Yeet! People still say that, right? Right, that’s the intro done, today I’m removing as much bias as I can as I review my tenth favourite movie of 1970. Which movie is that? Woodstock! It’s a comprehensive, some may say exhaustive, documentary on the music festival of the same name. A landmark moment in music, and in 20th Century US history, it’s probably the most famous gig of all time. While there are plenty of artists who were huge at the time, or who are favourites of mine who couldn’t or didn’t make the show, it’s nevertheless a fascinating time capsule. Lets see how it scores.
Sales: 4: I can see some viewers going five on this – honestly that’s fine. I don’t think anything less than four would be fair given the fact that it’s a documentary (not a genre that makes money usually), and that it made over 50 million from a less than 1 million budget. Possibly, people who go three may say that for such an important movie it should have made even more money.
Chart: 4: The film was a slow burner, given it was only in selected theaters but due to crowds trying to pack in to the limited showings, it eventually spread. Chart details are limited though – this is a tough category to be accurate in without the data.
Critical Consensus: 5: The film received rave reviews at the time, and that positivity hasn’t died down over the decades. It’s frequently called out as one of, if not the greatest documentaries ever. It was nominated for two Oscars, winning Best Documentary.
Director: 4: Directing can come down to personal style, but for me Wadleigh does enough to make the film feel, look, and sound as if you are there. You’d be hard pushed for me to accept anything less than a 3 here unless you feel like The Director simply had to capture the footage and stick it all together. Of course it wasn’t as simple as that – the mixture of crowd shots from deep within, of the stage from backstage and front row, of the buildup, the swooping aerials, it all serves as the template of music documentary film-making.
Performances: 3: As this is a Documentary, feel free to switch this category out for something else. Otherwise you need an average here – 2 or 3. Or, you could simply go with the actual musical performances. I’m going for an average 3.
Music: 4: As with any Music Festival, the music is going to be hit and miss for most people. For me, the high moments are epic and the lesser songs and artists still work if only for a single watch. There’s no doubting there are some of the most important performers of the 20th Century, at times giving their most iconic performances.
Cinematography: 3: There’s only so much that can be done in this category giving the time and place and format, but it’s as good as you would expect. 3 or 4 seems to be the natural selection.
Writing: 2: Another one you can switch out for something else – your standard documentary’s ‘Writing’ may be the incisive questions asked by the film-maker. Here again, it’s all about watching the musicians and fans. Of course, there are snippets with locals, fans, etc, but I think I’m going with a 2 average here which, when calculated with the previous average 3, will give a true average of 2.5 for both – yay!
Wardrobe: 3: Damn it! It’s another average. It’s 1970, and a bunch of hippies. If you really love that sort of thing, by all means go five. If you hate that sort of thing, give it a 1 – though I’d question why you’re watching the film in the first place. Swap this one out if you want, but I’ll go with an average 3.
Editing: 4: Much of the power and impact of the film comes from the editing. It’s a 4 or a 5 for me here. It does jump around a little too much for me at times which, while mimics the realism and madness of a live show, can make it difficult when you just want to appreciate the performance.
Make up and Hair: 2: I may have detected a flaw in this scoring system where it comes to documentaries. Don’t worry, there’s hardly any documentaries in my Top Ten lists – in fact this may be the only one – so lets just go average here and say no more. Possibly you should cut this down to 1o categories each with a score out of 10.
Effects: 3: Same again, average 3.
Art and Set: 2: And once more, average 2.
Sound: 4: It sounds phenomenal, especially recent versions. The team don’t scrimp on the crowd noise so you really get a feel for the intensity and energy sweeping through the farm, as well as the music itself.
Cultural Significance: 5: I can’t approve lower than a 4 here. The key question may be, do you consider the actual event’s significance, or the film’s release? Obviously the even was hugely significant, but I feel like that significance would have dwindled over time – remember, this is 50 years ago now (!) and this documents the event in a pure and cinematic way which serves to keep it fresh. The film has been mentioned in media several times since, and of course it’s difficult to imagine musical documentary films after which weren’t influenced.
Accomplishment: 5: The purpose of the film was to document the event for those who were there, and those who weren’t – the music, the fans, the look, the sound, the day and the night. I think it succeeds.
Stunts: 3: Average 3.
Originality: 3: I don’t think music festivals or documentaries on them were anything new at this point, but it certainly set a precedent. I can’t say it does much in an overly original way – it’s more the style and the verite approach (again which others had done in recent years) which helps it feel less static.
Miscellaneous: 5: I’m going to give a 5 here, mainly to counter the average scores I was forced to give elsewhere. I could say that some of the additional footage which has come to light over the years only serves to increase the mythology and potency of the event.
Personal: 4: While I love the film and the event, I’m not going to give it a perfect 5. It does feel more like one of those one-off experiences I don’t need to see again, and I’d tend towards simply picking and choosing the songs I like and listening to the audio rather than watching the whole thing again. Then again, when the mood takes me I’ll watch some excerpts.
72 Seems like a reasonable score given how I feel about the movie. That’s maybe low B, high C material depending on how you grade. It does feel like it edges further towards ‘important for what it is’ and away from ‘entertaining for what it is’, if that makes a difference to you as a viewer. It’s definitely not something I watch regularly, but it is definitely more important than many of the movies I do watch regularly. And yet, it does entertain very well. Maybe if there were more of the artists I cared about I would increase my personal 4 to a 5. In any case, it’s still in my favourite ten movies of 1970 – what more do you want from me? GET REKT!
Let me know in the comments how you feel about Woodstock? Were you there? Were you conceived there? Are you still there? Share!
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