaguely. Many things are made from oil. Everything plastic. Paint. There are eight gallons of oil in every auto tire. Oil supplies the energy to convert itself into those byproducts. No oil, no plastic, no tires, no gas to run cars, no machines to build them. No coal mines, except those operated by men and horses. That's the heart of Ruppert's message, delivered by a calm guy who could be Wilford Brimley's kid brother, lives alone with his dog and is behind on his rent. I don't know when I've seen a thriller more frightening. I couldn't tear my eyes from the screen. "Collapse" is even entertaining, in a macabre sense.
"Cropsey." is a creepy documentary with all the elements of a horror film about a demented serial killer, and an extra ingredient: This one is real, and you see him handcuffed in the film, not merely empty-eyed, shabby and stooped, but actually drooling. "I've never seen a perp walk like that," says a TV newsman.
The killer's name is Andre Rand, and he's currently doing time in a New York penitentiary. He was the real-life embodiment of "Cropsey," a boogie man who figured in the campfire stories and nightmares of many children in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and along the Eastern Seaboard. In the legends he lived in the woods and ventured out to abduct children. in the early 1980s, Rand was convicted for the kidnapping and murder of two young girls and suspected in the disappearance of three more.
The man fit the legend. Andre Rand was a worker in the Willowbrook State School for the mentally handicapped on Staten Island; Gerardo Rivera won fame for a TV special with footage of its half-naked children scattered on the floor, rocking back and forth in misery. Sanitary facilities were pitiful, filth was everywhere, abuse was common. Willowbrook was shut down, but some of its staff and inmates returned, living in a forgotten network of tunnels under the grounds. Among these were Andre Rand. Rumors spread of Satan worship in the tunnels. Now do I have your attention?
"Exit Through the Gift Shop." The speculation that "Exit Through the Gift Shop" was a hoax only added to its fascination. An anonymous London graffiti artist named Banksy arrives to paint walls in Los Angeles. He encounters an obscure Frenchman named Thierry Guetta, who has dedicated his life to videotaping graffiti artists. The Frenchman's hundreds of tapes have been dumped unorganized into boxes. Banksy thinks they might make a film. Guetta makes a very bad one. Banksy takes over the film and advises Guetta to create some art himself. Guetta does, names himself Mr. Brainwash, and organizes an exhibition of his work through which he makes a fortune in sales.
Surely Guetta cannot be real? With his dashing mustache and Inspector Clouseau accent, his long-suffering wife and his zealous risk-taking to film illegal artists by stealth? Surely he didn't rent a former CBS television studio and transform it into an exhibition space? Surely people didn't line up at dawn to get in -- and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the works of an artist who had never held a show, sold a work or received a review? Surely not if his work looked like art school rip-offs of the familiar styles of famous artists?
Even while I sat spellbound during this film, that's what I was asking myself. But Thierry Guetta surely did. His art exhibition was written up in a cover story in L.A. Weekly on June 12, 2008. It mentions this film, which Banksy was "threatening to do." Common sense dictates that no one would rent a CBS studio and fill it with hundreds of art works in order to produce a hoax indie documentary. Nor would they cast Guetta, indubitably a real person, as himself. Right? Right?
Banksy, the creator of this film, is a gifted filmmaker whose thoughts as he regards Guetta must resemble those of Victor Frankenstein when he regarded his monster: It works, but is it Art?
"Inside Job." Derivatives and credit swaps are ingenious, computer-driven schemes in which good money can be earned from bad debt, and Wall Street's Masters of the Universe pocket untold millions while they bankrupt their investors and their companies. This process is explained in Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job," an angry, well-argued documentary about how the American financial industry set out deliberately to defraud the ordinary American investor. The crucial error was to allow financial institutions to trade on their own behalf. Today, many large trading banks are betting against their own customers.
In the real estate market, banks aggressively promoted mortgages to people who could not afford them. These were assembled in packages. They were carried on the books as tangible assets when they were worthless. The institutions assembling them hedged their loans by betting against them. A Chicago group named Magnetar was particularly successful in creating such poisoned instruments for the sole purpose of hedging against them. Most of the big Wall Street players knew exactly what the "Magnetar Trade" was and welcomed it. The more mortgages failed, the more money they made. They actually continued to sell the bad mortgages to their clients as good investments.
Gene Siskel, who was a wise man, gave me the best investment advice I've ever received. "You can never outsmart the market, if that's what you're trying to do," he said. "Find something you love, for reasons you understand, that not everyone agrees with you about, and put your money in it." The stocks I thought of were Apple, Google and Steak 'n Shake. I bought some shares. That was a long time ago. Reader, if I had invested every penny I had on Gene's advice, today I would be a Master of the Universe.
"Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work." No one is ever too old. You may have that idea about Joan Rivers, who was 75 in this film and never tires of reminding us of that fact. Is that too old? It's older than she would prefer, but what are you gonna do? She remains one of the funniest, dirtiest, most daring and transgressive of stand-up comics, and she hasn't missed a beat. "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" covers the events in about a year of her life. If the filmmakers didn't have total access, I don't want to see what they missed. In one stretch in this film she closes a show in Toronto, flies overnight to Palm Springs, does a gig, flies overnight to Minneapolis, and performs another one. Try that sometime.
The way she is funny is, she tells the truth according to herself. She hates some people. She has political opinions. Her observations are so merciless and her timing so precise that even if you like that person, you laugh. She is a sadist of comedy, unafraid to be cruel -- even too cruel. She doesn't know fear. She seems to be curious about how far she can go and still get a laugh. That must feel dangerous on a stage with a live audience. Maybe she feeds on that danger.
Her life has been like a comeback tour. She is frank about her setbacks. She was Johnny Carson's resident co-host (and gave young Siskel & Ebert their first spot on "The Tonight Show"). She left Carson to begin her own nightly show on Fox. Carson never spoke to her again. NBC banned her from all of its shows until two years ago. The Fox show eventually failed, and it was discovered that her husband Edgar, the show's manager, had been stealing from her. He killed himself. She never forgave him -- for the suicide, not the other stuff.
For her, it all comes down to this week: Does she have bookings? She looks at blank pages in her engagement calendar and says they're so white she needs sunglasses to read them. What makes Joanie run? They say if a shark stops swimming, it dies. She's not a shark. She's a woman who for various reasons depends on making audiences laugh. They walk in knowing all of her problems, knowing her age, eagle-eyeing her for the plastic surgery, ready to complain, and she forces them to laugh, because she's so damned funny. I admire that. Bernard Shaw called it the Life Force. We see her in the film's first shot, without makeup. A minute later, "Joan Rivers" is before us. Her life is a performance of herself.
"Last Train Home." It is inevitable that painful social conflict will arise between those Chinese citizens who produce consumer goods for the world, and those Chinese who want to consume them. "Last Train Home," an extraordinary documentary, watches that conflict play out over a period of three years in one family. It's one of those extraordinary films, like "Hoop Dreams," that tells a story the makers could not possibly have anticipated in advance. It works like stunning, grieving fiction.
The film opens on a huge crowd being directed by police as it grinds its way forward. These are some of the 130 million Chinese citizens who make an annual Chinese New Year's train journey from urban centers to their provincial villages -- "the largest human migration in the world." We center on Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin, a married couple. Years ago, they left their home in the Szechuan province to take low-paying jobs in a textile factory in Guangzhou, which is the huge industrial city on the mainland next to Hong Kong. They save every yuan they can to send home. They left their children behind to be raised by a grandmother. Their dream is that by 15 years of this toil, they will pay for the children to finish school and live better lives. For that dream, they have sacrificed the life of parenthood, and are like strangers at home to children who know them as voices on the telephone, seen on the annual visit. Are their children grateful for what amounts to the sacrifice of two lifetimes?
There is so much to say about this great film. You sense the dedication of Lixin Fan and his team. (He did much of the cinematography and editing himself.) You see once again the alchemy by which a constantly present camera eventually becomes almost unnoticed, as people live their lives before it. You know the generations almost better than they know themselves, because the camera can be in two places and they are usually in one or the other.
Chinese peasants no longer live without television and a vision of another world. They no longer live in a country without consumer luxuries. "Last Train Home" suggests that the times they are a-changin'. The rulers of China may someday regret that they distributed the works of Marx so generously.
"Restrepo." is a documentary shot during the 15 months an American company fought in Afghanistan under almost daily fire. They were in the Korangal Valley, described as "the most dangerous place in the world." It is also one of the most desolate, even in the arid land of Afghanistan. Sparse vegetation clings to the rocky, jagged terrain. There is dust everywhere. It is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, and in the movie, at least, the troops only actually ever see one Taliban fighter -- and the man who saw him thought it was the last sight he would ever see. There is one point when the company is ambushed and takes fire from 360 degrees. That all of them were not killed is surprising. The film is named after the first one of their number to die, a 20-year-old medic, Pfc. Juan S. Restrepo.
Battle Company is led by Capt. Dan Kearney, whose plan is to establish an outpost at a key point on Taliban battle routes. The men occupy the position at night and start digging in, using earth to build fortifications. They catch the enemy off-guard. The successful maintenance of Outpost Restrepo, named for their dead comrade, turns the tide of war in the hostile valley and frightens the Taliban. But the hearts and minds of the locals remain an uncharted terrain.
This is hard, hard duty. A 15-month tour. Our admiration for these men grows. Their jobs seem beyond conceiving. I cannot imagine a civilian thinking he could perform them. It would take much training -- and more important, much bonding. There is the sense they're fighting for each other more than for ideology. At a low point when a nearby company has taken heavy losses, Kearney talks to his men not in terms of patriotism, but in terms of finding the mofos who are shooting at them, and going out and killing them. The film is nonpolitical. It was filmed at great personal risk by the war photographer Tim Hetherington and the author Sebastian Junger ("The Perfect Storm"). It raises for me an obvious question: How can this war possibly be won?
"Scrappers." In the alley, I see them maybe once a week, the men with their grocery carts, collecting tin cans and other treasures. Some will accumulate a heap as tall as themselves. I learn from the documentary "Scrappers" that the same trade happens in Chicago on a larger scale, with men trolling the city for scrap metal and emptying their trucks at scrap metal yards. For this valuable work, they made a living, until the economy collapsed. An urban legend has grown up that such men steal copper gutters and the aluminum off the sides of garages. Such theft has been committed, but by desperate creatures of the night, not family men like Otis and Oscar, who are the backbone of the scrapper trade. "I paint my name and my phone number on the side of my truck," Otis says. "They know this truck down to 157th Street."
Otis is 73, born in Chicago. Oscar looks to be in his 40s, is from Honduras, and I have the impression he may be undocumented. They do useful work. Scrappers look for wire, pipes, aluminum, brass, copper, iron and steel. The scrap yards heap it up, process it into particles about the size of Cheerios, ship it mostly to China, where it comes back to us and ends up in the alley again. In 2007, we learn, a scrapper could earn $200 to $300 a ton. In 2008, when the market collapsed and new construction ended, the price dropped to $20 a ton.
Scrappers became desperate. Fortunate people sneer at them, write them off as bums or thieves. Few in the middle class work as hard all day as these men do -- or as usefully. "Scrappers" goes into the homes of Otis and Oscar to meet their wives -- stable, stalwart women -- and their kids. The loyalty in these homes is palpable. The film was made by Chicagoans Brian Ashby, Ben Kolak and Courtney Prokopas. They put in the hours in the alleys and brought back a human document. It is necessary we have these films because our lives are so closed off we don't understand the function these men perform. You want green, there ain't nobody greener than Oscar and Otis.
"Tabloid." is one of the damnedest films ever made by the documentary artist Errol Morris. He presents his "favorite protagonist," Joyce McKinney, who in 1977 was involved in the infamous "Case of the Manacled Mormon." She was alleged to have kidnapped an American Mormon missionary in the UK, handcuffing him to a bed, and making him a sex slave. In the British tabloid version of the story she became sexually obsessed with him about a relationship.
The case exploded into a tabloid war at the time, occupying many front pages. It had been all but forgotten when McKinney surfaced again in recent years after finding a South Korean scientist to clone her dog. Morris gains full access to McKinney, then a somewhat shady nude model, now a poised and persuasive 60-something, who proclaims full innocence and has an explanation for everything. As is often the case with Morris, we can never be sure what he thinks, only that he wants to baffle us with the impenetrable strangeness of reality.
"Rashomon" will inevitably be evoked in discussions of this film. Morris presents lawmen with boundless reasons to think McKinney guilty of stalking, abduction and possible rape. He also allows McKinney to offer a perky alternative perspective on the same events. Her alleged victim is portrayed in murky ambiguity; once unshackled, he prudently has refused all interviews. As often, Morris surrounds his story with unexpected asides, blindsides us with surprise revelations, and weaves in an ominously urging score by John Kusiak.
Errol Morris makes intensely personal films, which are neither about his subjects nor himself, but about the intensity of his gaze. No wonder he invented the Interrotron, which allows Morris and the person he is speaking with To peer directly into each other's eyes. He, and we, are constantly asking what we think of this person--and what's really going on here? If "Tabloid" is a love story, it is one only Errol Morris could film. Here is a link to my video Interview with Errol Morris.
"Vincent: A Life in Color." If you've been near Marina City in Chicago, you may have seen him. He's the smiling, middle-aged man with a limitless variety of spectacular suits. He stands on the Michigan or Wabash avenue bridges, showing off his latest stupefying suit. He flashes the flamboyant lining, takes the coat off, spins it in great circles above his head, and then does his "spin move," pivoting first left, then right, while whirling the coat in the air. Then he puts it on again and waves to the tourists on the boat, by now passing under the bridge.
The remarkable documentary "Vincent: A Life in Color" unfolds the mystery of a human personality. Would it surprise you to learn that Vincent is a college graduate? A Cook County computer programmer? A former DJ in gay North Side discos? Paying his own rent in Marina City? Buying his own suits? Legally blind? Jennifer Burns, the film's producer and director, says one day, she was looking out her office window, watching Vincent performing for a tour boat, "and I was struck by the look of sheer joy I saw on his face." He agreed to be the subject of a film -- not surprising, since his pastime is drawing attention to himself.
Vincent was an orphan abandoned by his mother and raised at St. Joseph's Home for the Friendless. There the nuns discovered that Vincent's problem wasn't intellectual but visual, and taught him to read by making sure he was always pushed up against the blackboard so he could see. In high school, he was a member of the National Honor Society, the chess club, the debate team ... and the diving team, luckily never diving into a pool without water. He used a cane in high school, then threw it away and walks freely everywhere in Chicago. It is terrifying to think of him crossing a street. All of which is admirable, but how does it explain the suits? He started wearing the suits in the 1990s, and says he gave his first bridge show in 2000, adding the "spin move" about a year later. He knows the times when every tour boat passes his bridges, and to the guides he is "Riverace" (rhymes with "Liberace").
Vincent will only say that he likes to entertain people. One expert speculates that Vincent has spent a lot of his life being stigmatized and isolated, and the suits are a way of breaking down barriers. So here is a man who likes to buy Technicolor suits and wave them at tour boats. So why not? What are the people on the boats so busy doing that they don't have time for Vincent?
"Waiting for Superman." Near the end of "Waiting for Superman," there is a sequence that cuts between lottery drawings for five charter schools. Admission to the best of these schools dramatically improves chances of school graduation and college acceptance. The applicants are not chosen for being gifted. They come from poor, disadvantaged neighborhoods. But the schools have astonishing track records.
We have met five of these students, heard from them and their parents, and hope they'll win. The cameras hold on their faces as numbers are drawn or names are called. The odds against them are 20 to 1. Lucky students leap in joy. The other 19 of the 20 will return to their neighborhood schools, which more or less guarantees they will be part of a 50 percent dropout rate. Underprivileged, inner-city kids at magnet schools such as Kipp L.A. Prep or the Harlem Success Academy will do better academically than well-off suburban kids with fancy high school campuses, athletic programs, swimming pools, closed-circuit TV and lush landscaping.
"Waiting for Superman," this documentary by Davis Guggenheim, focuses on an African-American educator named Geoffrey Canada, who deliberately chose the poorest area of Harlem to open his Harlem Success Academy. His formula: qualified teachers, highly motivated, better paid. Emphasis on college prep from day one. Tutoring for those behind in math or reading. There are also charter boarding schools, with no TV or no video games. One kid says he wants in, but "my feelings are bittersweet." One problem with most schools, Guggenheim says, is that after teachers gain tenure in two years, it is almost impossible to fire them.
What struck me most of all was Geoffrey Canada's confidence that a charter school run on his model can make virtually any first-grader a high school graduate who's accepted to college. A good education, therefore, is not ruled out by poverty, uneducated parents or crime- and drug-infested neighborhoods. In fact, those are the very areas where he has success. Consider this: Those lotteries are truly random, as by law they must be. Yet most of the winners will succeed, and half the losers (from the same human pool) will fail. This is an indictment: Our schools do not work.
"Winebago Man." There is a video on YouTube that has had millions and millions of hits and made its subject, a man named Jack Rebney, internationally known as "Winnebago Man." He first attracted attention when an old VHS tape surfaced featuring the out-takes of a 1989 session when he was trying without much success to star in a promotional film for Winnebagos. In take after take, Rebney blew lines, forgot lines, thought lines were stupid, was distracted by crew members moving around, was annoyed by stray sounds, was mad at himself for even doing the damn thing. Every time the filming broke down or Rebney called a halt, he exploded in verbal fireworks. The only reason "Winnebago Man" doesn't consist of wall-to-wall f-words is that he separates them with other four-letter words. The video was found hilarious by countless viewers. But who was the real Winnebago Man?
A documentary maker named Ben Steinbauer found out. He was curious about the reasons we like footage of real people subjecting themselves (usually unwillingly) to ridicule. Are we laughing at them, with them, or simply in relief that we aren't them? How does their viral fame affect them? Jack Rebney seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Steinbauer finally tracks him down in Northern California, where he lives alone in the woods, calls himself a hermit, and wants nothing to do with nobody -- never. That's not because of the YouTube video, which he doesn't give a $#!+ about. It's because of the way he is.
Now around 80, he works as a caretaker for a fishing resort. He has an unlisted phone number, uses post office boxes, and his dog is all the company he wants. He does have a computer; I imagine him feeding the endless comment streams on blogs. Rebney more or less agrees to be filmed. He figures a doc might be a way to air his views, of which he has a great many views.
Rebney is threatened with blindness. We wonder how he will get along, at his age, living in a cabin in the woods. He is not a comic character; he's dead serious, a hardened realist, whose only soft spot may be for his dog. He keeps up with events, feels the nation is going down the drain, and isn't sure why he was so angry while making the Winnebago promotional film. Steinbauer takes Rebney wider than YouTube -- all the way to the Jay Leno show, and to a fascinating personal appearance at a Found Film Festival, where he regards himself on the screen and then goes out to speak and proves himself the master of the situation. Steinbauer even sets him up with a Twitter account, but, typically, Rebney loathed it. His most recent Tweet in the film, on March 28, 2009, was: "UP YOUR FERN."
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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