Friday, August 28, 2009

Taking Woodstock

Lots of Interesting Background, but Very Little Music

No, I was not at Woodstock, but I was very much a part of the Woodstock generation.
As a journalist I've written of the various Woodstock reincarnations- all doomed to failure, because Woodstock was a once in a milennium event.
"Taking Woodstock" takes stock of everything but the music itself, which is a major omission but necessary, due to copyright laws.
Director Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain) focuses on the character of Eliot Tiber, who wrote the memoir on which James Schamus' screenplay is based.
Eliot is a good Jewish boy in New York City, trying to make it as an interior designer.
His success has been spotty, and he has returned to help out his parents and their crummy old El Monaco motel in the Catskills.
The motel is on the verge of bneing foreclosed, and mom's (Imelda Staunton) belligerent attitude is no help. Dad (Henry Goodman) is a classic henpecked husband, just waiting for peace in the next life.
When Eliot learns a permit for a music festival in a neighboring town has been denied, he gets the brilliant idea to use an existing permit he had for a modest recorded music-listening festival to enable the high-powered Woodstock Ventures to go forward with "Three days of peace, love and music."
The mastermind of Woodstock Ventures is Michael Lang (Jonathan Groff) a beatific curly-haired promoter who never has heard a discouraging word.
As the grounds at El Monaco are inadequate, Lang and company stike up a deal with neighboring dairyman Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy), a genial armchair liberal who see no problem with allowing untold thousands of hippies to camp out on his pastures.
The rest is history. More than half a million young people showed up, Woodstock was declared a disaster, and everyone had the time of their lives.
"Taking Woodstock" is more about the inevitable coming-out of Eliot Tiber, with a little help from transvestite Vilma, in a hilarious performance by Liev Schreiber.
Emile Hirsch puts in good screen time as a shell-shocked Vietnam vet, Billy, but if you want to experience Woodstock music, rent the concert video, with new director cut.


  1. Skip, it's Charles Passy. So sorry to hear about the Boca News -- you've been a fixture in the community for ages and there's no reason you shouldn't continue in that role. Wishing you much success with your blog and any other endeavors.

  2. Thanks Charles,

    I'm muddling through this mess as gracefully as possible, which is not at all.