…So Goes the Nation – DVD Review

Directed by:
Adam Del Deo
James D. Stern

Featuring:
Paul Begala …. Himself
Ed Gillespie …. Himself
Mary Beth Cahill …. Herself
Terry McAuliffe …. Himself
Ken Mehlman …. Himself
Miles Gerety …. Himself
Leslie Ghiz …. Himself
Evan Hutchison …. Himself

IFC First Take presents …So Goes the Nation. Edited by Jeff Groth. Running time: 90 minutes. Not Rated. Released on DVD: February 13, 2007. Available at Amazon.com.

The Documentary


With so many documentaries coming out over the current leader(s) of America, the war in Iraq, and other subjects that just turn in to nothing but Bush bashing, people who like a good politically driven documentary were left with nothing but an onslaught of pictures that were simply people with uninformed opinions and a camera. So sitting down to watch So Goes the Nation my anticipation was at a low, after all, there is a picture of Bush right on the cover making you believe this will be about nothing more than how he stole one from the Democrats. Again. But it isn’t, not in the slightest. Instead it’s a nice non-partisan feature that doesn’t lean left or right. And in this day and age, that’s something you have to respect.

So Goes the Nation is perhaps one of the best documentaries focused on the Presidential election that I’ve seen in over a decade. They don’t choose sides, attack certain individuals or alter material to favor one thing over another. Instead they take the truth of the matter and lay it out before us in a very professional manor with well articulated thoughts on the changing atmosphere and playing field of political campaigning.

The directors chose to focus solely on the campaigning part of the race, which allows them to not get bogged down by making sure they hit every angle of the race. You won’t find any material on the questionable ballot counting or shady news coverage that seems to constantly focus on fear based subjects like the alert level rising and falling like never before or the looming threat of Bird Flu. So while it’s a shame they don’t go in to those parts of the race, they make it clear that story isn’t the one they’re interested in telling. Which is a shame, because if they could make those parts as interesting as this documentary was, they would be a hit.

They look at every major event or moment that happened during the election that changed the course for both presidential candidates. From the Swift Vote fiasco to Kerry’s athletic prowess vis-a-vis snowboarding, duck hunting and wind surfing. They take a good look at the Republicans focusing in on their core voters, the ones that they knew would vote red and made sure to get across their views on the major topics those demographics cared about — national security and gay marriage. Also here is a look at both parties ad campaigns from the swift voters to the infamous wolves commercial. Even interviews with key people behind the Bush campaign on how they worked the area and nation as a whole. Nothing is overlook or undercut, it’s all laid out here with a brisk 90 minute runtime.

While it mainly looks at the behind the scenes stuff more than anything else, there are also three campaigners that the directors follow to show how driven people are at different stages of maturity. And we see how they emotionally invest themselves in the campaign, As well as getting a glimpse at what both sides were doing during crunch time with only a little over a week before the polls are put up. And it’s here where we see what a well oiled machine the Republicans were while the Democrats were seemingly winging it for the most part. Leaving most of the strategizing to college kids who have never work on a campaign before and were aimless and clueless on what their job was.

we see Kerry’s party using things like celebrity endorsements to try and get voters interested, while using his ad time to cram in as many of his stances on political matters but never standing behind a single one as his platform. Where as Bush’s camp spent the whole time telling Americans that they were better suited for the job than his opponent; to be more specific, he made sure to make them know that he was better capable to defend the nation against terrorists.

Here we get a good look at how the parties have evolved and how they focus their attention on making sure people vote for them rather than the other guy. They’re on a whole new playing field while the Democrats are too prim and proper to throw a little mud once in a while. Sadly they don’t realize that we now live in a culture of tabloid magazine reading, day time gossip talk show watching, believing anything Fox News says country. And we also apparently love buzzwords. They’re giving people the benefit of the doubt when they should be feeding them whatever sounds good. And really, the 2004 election had more than enough material that they could have loaded in the cannon to attack the Bush campaign, but they didn’t. So Goes the Nation wonders why.

We see the Republican party going after all of Kerry’s strong points while Kerry parades celebrities through America’s heartland. Politics are a cut throat industry, if your not aiming for victory then get out of the game. So to see the Democrats hold on to the old beliefs and not going with the times is far more detrimental to their losses over the past eight years. Their belief that reaching out to every single cause will get them some wins is laughable, the Republicans may say nothing in their advertisements, but they say it with such style and grace that they hook their supporters.

And this documentary shows that. While Kerry was being swift voted out of the presidency run, all he did to retaliate was snowboard and wind surf. And both of those outings came back to haunt him as the other party actually placed them in the ads to smear him even more. This is something all 2008 candidates to consider before taking the higher road while vying for the Presidency, because if they want to beat the Republicans and take office, they need to join the times and realize that new tactics are needed in order to have a shot at winning.

The DVD


Video:
(Presented in 1.33:1 Letterboxed Widescreen)
I’m not sure why at this point any movie, TV series, documentary, or any other medium released in a widescreen format can not be released in an anamorphic display. It’s downright lazy to be putting out content as non-anamorphic. Special features are one thing but, as more and more households are switching to high definition widescreen displays, this should be a non-issue almost a decade since the format was introduced.

As with any documentary, the video quality continuously changes due to the working conditions. While the in studio and interview footage looks about as clear as it can get, the outdoor material is entirely different. They’re filming from dawn to dusk with constantly changing weather conditions; and given the quality of the cameras used, the footage isn’t as good as it could be. Regardless, stuff like that comes with the territory of documentary work and should be expected. Everything remains clear enough to enjoy the films during its short runtime.

Audio:
(English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from documentaries through the years, it’s that the audio is hardly a factor in the viewing experience, so long as those speaking can be heard loud and clear. We get that here, and little else. It’s a 2.0 track, what did you expect?

Extras:

Feature Length Commentary – The only added feature you’ll find on this DVD is this commentary track by the two directors, Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern. They make sure to make the best of every moment given to them here and there may be a total of two minutes where they aren’t saying something about their experience on the documentary. It’s very insightful finding out that they basically got the idea and started prepping for the feature with less than two weeks from election day. They both share their views on where the Republicans went right and where the Democrats when wrong while working the state of Ohio and what they could have done to better their chances of winning the state. A lot of people say that a commentary on a documentary isn’t necessary, and that the directors should say what they want via their editing. But since this was one where personal opinion was left out, seeing how the men really felt about what went down is very insightful and they clearly have a healthy working relationship as both seem to respect each others opinion and enjoy the others company.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for …So Goes the Nation
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE DOCUMENTARY

7.5
THE VIDEO

5
THE AUDIO

5
THE EXTRAS

6
REPLAY VALUE

6
OVERALL
6.5
(NOT AN AVERAGE)

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