Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Taking Woodstock

Ah, hippies. My people. How I miss you. Sure, the Union Square farmers market has some beards and love beads, and the Village hosts a few dreadlocked heads, but there generally aren't a lot of hippies in New York City. Certainly not like you see in Hawaii. See this guy here? Friend of mine in Honolulu. Drives a Mercedes that runs on cooking oil. Every First Friday, he has a Happening in his art studio in Chinatown, with poetry, music, and art installations. Sometimes there are psychedelic hula-hoopers. This is a proper hippie.

This is one reason I find it hard to believe that Woodstock happened on the East Coast. (Another reason is the Electric Zoo Festival.) But, despite the fact that I have the wildest hair around for miles, this is the state where the baby boomers got their big moment, and you can find out all about it in Ang Lee's newest movie, Taking Woodstock.

Joke from Seinfeld: "What's sex with Ang Lee like?"

"Very slow but visually stunning."

Anyway, Taking Woodstock is a very cute little movie that the BF and I just saw today. It's about a shy, gay Jewish artist who's trying to help save his immigrant parents' motel by inviting the Woodstock festival organizers to hold the concert in his town. The hippies descend, the rain falls, everybody gets high, and then everybody goes home. If you haven't been living under a rock for the last 40 years, you've already seen most of this movie.

The thing that makes this version more original than most is that you're seeing it more from the perspective of the organizers rather than the concert-goers. And the organizers, for all of their wild hair and funky clothing, are still a stressed-out, cynical, effective, and dedicated group of individuals, which is what you need to be if you're dealing with an event half a million people strong. It wasn't all about the good tunes and good times, faroutgroovymellowoutman; there were people yelling and screaming in frustration and running on caffeine and cigarettes for those three days, too, and it's nice to see through the haze of legend that tends to cloud Woodstock to the effort needed to make it happen.

That's about it, really. It was fun to watch, even funny in some places--the old immigrant woman screaming, "No schtupping in the bushes!" tickled me, and image of the dreamy promotions manager riding barechested through the mud on a horse at the end of the concert was visually stunning--but there was nothing profound about it. Ang Lee admitted that he just wanted to make a fun movie after being burnt out on Brokeback Mountain and Lust, Caution. He wasn't trying for an Oscar, just a smile or two.

Which is fine. Even the best concerts are still just concerts, just music and people listening to music, enjoying each other and recognizing talent. I think it's a testament to the innate kindness in humans that we can get together in such large numbers for this peaceful purpose instead of gathering for a rumble.

Oh, and the last concert I attended [as a participant and NOT as part of my job]? Kokua Festival, 2007, in the Waikiki Shell, almost one year to the day after I stood in that arena and graduated from college. Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, and a whole bunch of other people I can't remember because the post office lost the box with the offical festival poster in it. But the concert, yeah--totally awesome.

Almost as awesome as this guy.

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