Monday, November 1, 2010


Alex Gibney, 2008


  1. Hunter S. Thompson had it all. He drank excessively, did too many drugs, cheated on his wife… and still his life literally ended in fireworks. Personally, I cannot even imagine leaving such a mark on American, as well as world history. It is with his writing that we have learned how to channel fiction into nonfiction narration. Thompson’s self-created “Gonzo” journalism set fire to the old ways of modern journalism and fortified a goliath upon its ashes. He created an ideology, and aided in influencing a future generation of communication. “Gonzo” journalism will remain to be a personal creation forever. Although the adjective In today’s culture, “gonzo” may be defined as an “extremity” of a subject, whether it be journalism or the first-person view pornography. However, “Gonzo” can still be defined in one, universal form that Thompson defined himself: subjectivity.
    Now, subjectively, I enjoyed Gibney’s work on Gonzo: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson. The film was not perfect, but the film’s information on Thompson’s lifestyle was rather absorbing and revolting at the same time. This particular documentary focused on a “behind the scenes” look into Thompson’s life. The documentary contained mostly raw footage, something that I enjoy most out of films such as “Gonzo.” It was not entirely past footage of Thompson in his day-to-day life, but rather a glimpse into how he evolved as a patriot of America. I appreciate how this documentary was part dedication from family and friends, as well as part narrative.
    It is a fact that Thompson’s writing style was not personally named. Rather, Bill Cardoso, the editor of the Boston Globe coined the crude term. Gonzo journalism was created in the aftermath of Thompson’s Scanlan Monthly article on the Kentucky Derby. In the film, it was explained that Thompson was assigned to write for the sports section on the horse races in Louisville, Kentucky, his hometown. During the crowded event, Thompson could not find a proper view of the actual horse races. Instead, he turned his eye on the loud, drunken crowd cheering the race on. Something gives me a feeling that the crowd wasn’t the only intoxicated subject, knowing Thompson’s history.

  2. Gonzo (the film) displayed many different sides to the deranged character that Hunter Thompson indeed was. Hunter’s gradual success was almost like a metamorphosis of an insect. Crawling in the first stage was a young, bold, and hopeful writer. The middle stage evolved from careful to careless, curious to furious. Stemming from the final stage was a two-thumbed, four-fingered fist signifying all of the destruction he left in his wake. I was surprised to learn about his past, how he developed from the surprised individual to the cynical old man he came to be. I felt as though I had known him personally, or shared a two-hour long conversation with him about his life. If I had really known him, I would have thought, “Hey, this guy is pretty insane!” Though, how could he help it? He was the mastermind, after all. At least he went out the way he wanted: with a bang.
    Not only was Hunter Thompson an astounding writer, he was also quite the legendary provocateur. The film had several great sequences, some that even tie in with other films we had watched as a class, such as the Rolling Stones documentary “Gimme Shelter.” Thompson was seen to have connections with the later notorious Hell’s Angels biker gang. His book, titled Hell’s Angels, is his first attempt at a nonfiction novel. The film displayed his distaste in their raucous lifestyle. In one specific scene of the film, Thompson was humiliated on live television by an Angel. The Angel detested Thompson’s words on how Hell’s Angels treat their female counterparts, denying the claims that Thompson had made regarding the beatings, for example. Thompson retorted: “only a punk beats his wife and dog.” In this particular passage, I would have to agree with Thompson.
    At the time, Gonzo best represents the society we are today. Teenagers are constantly “tweeting” and “facebooking” their daily routines, all the while subjectively living out their personal, digital lifestyles. Throughout the documentary, a specific novel Thompson wrote was explained to be his swan song. And it was. The interviews and audio clips (particularly the audio clips!) were a great addition to the storytelling of Thompson’s wild living. A particular example would have been the “Taco Stand” during the Fear and Loathing “sessions.” Thompson showed such dedication to his curiosity: what was the American dream? This was an inclusion of how dark and comic Hunter Thompson could really be.
    I feel as though Thompson found the American Dream in the end. In my opinion, the American Dream is all a hoax. Though, if there could be one, Thompson would be the one to create one. And he certainly did, too.

  3. majadi radwan


    i loved this documentry the music was kick ass the narrartor jhonnie deps only added to the great suspense and story telling of this documentrty. as a big fan of fear and loathin in las vegas my favorite movie of all time. what made it better is the book it was the only book i ever savored reading a little at a time. thats was the hunter thomson that i always imagined never this political minded man , he had a strong passion. the only thing i never understood is why he couldnt just except defeat and enjoy his life and how much people loved his story telling. he should have known when he left chicago. you cannot win.i think he sufferd a great deal for that. but you have to respect him all the same because he did say the things we all want to stay on a bigger level. runnig for sherrif was classic i would have loved to chill with him daily classic sense of humor. ''ME LOOSING ONLY PROVED WHAT I SET OUT TO PROVE THE AMERICAN DREAM IS F*%*$. i would bet money he really did when that election and in his mind he thought of it as a chance to prove that he wasnt crazy he could be worth a damn.
    Pulling up to the ky derby trippin off acid in a red bug was classic. Always observing people wich is why I found him cool. We wasnt there to watch the race but to watch the real beast peform.seperating himself from being human as if he felt ashamed. All the misguided kids I grew up with including myself wanted to relive that trip to vagas. That was our mission. To us that was the ultimate time.
    The central illusion of all whole lifesytle that we helped create. Today its very sad to say he was bad role model. But then he was the dream different time different day. He seemed very disapointed with america like there was no hope so he chose a fu attitude and just got waisted and drove to vegas sacasticly looking for it on the way to nowhere. To me he was more than just a user. He was great with words and he was right they did have the momentum they almost won, that great generation killed one by one. Just like a true artist he was addicted to chaos like jimmy buffet said he was never happy when things were normal. Addicted to pain because that inspired him to work and he was not happy unless he was creating real a huge catch 22. I think he should have just wrote fiction and wrote and directed movies he had a intresting mind and could have made some kick ass movies. I wish he could have got over tht political bullhsit and just wrote. Who only knows. Always making the wrong enemys. He had so much more he could have given his readers and fans died way to young. What a funeral ashes to ashes dust to dust. Classic. In conclusion this documentry kicked ass.

  4. Samuel Spear

    What I enjoyed most about Gonzo was the examination of Hunter S. Thompson's hyperbolic personality. One of the first examples of this bent towards more radical behavior is when he embeds himself in a motorcycle gang for the sake of journalism. The calmness in his voice when he explains that there was a gang bang going on at an acid party made a big impact because it was as if it were something normal happening in his wild life. Later in the film, it's evident in the almost cartoonish amount of drugs and alcohol he consumes, and the fact that many of his journalist peers idolized him because of his tolerance is a testament to his wild life.

    The most striking manifestation of his tendencies towards an overdramatized way of life, however, was his death and funeral. Most people think of death in disconnected terms, whereas Hunter was in control of every aspect of his. His funeral was also unusual, but because of the way he lived his life, it was somehow more appropriate to spread his remains with explosives than by putting them in a hole in the ground.

  5. Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson looks at a man whose heroes all failed him and who ultimately failed us all, serving an excellent introduction to the life & works of Hunter S. Thompson.

    Director Alex Gibney's documentary traces the "Gonzo journalist" and the way he wove himself into the past few decades of history while trying in his own way to document the times. From his contact and conflict with the Hell's Angels to his contempt for the current administration, Thompson wasn't afraid to take on targets.

    The film shows how despite age and decades of drug and alcohol use, Thompson might have lost his "Gonzo edge," but he hadn't lost the ability to sum up the situation. Music specifically chosen for each scene enhances different themes—a song in the beginning of the film reminded me of Kill Bill. And the editing is truly superb, weaving together a lot of disjointed material into occasional sparks of insight. Despite the impressive production quality the documentary is still overwrought and seems bloated.

    Alex Gibney organized the story around on Thompson’s famous writings. The film begins with "The Hell's Angels" about the West Coast outlaw bikers, and how Thompson’s career started. In order to finish this book, Thompson had to join the bikers and that was a turning point professionally, but also a ride to the dark side of 1960s counterculture. "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas" took him to the dark side of the American dream, while "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972" took him to the dark side of American politics. He fearlessly (some would say recklessly) skewered one and all in the fight for new cultural values.

    "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972" introduced one of the film’s two thematic hearts —Thompson’s 1970 campaign for sheriff of Aspen, where Gonzo effectively becomes a documentary within a documentary on the 1972 Presidential campaign. George McGovern, Gary Hart, and Pat Buchanan are among those interviewed for this segment, as Gibney charts Thompson’s move from unknown member of the press corps to committed McGovern supporter. Gibney juxtaposes contemporary and period footage in this segment—Presidents Nixon and Bush exhibiting similar characteristics, troops bound for Vietnam following troops bound for Iraq.

    The "Generation of 1968" was a period of particular importance which won Hunter his spurs as a journalist. Hunter, like many of his time, cut his political teeth on one Richard Milhous Nixon, former President of the United States and all-around political chameleon. Thompson went way out of his way, and took great pleasure, skewering Nixon when he was riding high. He was just as happy to kick him when he was down, just for good measure. Nixon represented the `dark side' of the American spirit- the side that appears today as the bully boy of the world and as craven brute.

  6. “In November 2004, George W. Bush was re-elected President of the United States. Three months later, Hunter S. Thompson, the man who had spent a career railing against greed, power and the death of the American Dream killed himself.” The written words of Hunter S. Thompson are used for the narration of the film spoken by Johnny Depp who played Hunter in the film “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” with clips from that film used n this documentary.

    A unique American writer, focused on the mistakes of the country around him and an invisible enemy. Hunter had his peak years, filled with allot of great works, and then followed by the inevitable downfall. The documentary starts with his death which occurred in 2005, in his home in Woody Creek, Colorado. This was when he was at his most erratic when he was no longer able to bring himself over the edge and live up to the Gonzo myth. He had always planned to kill himself at the age of thirty by means of a gun in and the fact that he did not kill himself until the age of 67 meant that he was capable of ending it at any moment. His death came as a surprise to no one, and his son even called it “a warm family moment.” Just like his life, one can perceive his death any way you please, that is his gift to us all. The director’s usage of iconic photographs and paintings gives the film its unique look.

    In fact, Thompson was a manic depressive, self-destructive person whose drug and alcohol dependency eventually handicapped him. He’d retreated to his hideaway home in Colorado, wasn’t writing much, was in poor health and, killed himself in on February 20, 2005. Thompson shot himself in the head with a Magnum, one of many guns he kept in his house. His suicide was as dramatic as his life. He was, at the time he shot himself, on the phone with his wife, and his son was in the next room. They and the world were shocked but not entirely surprised by Thompson‘s suicide.

    Gibney also interviewed a wide range of people were influenced by Thompson, including politicos Jimmy Carter, George McGovern, Gary Hart and Pat Buchanan, family and other influential friends. The film also captures Thompson’s times, filled with the social turmoil and political rift caused by the Vietnam War, with an exciting, emotional and interesting sound track.

    Gibney’s direction of “Gonzo” is as effective as it is in his Academy Award winning “Taxi to the Dark Side” and “Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room.” His masterful style is a perfect balance of accurate reporting and dramatic effect. He doesn’t pretend that he doesn’t have an opinion, but he doesn’t tell you what to think either. But he does get you to think about things.