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Winnebago Man (a J!-ENT DVD Review)

November 9, 2010 by  



For the millions who have been entertained by the YouTube viral videos of the ranting “Winnebago Man”, you definitely owe it to yourself in watching this fascinating, humorous documentary of the man behind those videos.  Definitely recommended!

Images courtesy of © 2010 Do Me a Kindness, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

DVD TITLE: Winnebago Man

YEAR OF FILM RELEASE: 2009

DURATION: 85 Minutes

DVD INFORMATION: Color, Widescreen (1:85:1), 5.1 Stereo Surround

COMPANY: Kino International

RATED: N/A (Film contains language which may not be suitable for all audiences.  Not rated)

RELEASE DATE: November 2, 2010

Directed by Ben Steinbauer

Written by Malcolm Pullinger, Ben Steinbauer

Additional Writing by Louisa Hall, Joel Heller, Bernd Mader, Natasha Rosow

Produced by Joel Heller, James Payne, Malcolm Pullinger, Ben Steinbauer

Cinematographry by Bradley Beesley, Berndt Mader

Edited by Malcolm Pullinger

Starring:

Jack Rebney

Bein Steinbauer

Keith Gordon

Nick Prueher

Joe Pickett

Douglas Rushkoff

Charlie Sotelo

Cinco Barnes

Alan Berliner

Mike Mitchell

Alexsey Vayner

Type “The Angriest Man in the World” into any search engine, and one name appears — Jack Rebney, a.k.a. “The Winnebago Man” — an ’80s RV salesman, whose hilarious, profanity-strewn, on-the-job meltdown was captured on video and passed around on VHS tapes, before exploding into an Internet phenomenon seen by millions. When a young filmmaker sets out on the seemingly impossible task of tracking down Rebney, who disappeared 20 years before, he finds Rebney living alone on a mountain top, as sharp-tongued as ever, but more intelligent and loveable than anyone could have imagined. WINNEBAGO MAN is an outrageously funny look at viral culture and an unexpectedly moving tale of one man’s response to unintended celebrity.

“Winnebago Man”… the Internet phenomenon, the viral videos of outtakes of Winnebago salesperson Jack Rebney’s commercials were leaked on YouTube and became a mega hit and earning him him the title of “The Angriest Man in the World”.

But those outtake videos were shot in the late ’80s and as many people have loved the video, for film teacher Ben Steinbauer, it more or less became an obsession.  As for Steinbauer, that obsession led to his goal of wanting to create a documentary based on Jack Rebney and for him to interview the “Winnebago Man” and his thoughts to the video becoming an Internet phenomenon.

“Winnebago Man” premiered at South by Southwest Film Festival in March 2009 and opened theatrically on July 2010.    The film has received mostly positive reviews and the film was also aired in the UK on BBC Four and now receives its DVD debut courtesy of KINO International.

“Winnebago Man” begins with filmmaker Ben Steinbauer talking about his obsession with the video and wanting to know what has happened to the man Jack Rebney after all these years.  But as his search on the Internet became unsuccessful, Steinbauer hires a detective and learns that he has so many P.O. Boxes to all these locations that he lived at, the man literally does not want to be found.

Steinbauer then tries to understand why doesn’t Rebney want to be found?  Did the YouTube videos humiliate him?   And Steinbauer then discusses the ridicule that some people such as the Lightsaber Boy and others who were used on YouTube have faced and has caused them nothing but problems.  Was this the experience that Jack Rebney faced since those viral videos have appeared on YouTube.  Was he trying to escape from all the notoriety?

Fortunately for Steinbauer, one of those P.O. Boxes proved to be positive as Rebney would contact him and the two would eventually meet.

But what was shocking during the first meeting was that Rebney was nothing like the angry man seen on those Winnebago commercials.  Here’s a man that never really saw his YouTube videos and didn’t know much about them.  He was  nice, courteous, an articulate man who was loving nature and enjoying life and that was it.  Once again, nothing what Steinbauer was expecting.  So, it would seem.

But when Steinbauer arrived back home, awaiting him was a message  from Jack Rebney that their meeting and the interview they have done was all fake.  Rebney was just putting on an act and then on the message, you can hear the real, angry Jack Rebney who wanted to meet with Steinbauer and to talk for real about how he has felt about the YouTube videos and how bitter he was towards those Winnebago man outtakes.

So, as Steinbauer prepares to meet with Rebney again, Rebney unfortunately suffers a major impairment and was hospitalized and has lot his eyesight.

As Steinbauer shoots his documentary on Jack Rebney, he learns how crabby and cold Jack Rebney truly is.  And trying to shoot him on camera, all Rebney cares about is talking his feelings on politics and wants to reach out to the people through the documentary on what he feels about politicians.  But Steinbauer refuses as he knows most people who do know of him, only care about the Winnebago man and not his political interests and both literally have problems with one another.

Because Steinbauer feels he is getting nowhere in filming Jack and trying to get him to understand what kind of people loved his Winnebago Man YouTube videos, Steinbauer realizes the only way to get anything done is to have a screening of his videos at the Found Footage Festival in San Francisco and have Jack Rebney learn firsthand of what kind of people watch them and see what he gets out of it.

What will Jack Rebney learn when he arrives to the festival?  Or will he continue to despise the people who love those videos even more.

VIDEO & AUDIO:

“Winnebago Man” is presented in widescreen (1:85:1) and shot in HD and is presented in 5.1 Stereo Surround.  Picture quality of varies from modern footage to using the older Winnebago footage.  But for the most part, picture quality is good.  As for the audio, the audio is front-channel driven.

There are no subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

“Winnebago Man” comes with the following special features:

  • Complete 1989 Winnebago Sales Video – (25:08) The Winnebago sales video starring Jack Rebney.
  • NYC Premiere Featurette – (16:33) Jack Rebney talking about being in New York City for the NYC premiere of “Winnebago Man”.  Features documentary filmmaker Michael Moore introducing the film.   Also, includes part of the post-film Q&A session.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:20) The NSFW theatrical trailer for “Winnebago Man”.

When it comes to the whole “Winnebago Man” viral video phenomenon, I have to admit that I wasn’t loving it as many people have.  But there is one thing that I have always wondered about and that is the people who are subjected to these videos without their knowledge and literally become entertainment for millions of people and for some, having to endure ridicule.

So, when I first heard about “Winnebago Man” and saw the positive reviews from film critics, I figured that this is not your usual fan-boy viral video love documentary, there is probably something deeper about this film.  Something profound.

I did enjoy how filmmaker Ben Steinbauer talked about how he loved the video and shows us how many others have loved the video but also having this emotional connect of wanting to know what happened to the man behind those outtakes.  The fact that Steinbauer shows us the lightsaber kid and another person subjected to YouTube ridicule and what they had to endure, did the same happen to Jack Rebney?

So, when we are first introduced to Rebney, I have to admit that I was very surprised to see this man, whom we have only heard of his profanity-driven tirade, speak articulately but at the same time, seeing this disconnect of who was enjoying these videos.

But most of all, seeing how this man changes from the first meeting with the filmmaker and becomes an entirely different man by the second visit.

You ask yourself, “what is wrong with this man?”  But you see it for yourself as a man who just wanted to test out the filmmaker, having gone through the humiliation of what I believe reading comments on YouTube and possibly getting the wrong idea of who the audience that really were enjoying those videos.

We learn that Rebney is a former news man, we know he has high opinions especially a strong political view against the Republicans but we also learn that he has this prejudgment of a generation that is enjoying him shouting in profanity.  It’s understandable if his pre-judgment towards those posting comments on YouTube are of troglodytes who are amused at anything.  A venal civilization that this intelligent man had no connection with.

So, it’s understandable why his thinking was trying to use the documentary and show that side of him that was not the “Winnebago Man” but thanks to the persistence of the filmmaker, he was able to persevere and literally find a way to show Jack Rebney of how wrong he was.  To show him that there are people who love his tirade because it made them laugh.

“Winnebago Man” is a humorous documentary that captures a viral video hero in the best way imaginable.  Personally, with so many popular YouTube stars today, I don’t think anyone could have had a story so intriguing as “Winnebago Man” and partly it’s because Jack Rebney is an angry man but he is also a man that carries with him a strong career as a newsman, disenchanted by corporate greed, by political greed and possibly sees the world as a cesspool that is why he has distanced himself from society and is at piece today.

But what made me so happy was to see Jack Rebney realize that he was wrong about people who enjoyed his video.  To know that they are observant, smart and interested.  But also, that possibly filmmaker Bet Steinbauer has brought some happiness into this man’s life.  Considering that he has literally distance himself from society and just lives with his dog, although I’m sure he would be proud to admit it, the leaked videos of his tirade probably wounded the pride of this pedantic individual.    Because no one enjoys being humiliated.

But the scene in which a woman goes up to him and says, “You have no idea – this clip, everytime I’m in a bad mood I watch you swear and it makes me smile.”, you realize by his look that the Winnebago man had touched the lives of many.

The “Winnebago Man” DVD is an entertaining documentary that is quite easy to recommend but after you watch it, you definitely want to catch the featurette on the NYC premiere (which features documentary filmmaker Michael Moore) but also features a cool scene and a touching moment between Rebney and filmmaker Steinbauer.  If there is one thing missing from this DVD, which would have been the icing on the cake would be the actual outtakes that were shown on YouTube and made Jack Rebney the popular “Winnebago Man”.  But you do get the actual sales video starring Rebney but seriously, who wants to see the actual Winnebago sales video.  We want to see Rebney dropping the F-bomb and his other crazy unique antics.

Overall, of the many documentaries I have seen thus far in 2010, it was definitely good to see something different and not too serious.  Many have called it a fascinating case study and in this case, I have to agree.  “Winnebago Man” is a enjoyable documentary worth recommending!







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