The movie I will be attempting to review is titled Sherman’s March: A Mediation to the Possibility of Romantic Love in the South During an Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation (McElwee, 1986) which, in prefect reflection of the movie itself, is both insane and amazing (and a bit too long). Not sure how much I have to say about it but I couldn’t pass up a great opportunity for an outrageous title and so I may drift off a bit to discuss other recently viewed movies. I am a firm believer that the mood you are in can drastically determine how much you enjoy a film, especially if the mood is tired and the film is Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975). I had already had a long day at work filled with movie watching so I wasn’t particularly keen on sitting through a 157 minute documentary about the civil war and luckily enough that’s not what I had to sit through.
Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, largely considered one of the most influential Generals in ending the Civil War, led a string of campaigns in the south through Georgia and South Carolina that crippled the Confederate Army and ravaged the cities of Savannah, Atlanta, and Columbia. Most notable, in his southern campaign, was his use of the “scorched earth” policy in which his troops foraged off the land and destroyed everything in their path – burned bridges, ruined crops, wreaked railroads, and razed buildings. This tactic had a massively detrimental effect on both the physical and economic antebellum Reconstruction Era. The destruction of urban cities left a great deal of people with no place to go coupled with no way of getting there due to the state of disrepair in which the transportation system was left. For his bravery and leadership along with his close ties to President Grant, General Sherman was later promoted to General of the Army of the United States which in essence is the leader of the entire military. Shortly after deciding to make a film about the lasting effects Sherman’s March to the Sea had on the south, the director Ross McElwee experiences a troubling break up with his girlfriend and subsequently only about five minutes of the film are actually dedicated to the events that take place during Sherman’s March. I thought I would throw in that brief (and possibly inaccurate, I am not sure I just went off memory/Wikipedia) history lesson for those people who did not take AP US History back in High School. So the actual film Sherman’s March follows director McElwee on his tangential path retracing General Sherman’s campaign through the south whilst simultaneously encountering elevatingly eccentric people and falling in love over and over again. In the beginning, it appeared as though this was another documentary in the vein of American Movie (C. Smith, 1999) which follows around a hapless but endearing filmmaker as he aspires to make his first movie, Coven (2000, Borchadt), that is just comically low-budget. As things progress, we find out he is a fairly normal, well educated, semi-talented director who has trouble finding the right woman and absolutely no trouble finding crazy people to put on camera. In each city along his trail, he meets a different woman that piques his interest from a Burt Reynolds obsessed starlet with the worst screenplay premise imaginable to a Rapture assured Christian woman looking to join a paramilitary right-wing anti-governmental commune in the hills to a doctoral student working on her dissertation in linguistics on a secluded island with no electricity. All sorts of crazy every direction he turns and it all makes for one of the most interesting documentaries out there.
I knew I wouldn’t have much to say about this movie. O it won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for best documentary in 1987 (coincidentally the same prize American Movie won in 1999). And it runs a bit long, he definitely could have tightened up a few shots but I think it is fairly watchable especially if the anticipation of finding out what sort of crazy he will encounter next can keep you going. So let’s see if there is anything else to discuss, I saw The Hangover: Part 2 (Phillips, 2011) last weekend, that was pretty hilarious but of course not as funny as the original. I listened to an interview with Bradley Cooper on Fresh Air and that guy is way more intelligent than the characters he plays. The style in which he talks is almost funny, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of people’s names and different places and movies it is quite impressive. Also saw a YouTube video of him doing a French interview for The Hangover: Part 2 and it seems like he speaks French fluently something that is also quite surprising considering the first role many people remember him from was Sack Lodge in Wedding Crashers (Dobkin, 2005). 830 words I am almost finished. Alright, I also saw X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011) which received an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. I am not a huge X-Men fan although I do enjoy a good superhero summer blockbuster. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender both fit into their roles great, and Kevin Bacon makes for a very nice villain but his two henchmen are just lame and off-putting. X-Men: First Class is good, probably even great if you see it in theaters but if you really want to see a great McAvoy, Fassbender, and Bacon film then separately watch Atonement (Wright, 2007), Hunger (McQueen, 2008), and The Woodsmen (Kassell, 2004). I think we can end this now so I give Sherman’s March:
3.5 out of 5 Confederate Cotillions
I feel as though I should go back and talk about Hunger for a second. It is incredibly fucking hard to watch and terribly depressing but one of the best movies I have ever seen. The film stars Michael Fassbender as Bobby Sands an IRA member serving a jail sentence and makes The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont, 1994) look like a kids movie. It is a dramatization of an actual hunger strike led by Sands in 1981 and I cannot say enough good things about it. Netflix has it on instant play so if you have 96 minutes to spare and want to be fairly disgusted and super bummed out, I highly recommend Hunger. Also happy to see that IMDB lists the director, Steve McQueen’s new film Shame (2012) stars Fassbender as well, definitely going to look forward to that. Wait, didn’t Steve McQueen die of mesothelioma in the 80’s?