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Documentaries I Like: Sherman's March

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Sherman's MarchThis post is the start of a new occasional feature on my favorite documentaries. I'm a huge documentary fan, and will share some of my favorites with you, perhaps once every week or two. If you have a documentary suggestion, please post it in the comments!

First up, Sherman's March by Ross McElwee (1986). This film carries the rather long secondary title: "A Meditation on the Possibility Of Romantic Love in the South During An Era of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation," and that begins to give you an idea of its scope. The basic gist is that Ross McElwee set out to make a film about the lingering effects of General Sherman's March to the Sea during the Civil War (read about it at Wikipedia). However, as soon as McElwee began shooting, his girlfriend dumped him, and his preoccupation with women took over the film.

(Much more after the jump.)

As McElwee gamely attempts to make his documentary about Sherman's March, he travels through the American South, following Sherman's historical path and shooting occasional bits of historical narrative. But along the way, McElwee meets a string of Southern women, and the film covers this series of developing relationships as McElwee seems to bring his camera to every personal event in his life. The women McElwee meets, and the way he relates to them, are the main content of this film. Sherman's March itself (the historical event, and its aftermath) is used as an allegory about another lonely, bearded, misunderstood man traveling through the South (although McElwee doesn't exactly practice "total warfare").

Here's the first three minutes of the film (please stick around until after the 'historical narration' concludes):

Soon, McElwee meets Pat. Here's a snippet about her:

After Pat we meet Claudia (and her daughter Ashley, then Claudia's father):

Sherman's March is funny, touching, and above all, personal. This is really McElwee's life, and he is truly struggling to figure out what's going on and what choices to make. His constant documentation of his life adds to the struggle, as he tries to create and maintain personal relationships despite the camera constantly on his shoulder.

McElwee has made a series of equally excellent documentaries in recent years, continuing in the spirit of Sherman's March -- I'll likely cover several of them in this series. To see Sherman's March, you can rent it from Netflix, rent it from Blockbuster, or buy it from Amazon. Or you could just come over to my place in Portland and we'll have a viewing party.

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Radio Flyer
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Pop Culture
Tiny Star Wars Fans Can Now Cruise Around in Their Very Own Landspeeders
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Radio Flyer

Some kids collect Hot Wheels, while others own model lightsabers and dream of driving Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder through a galaxy far, far away. Soon, Mashable reports, these pint-sized Jedis-in-training can pilot their very own replicas of the fictional anti-gravity craft: an officially licensed, kid-sized Star Wars Landspeeder, coming in September from American toy company Radio Flyer.

The Landspeeder has an interactive dashboard with light-up buttons, and it plays sounds from the original Star Wars film. The two-seater doesn’t hover, exactly, but it can zoom across desert sands (or suburban sidewalks) at forward speeds of up to 5 mph, and go in reverse at 2 mph.

The vehicle's rechargeable battery allows for around five hours of drive time—just enough for tiny Star Wars fans to reenact their way through both the original 1977 movie and 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. (Sorry, grown-up sci-fi nerds: The toy ride supports only up to 130 pounds, so you’ll have to settle for pretending your car is the Death Star.)

Radio Flyer’s Landspeeder will be sold at Toys “R” Us stores. It costs $500, and is available for pre-order online now.

Watch it in action below:

[h/t Mashable]

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Art
Artist Makes Colorful Prints From 1990s VHS Tapes

A collection of old VHS tapes offers endless crafting possibilities. You can use them to make bird houses, shelving units, or, if you’re London-based artist Dieter Ashton, screen prints from the physical tape itself.

As Co.Design reports, the recent London College of Communication graduate was originally intrigued by the art on the cover of old VHS and cassette tapes. He planned to digitally edit them as part of a new art project, but later realized that working with the ribbons of tape inside was much more interesting.

To make a print, Ashton unravels the film from cassettes and VHS tapes collected from his parents' home. He lets the strips fall randomly then presses them into tight, tangled arrangements with the screen. The piece is then brought to life with vibrant patterns and colors.

Ashton has started playing with ways to incorporate themes and motifs from the films he's repurposing into his artwork. If the movie behind one of his creations isn’t immediately obvious, you can always refer to its title. His pieces are named after movies like Backdraft, Under Siege, and that direct-to-video Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen classic Passport to Paris.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

Screen print made from an old VHS tape.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images courtesy of Dieter Ashton

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