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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.)