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Peter saw his first movie when he was just a little boy, and has never gotten over that experience.

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DUH! Pirate Radio's Tom Sturridge in Teen Vogue

Posted August 31, 2009

DUH! Pirate Radio's Tom Sturridge in Teen Vogue Image

In “Young Hollywood 2009: Leaders of the Pack,” Teen Vogue features today’s new hotties and hottresses. And head of the class is Brit newcomer Tom Sturridge, who’ll be appearing in Focus’ upcoming Pirate Radio. Of the film Sturridge confesses, “"I begged them to cast me….Being on set was idyllic; we blasted The Kinks, The Who, and The Stones...."And it turns out that Sturridge is the "best bud" of Twilight's Robert Pattinson. Must be something in the water. Also Bruce Weber shot the luscious spread.

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James Schamus in The Onion

Posted August 31, 2009

James Schamus in The Onion Image

Writing in the A.V. Club section of The Onion (that the part that isn’t necessarily parody), Sam Adams talks to James Schamus about his relationship with Ang Lee, writing Taking Woodstock, and more. As Adams points out in his intro: “If you wanted to trace the evolution of American independent film from a struggling cottage industry to a high-rent Hollywood annex, you could hardly pick a better figure to follow than James Schamus.” True that. And while Schamus got into the groovy spirit of Woodstock in adapting Elliot Tiber’s memoir, his own experience of 1969 was something quite different:

JS: I grew up in L.A. We were in North Hollywood, up in the Hollywood Hills. And I was under lockdown along with my friends, the whole neighborhood, because Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas had just been murdered the week before—a few blocks, actually, from where we lived. These were what we thought were random killings by some hippie cult. So while we were watching on TV the news reports of Woodstock and this incredible hippie peace, love and music, there’s blood on the walls that says, “Pig, die pig” a few blocks down the hill. So those two events really coincided for me. In the script we had a scene that was shot, but we just dropped it for pacing, where there was a nod to the Tate murders. At that point, no one knew about the Manson family. That didn’t happen until October.

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Planning a "trip" to Woodstock

Posted August 27, 2009

Planning a

Acid trips are almost a cliché in representations of the sixties: the spinning camera, the reverse zoom, the kooky colors. But as Eric Philpott points out in his piece “Acid Trips and History on the Big Screen in Taking Woodstock” there’s nothing easy about turning on: “VFX supervisor Brendan Taylor led a team of 45 artists at the Mr. X facilities in Toronto and Montreal over a period of eight months, delivering 138 shots on the project.” The end product was a piece that attempted to rewrite the clichés and arrive at the actual experience:

“I am really proud of the acid trip sequence,” said Taylor. “Ang wanted something that was an ecstatic revelation, not something frightening. This is a key moment in the story arc for the lead character’s personal development. Ang wanted to bring the audience right into Elliot’s experience, and to feel that they were on an acid trip themselves.”

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Huff Po Podcast with Ang Lee

Posted August 25, 2009

Huff Po Podcast with Ang Lee Image

Dan Persons on Huffington Post offers a podcast of his recent interview with Ang Lee. It’s a good listen about how Woodstock is both concert and catalyst. As he Parson points out:

Director Lee latches onto the almost universally familiar iconography -- mostly as was conveyed by Michael Wadleigh in Woodstock -- to give us an alt-view of events from the perspective of the locals, exploring how that chaos percolated down to affect small yet profound (Ang Lee, remember?) changes in those observers.

Take a listen.

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NY TIMES: Taking Woodstock made with Woodstock Groove

Posted August 23, 2009

NY TIMES: Taking Woodstock made with Woodstock Groove Image

As Karen Schoemer points out in her New York Times piece fo the Sunday Arts and Leisure section, “Turn ON, Tune In, Turn Back the Clock,” in the case of Ang Lee’s new film, life imitated art (imitated life). The story of how a new generation invaded the small upstate town of Bethel in 1969 for three days of peace, love and music, was told by invaded the small upstate town of New Lebanon for five months of peace, love and filmmaking. As Schoemer points out , the production was launched on a mission of love when it came to integrating with the local citizens:

Mr. Schamus especially was intent on setting a good tone with the locals. He owns a weekend house in Columbia County. He recalled telling the crew: “At the end of the shoot you get to go home, and I’m stuck here like some hostage in a Greek tragedy. If you do anything rude, if you do anything that makes people feel like they’ve been used, I get to go shopping with them for the next 30 years of my life.”

And by all accounts, the filmmaking team won the hearts of the upstate folks. When the film was screening in Chatham, many of the people involved in the production crammed into the local theater:

Inside, as the film was about to begin, Mr. Lee stepped forward. The roar of appreciation might have been heard all the way to Manhattan. He tried to make a speech thanking the crowd, but his microphone kept feeding back. Finally he just said, “This is a real-life Woodstock for me.”

The image from the actor Kevin Sussman's own site gives hint of the happy days last summer.

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Tom DeLay at Woodstock?

Posted August 22, 2009

Tom DeLay at Woodstock? Image

Michael Winship has penned a fascinating piece, “Tom DeLay and the Woodstock Nation,” which highlights the values of Woodstock by considering how someone like Tom DeLay, now seen “Dancing with the Stars,” might have fared during those three-day of peace, love and music. Starting with DeLay’s lashing out a Jerry Springer, Winship wonders:

Now if DeLay equated the comparatively harmless Springer with smut on TV, goodness knows what he would have made of Woodstock, the peace-love-music free-for-all celebration that in 1969 churned upstate New York dairy farmer Max Yasgur's pastures into mud.

DeLay was 22 back then, perhaps just a hair past prime for the Woodstock generation, but still in his pre-probity days. He might have enjoyed himself (remember, while in the Texas state Legislature his nickname was "Hot Tub Tom").

It’s a fun read, and in some ways very thoughtful about the ways Woodstock culture filters into contemporary culture (and is still being fought). At the end, he brings Ang’s film into the conversation (as well as Barbara Kopple’s doc) by talking about recent cinematic attempts to recapture the spirit, if not the event, of Woodstock.

But two sets of filmmakers have done just that, and the results are terrific. Taking Woodstock, a feature film directed by Ang Lee and written and produced by my friend James Schamus, is a funny, touching look at the festival from the periphery. The performances are on pitch, and the movie captures the period and the event perfectly, without once slipping into caricature or retrospective smugness -- not a whiff of contemporary filmmakers betraying their subject matter with a "weren't they adorable and feckless back then" attitude. (In fact, Schamus told me the only thing people who were there in 1969 think "Taking Woodstock" lacks in the way of atmosphere is the stink created by acres of muck and half a million people.)

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Ang Lee on Stephen Colbert --Whew!

Posted August 21, 2009

Ang Lee on Stephen Colbert --Whew! Image

In case you missed in Ang Lee appeared on The Cobert Report on Wednesday night to talk about his new film Taking Woodstock.In typicla hilarious fashion, Ang stayed true to the film's groovy message and Colbert asked, "Would it have helped Woodstock to have a little corporate sponsorship?" Take a watch.


The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Ang Lee
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Health Care Protests

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DreadCentral and new 9 Drawings

Posted August 20, 2009

DreadCentral and new 9 Drawings Image

Dread Central is reprinting some very cool drawings that show the origin of the characters in 9. They show the evolution of 8, who they remind us is: “Armed with a giant kitchen cleaver and half a scissor blade, the none-too-bright muscle and enforcer of the group, 8 (voiced by Fred Tatasciore), is created to help the others physically survive the dangerous post-apocalyptic world.”

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Ebert on "Death Panels"

Posted August 19, 2009

Ebert on

As the health care war rages in American town halls, film makers and critics are raising their voices to join the fracas. Documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney recently produced an adaptation of Maggie Mahar illuminating book Money-Driven Medicine. (Mahar’s writes on the crisis at her blog HealthBeat.) And now Roger Ebert, who has experienced a range of health crises in the last few years, speaks to the dangerous rhetoric in his journal entry "'Death Panels': A Most Excellent Term." Most stunning is how he dramatizes the absurdity of this phrase by illustrating his piece with the “death panel” from Dreyer’s luminous film Jeanne d’Arc. After de-constructing the phrase and its meanings, he ends with a lovely note about his own experience:

Having arrived at a qualifying age thanks to the love and care of my wife and doctors, I am writing this as the beneficiary of the excellent heath care my insurance plan covered (until my illness exhausted its provisions). I am now covered under MediCare. I continue to get the same treatment as before--and as, for that matter, all members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives do, no matter what their age or political party. You should try it sometime.

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What is it about the 60s?

Posted August 18, 2009

What is it about the 60s? Image

In Esquire, S.T. VanAirsdale asks the question that everyone has been thinking-- “What's So Great About the Sixties Anyway?” The answer, as he pushes further and further into the subject, touching on "Mad Men", President Obama, Woodstock and te film Taking Woodstock, becomes more and more elusive. Towards the end he recalls the final scene from Taking Woodstock (which I won’t spoil for you by telling you what it is). But he nots how Lee has created a moment that encapsulates everything that was great (and not so great) about that period. In Movieline VanAirsdale focus on how Ang Lee did his research for one of the pivotal points in the film—the acid trip. Screenwriter James Schamus and Ang Lee highlight the difficulty of re-creating the perceptual changes that occur during acid, But as much as Lee got into, the experience remains just academic.

I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never tried it myself,” Lee said. “My kids want me to try it; they’d think it’s pretty cool. But I’ve made a women’s movie, and I didn’t go through a sex-change operation. But people around me gave me a lot of good ideas. After all, it’s a movie development. It’s a cinematic thing. I had to use whatever technique was available.”

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