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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This IS the Woodstock backstory. If you want the concert music, watch the documentary!
This was a real treat. Being an extreme Woodstock-phile I know alot of small behind the scenes facts and details. The Michael Wadleigh documentary is simply the holy grail of doco's! I was under the assumption parts of this were made up for the movie and I refused to go to the theatre to see it. I was sooo wrong! Not only is it factual, they nailed so many details taken...
Published on February 7, 2010 by Richard Mahone

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Woodstock deja vu
Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" is a gloss on both the epic 1969 event and the epic 1970 documentary, of interest primarily to nostalgists. Taking place on the periphery of the event, literally and figuratively,the film has a cipher where the main character/performer should be. Elliot Tiber, the real life individual, must be more interesting than Demetri Martin plays him,...
Published on September 9, 2010 by Dr. Robert F. Knoll


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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This IS the Woodstock backstory. If you want the concert music, watch the documentary!, February 7, 2010
By 
Richard Mahone (Baltimore, MD USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Taking Woodstock [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This was a real treat. Being an extreme Woodstock-phile I know alot of small behind the scenes facts and details. The Michael Wadleigh documentary is simply the holy grail of doco's! I was under the assumption parts of this were made up for the movie and I refused to go to the theatre to see it. I was sooo wrong! Not only is it factual, they nailed so many details taken and recreated from the documentary!Like the nuns being filmed while flashing a peace sign! The Earth Light players! Hog Farmers!

All of the people who whine that it's a movie about a concert with no music in it, GO WATCH THE MICHAEL WADLEIGH 4 HOUR DOCUMENTARY! In fact, if ya wanna make a weekend of it, watch them back to back! This tells the background of the concert and the local politics. You don't need a movie with the music in it...The documentary already exists and more people need to become hip to it. This movie just made my heart jump when the first helicopter lands at the El Monaco motel!

Eugene Levy's portrayal as Max Yasgur is uncanny. No other actor could have pulled that off but him. He looks and talks just like the real Max. Watch the documentary right before Hendrix near the end and you won't believe the likeness! A perfect companion to the Academy Award winning documentary!
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars re-Taking Woodstock, September 23, 2009
By 
Sheryl Lossing (Grand Rapids, MI) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The 60's memoir Taking Woodstock is a story about how 20-something Elliot, son of a Jewish couple, was able to lure backers planning a music festival into the area where his parents run a `resort' motel. The story begins in a conservative rural community of farmers and small town folk in scenic New York countryside. The narrative hub revolves around the relationship between Elliot and his aging parents who own the El Monaco Resort Motel, a deteriorating business on the verge of foreclosure. His mother is a bitter character who oversees the finances and ordering of the household. His father is a withdrawn, tired man bent from years of bearing the weight of silent compliance before his wife while attending to the motel's maintenance. The townsfolk are a stagnant traditional group ekking out daily sustenance while news about the Viet Nam war, Arab-Israeli conflict and moon landing catch their attention in the background.

Into this languid summer come two key folk - Michael Lang and Max Yasgur. Lang is an imperturbable saintly visionary from the City with the faith and means to walk the key parties through messy negotiations. Yasgur is portrayed as an enlightened agrarian businessman able to envision qualities lost on his parochial peers and acumen to make this into a venture profitable for all.

There were initial clashes between locals and those part of early negotiating. However, once contracts were settled and the project began to unfold the momentum of the operation overwhelmed the situation. Construction crews, event planners and early arrivals for the festival descended. Masses of gentle folk grew daily until the entire region was gridlocked by thousands of `citizens' of the `Woodstock nation'.

The carnival of freaks, politicos, quasi-psychotic acid heads, spiritualized bohemians and other assorted holy men and women were stereotypically characterized. Locals were bemused, perplexed, exasperated and offended, but most did not fail to succumb to the combination of gentle-spirited hippie culture and the financial boon that poured in.

One particular narrative episode captures the hippie mythos underlying the film's vision. The preparations for the event are done. Elliot, his father and Vilma, a free-spirited transvestite providing security for Elliot's family, stand overlooking a lake as nude bathers play openly. The first strains of Richie Havens move through the woods signaling the festival's beginning. Elliot's father nudges him to go and experience the festival. Elliot hesitates but Vilma urges him on, "Go" he says, "see what the center of the universe is like". Elliot finds himself wandering among groups of camping hippies still some distance from the stage. He encounters a young couple who gently seduce him to drop acid with them. They retire to the interior of their bus richly decorated for inner space travel where Elliot is initiated in the ecstasy of cosmic visionary experience. Some hours later he emerges an awakened soul accompanied by the female consort. Still flashing in colors and serenity they make their way to a bluff overlooking the sea of people dotting the night with campfires. The view is rolling and undulating, wrapping around a vortex - the lighted stage in the distance. The lights, colors and liquid landscape coalesce in a visionary patterned dance around the pulsing brilliant core of illumination flowing from the stage. Space and time are lost in the enveloping ecstatic vision in the presence of the Center.

This scene is the sacramental center of the story. The whole event is actually a festive gathering to celebrate the eucharistic psychedelic ritual. Its enactment is the animus mundi, the navel of the world, around which the dance of being whirls. This entire countercultural phenomena is like a fountain of creative and colorful life flowing from the bellies of ecstatically enlightened participants. Bohemian and transient in nature it wanders about the land erupting into spontaneous happenings. This particular one, though `planned', nevertheless exploded into unexpected proportions and intensity.

Of course this story is one in relatively recent history with many participants - and critics - alive and well. And the verdict of history has unfolded less graciously on subsequent events. This is not lost on the filmmakers who put in the mouth of a confident Lang plans of another festival of peace and love - at Altamont. The irony is not lost on those knowledgeable of the tragic events there.

Following this narrative peak the story winds down to address loose ends between Elliot and his parents. The windfall of the festival has paid off their mortgage with surplus and Elliot is free to complete the process of separation-individuation from his family.

It was a delightful film that will fade quickly from public attention, leave theaters and be on DVD shortly. For some who go it will be for a moment of nostalgia, an entertaining story resonating with faint longings that surface as one ages. For the counterculture youth of today it is not their history, it is the history of their grandparents. The heady excitement of the Sixties is textbook material to them and most are living out their own generational narrative. They have Burning Man, Goa, Ibiza, and elsewhere.

For some the longing pricked cuts perhaps more deeply. Sure enough it was a period whose potency faded with the passing decades. What seemed of cosmic significance at the time was swallowed in the relativity of social change Nevertheless, the glimpse into the white-hot core of mystery pulsing at the Heart of the Universe wouldn't be extinguished. It is a core memory implanted somewhere deep in psychic regions.

After the ecstasy many wandered back into the enveloping social order of the modern world. Some were damaged and wandered for years. Some re-acclimated into the status quo, even `succeeding' well at it. Some found creative paths integrating alternative spaces with demands of survival. Some became monks, roshis, gurus, disciples, teachers, and priests. None, however, whose hearts were pierced have forgotten when they were touched by the Center of the Universe.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film, great performances, and a brownie-serving drag queen!, December 10, 2009
This review is from: Taking Woodstock (DVD)
I was lucky enough to see this movie in an actual theatre (remember those?) this past September, and it really was a delight. Watching with a small group of friends and loved ones, I felt a kinship with the central character and his simple desire to do something, anything, to change his fate while the world seemed to be changing its tune - for those three days, at least. Being both a musician and a fan of all things European, I really liked the look and the pace of Ang Lee's film. While the book on which the film is based bubbles and froths madly and delightedly like a late Seventies hot tub, Lee's film presents a place and a time that feels alive and gentle like a spring leaf but also has the sullen gravity of the fallen leaf once the autumn comes. Demetri Martin comes across like a slightly-stoned Pinocchio, hoping - through his 11th-hour involvement in helping to save Mike Lang's Woodstock festival from cancellation - to become a real boy. (It's not coincidental that the actor who plays his father, Henry Goodman, looks a bit like Gepetto in the Disney animated classic of years ago.) Those who complain that this film doesn't have music are missing the point - the film itself is music, and a soft and glorious one at that. Besides, there's a wonderful sequence towards the end of the film involving use of a song from `60s group Love being played on an 8-track cassette player in the back of a psychedelic VW van . . . that scene alone captures the real experience of being at Woodstock, at least as told to me over the years by those who were really there or who wanted so badly to have been there in person (though they were already there in their hearts). Having seen this film, I feel like I was at Woodstock too . . . and when this movie is available on DVD, I plan on going back . . .
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a Treat for Woodstock Fans!, July 16, 2010
By 
This review is from: Taking Woodstock (DVD)
I happened to recently find this movie on my On Demand cable service. I had not ever heard of it.

I'm a HUGE fan of 1969 WOODSTOCK, (have Collector's Edition of DVD). I have always felt I was born in the wrong era--I should have been there! (To me, there is really only ONE REAL Woodstock.)

I knew some of the facts in the movie Taking Woodstock, but it was AWESOME to see it put together and done so WELL!

I love the portrayal of Elliot, whom I perceived as the main character. I saw this as also a "coming of age" film, from his point of view. He was amazingly brilliant at such a young age and to make such excellent "business/promotion" decisions that had to be made under pressure.

It is *totally* a "feel good" movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to own the DVD!

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!

In my opinion, the best review here on Amazon about the movie is by James Lossing (it should be the top review) so be sure to read it!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It was very good if you have a good heart and a good memory!, September 2, 2009
By 
Neil Burg (Ventura County, CA. USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This film made me cry. Yeah, I know, boo hoo to all you macho guys out there, but this film meant more to me than any film I have seen in a very long time. I know there wasn't any music performances in it, but that's the way this film was supposed to be. It is a great story, and if you are from the Woodstock generation, please don't by pass this movie. It WILL touch your heart. No doubt about it. I loved it and will see it again, and will buy the DVD. If you see it, and you don't like or agree with what I have said in here, well sorry....this is the way I saw it. It makes you realise how screwed up this country is now, and that those days will never be seen again. It's a shame that the youth of today didn't have the opportunity to SEE, Feel and Hear what we as a peace wanting generation Felt Heard and Saw. I was not at Woodstock, but young enough to remeber it as I do personally. I wish to this day that I had known, about it and been able to go to it, but I DO thank God to this day that I was around to see the Beatles come of age in the US, and was still young enough to have the chance to buy the Woodstock album, and closed my eyes as I listened to it and saw myself there, I was a GREAT TIME to be young, and I am greatful that I grew up when I did, and this movie WILL bring it back. Peace! [...]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, thank you mam., July 15, 2010
This review is from: Taking Woodstock (DVD)
"Taking Woodstock" is one of those films I could have easily missed. I had no desire to see it, and it was only by chance that I ended up catching it OnDemand. I can only say, as far as movies go, that I am very pleased I happened across it. The movie was a fantastic depiction of the behind the scenes story leading up to the monumental event which has become infamous. This might be the only concert in history that literally, on its own, defines a specific decade and what life was about during the much maligned period in time.

Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) is a young Jewish guy trying to do the right thing and help his parents save the family motel business. He moves back home, forgoes his dreams of heading to California, and ends up being the President of the local Chamber of Commerce. Think of any small town in America with a couple thousand people and you get the idea of the farming community they called home. His crazy mother is so out of control she has actually began charging extra for towels and clean sheets to the few guests that venture their way.

The roles of Elliot's parents were played by Imelda Staunton and Henry Goodman and I have to say I am not sure there has ever been better performances on the screen than these two did in this movie. They were phenomenal in their parts, making you both love and feel sorry for them as they rode through life pinching pennies, and fighting to keep the bank from foreclosing on everything they owned. Having grown up in a small town of 1,600 people myself, I almost felt like I was back home while watching the perfectly adapted settings Ang Lee so magically brought to life.

In an attempt to bring business to the local community Elliot happens across a newspaper where the headlines focused on a concert permit being pulled for an event called Woodstock in a neighboring town. Elliot has personally headed a local musical production each year in his own back yard, already has his approved permit, and gets the idea of coordinating the events together. He calls the Woodstock executives and within a few days everyone is in full gear putting pegs into holes to make the event happen. All it took was a phone call, a local farmer getting his pockets greased, and a bunch of people with wads of cash ready to listen to some music.

Elliot really does meander through most of the story which makes for a slow rhythmic flow that putters in the 45 mile per hour speed zone. Don't expect any high paced action. Once you connect with the pace of the film you can focus on the underlying tone which deals with the "hippie" generation and what people were attempting to discover. Themselves. Elliot doesn't know who he is or what he has the potential to become. He finds himself trying marijuana, acid, experimenting with homosexuality and the free spirit of sex in general, not to mention some really awesome music.

In the end "Woodstock" forever changed the way a nation would view "hippies" and as we saw within the movie it also drastically changed the way a family looked at itself. Elliot was shot down the path of finding himself and in the process discovered secrets about his mother and family that rocked the foundation he thought his life was built upon. The movie really does an excellent job at providing the backdrop of a serene hippie generation, comfortable walking around naked, doing drugs all while being polite to everyone around them. Once you get past that the growth of Elliot surrounded by the insanity of his family adds for a very compelling story.

Excellent movie, not perfect, but definitely worth viewing on a quiet evening if you have the need to relax and let things slow dow
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One long loud lovely smile, March 6, 2010
By 
Doctor Whom "The Doctor" (Newton,, MA, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Taking Woodstock [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I cheerfully forgive this film whenever it is over the top or under the tent(?), because even though the perspective can be a little too close, as movies destined for TV often are, and even though Elliot's father looks more like Zorba the Greek than a Jewish alte-kaka (and his mother more a Polish babushka than a Jewish balabusta), (Hey, what are movies without stereotypes?), and even though I wish the movie were twice as long, the movie was the best replica of the era I have ever seen since I was at the original. Ang Lee captures America shockingly well - Connecticut suburbia in Ice Storm, the Civil War in Ride with the Devil, and now the Brief Shining Moment that was known as Woodstock.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sweet, thoughtful look at a generation, June 22, 2012
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This review is from: Taking Woodstock [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Whether it's Brokeback Mountain or Taking Woodstock, Ang Lee has a knack for letting the story tell itself. It's funny, touching, lovely, wistful and really captures the coming of age of a generation on their way to wherever they are going against the backdrop of a generation coming to terms with the arcing of their own timelines. It's hard to explain but at least rent this movie and see how it moves you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intimate view of an epic setting, November 13, 2010
This review is from: Taking Woodstock (DVD)
Recapturing the spirit of Woodstock, the legendary 1969 rock music festival in Bethel, New York, must have been a daunting task for director Ang Lee's 2009 film "Taking Woodstock." You have to battle overwhelming myth while recreating a moment of surreal magic 40 years down the road. Lee succeeds with a wonderful, often times comedic outsider's view on the edges of the enormous festival. It's a tremendous accomplishment.

Only a few filmmakers as brave as Lee (Brokeback Mountain (Widescreen Edition), The Ice Storm) would have tackled this story. First and foremost, you must muscle to the top of a tall, muddy hill to stand alongside the brilliant, Oscar-winning documentary Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music Director's Cut (40th Anniversary Two-Disc Special Edition). Lee essentially joins forces, utilizing similar split screens, faded color stock and recreating several famous moments (nuns flashing peace signs, the couple wrapped in an American flag, the Port-O-San man). Secondly, you're making a film that, while intricately woven into the festival's fabric, rarely takes place near the music. Ultimately, it's an Altmanesque slice of life and one of my favorite films of 2009.

Based on Elliot Tiber's book Taking Woodstock, the film details what is primarily a true story of youthful Elliot (Demetri Martin) living at his parents' rundown homestead in Bethel. Days are spent trying to keep his parents' dilapidated hotel afloat while serving as the timid president of the chamber of commerce. A dreary existence, he's trapped by loyalty to an oppressive mother (Imelda Staunton), disinterested dad (Henry Goodman) and a local banker threatening foreclosure. When Tiber reads about a neighboring rock music festival losing its permit, he fatefully decides to give promoter Michael Lang (The Road to Woodstock) a call. Tiber hopes that by hosting the festival, he can get his parents' hotel out of hock and thus, the seeds of Woodstock are planted.

Within days, the Tiber hotel becomes the frantic headquarters for concert organizers, helicopters regularly landing in the yard, and Lang himself (wonderfully played by Jonathan Groff) striking up a friendship. Tiber is the straight man amidst chaos, viewing parades of hippies and businessmen from afar. He's our navigator through history and on the verge of coming-of-age. In reality, Tiber was a closeted homosexual and credits Woodstock with allowing him to embrace his sexuality. This is faintly touched upon, though never with satisfying detail. He has a crush on a burly stage builder, and they steal a momentary kiss. A former marine-turned transvestite Vilma appears (Liev Schreiber, excellent as usual), serving as the unlikely Tiber protecting angel.

When the festival begins, the film has several unforgettable moments - a pond where nude bathers relax as the first distant chords of Richie Havens' "Freedom" (Best of) floats on the summer breeze; Elliot catching a ride with a motorcycle policeman and riding through massive throngs of cars and hippies in a brilliant continuous take; and an impromptu stop at a VW bus overlooking the distant stage. These are the films most extraordinary scenes as introverted Tiber becomes one with the largest youth gathering in American history (they say 400,000, but who knows?). It's an intimate view of an epic setting, as he resides in the comfort of the VW bus, staring at a ceiling of psychedelic paintings. Slowly, after dropping acid for the first time, the artwork, not to mention the gregarious California hippie couple (Paul Dano and Kelli Garner) begin to glow and move, and they lovingly embrace, laugh and partake in this incredible moment in time. As Tiber steps outside the bus at nightfall, the land is marked by hundreds of campfires surrounding the stage. Tiber dances as the star-studded sky becomes one with the land, and you realize in this tearfully beautiful scene, Lee has captured the Woodstock moment.

I found several of the dramas eventually playing out to be abrupt and clumsy. I would have liked more closure with Schreiber's Vilma, not to mention Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy). These crucial supporting characters essentially disappear and Tiber's homosexuality is also forgotten. So while "Taking Woodstock" is a maddeningly imperfect film lacking a poetic conclusion, it is a creative companion to the famous documentary. Lee succeeds against enormous odds, creating a valentine work embracing an extraordinary collage of spiritual freedom.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars By The Time We Got To Woodstock..., December 27, 2010
This review is from: Taking Woodstock (DVD)
Okay, I confess, and confess so publicly, that while I am a certified proud member of the generation of '68, the political branch of that generation, I was not even remotely near Woodstock, New York on that fateful August weekend of 1969 when the myth of "youth nation" took on a certain substantive possibility that we might, after all, make a "newer world." Others may have regrets that they did not attend but I unlike non-attendee Joni Mitchell, whose words from her song Woodstock form part of the headline for this entry, and the others am not. I, actually, was heading elsewhere, heading hard elsewhere on the highway hitchhike road in search of the blue-pink great American West night that was another branch of that same experience. That experience I am very happy that I undertook, and have written about elsewhere.

That said, we were, wherever we were, in those times, at least those of us who were fighting for some version of that "newer world" seeking, children of Woodstock. Maybe not that particular experience, after all half a million hardly exhausted the numbers who were "searching" in those days, but some experience be it another of the myriad musical festivals that took place in those years, or a communal living experience, or like me a highway hitchhike break-out in search of the great American West night, or just took a "hit" of dope or popped a pill that in earlier or later times would have been scorned. It is under that sign the renowned director Ang Lee has creatively taken a back story from those times, a back story centered on the locals rather than the rock stars or the "hippie" touristas associated with the name Woodstock, and meshed it with one of the locals' self-discovery in 2009, the 40th anniversary year of that event.

Whatever Woodstock, the place, and its environs were after the festival invasion before that event it was a dying Catskills resort area and farmland. That resort idea is central to the story line here. The Catskills, in the old days, before there was more widespread assimilation and Jews began to be accepted in other locales was always associated with the place where they went for vacation and as a "proving ground" for up and coming Jewish entertainers. By 1969 that idea, and those places, were passé. However, not everybody got the word, especially not an old Jewish couple who were hanging on to their mortgaged to the hilt motel for dear life, despite the best efforts of their assimilated son, the central character, of the film.

They did hold, or rather he held, an important asset: permits to allow the festival to go on. The story, the Woodstock and self-discovery story, take off from that point as we view the trials and tribulations of producing this spectacle, its actual occurrence, and the sometimes funny experiences that mother, father, and son experience, including the mandatory drug experimentation, sex (hetero and homosexual), and rock `n' roll. Is this the definitive study on Woodstock, on the 1960s counterculture, and on the generation of '68s jail break-out? No, hell no, but it is a very nicely done slice-of-life film around that seminal 1960s event. Nicely done.
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Taking Woodstock [Blu-ray]
Taking Woodstock [Blu-ray] by Ang Lee (Blu-ray - 2009)
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