Meandering through Woodstock

This evening, I saw Taking Woodstock. After finishing the movie, I began thinking.

The movie, directed by Ang Lee, is good. Not great. It’s entertaining and I enjoyed it.

But that’s not what I’m thinking about.

The film’s pacing is what made me stop (look around…). It was rather meandering. The characters talked about how they only had a short period of time to get Woodstock ready to go, but it didn’t feel like there was a short time. The pacing was leisurely, like taking a walk through the Catskills with no one to bother you. It lagged and dragged and stopped to smoke a cigarette or two, taking its own sweet time to get to the destination. But I’m not quite sure it was worth it.

There was no rewarding “aha!” moment in the movie. The characters were underdeveloped. The main character, Elliot, started out unsure of himself, and finished the same way. I was ambivalent towards him throughout the entire film. I neither rooted for him nor pitied his circumstances. The supporting characters were cardboard cutouts (a complete misuse of Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The townspeople were mostly angry with Elliot’s decision to host Woodstock, the town’s women mostly out to lunch, and the hippie characters floated on and off screen saying chill things.

I never felt truly engaged, as I did with District 9 (two totally different movies, but being drawn in is being drawn in). The entire time it felt as though I were merely observing, and was disconnected from what was occurring on screen. The movie lacked the energy one would expect from a movie about the most famous music festival.

In the end, I’ve realized that I’m watching movies and reading books more like a crafter of tales, and less like an audience member. What have I pulled from this? Always make sure your main character, likeable or no, is able to elicit some emotional response from the audience. And the pacing should be such that the audience is never bored.

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4 thoughts on “Meandering through Woodstock

  1. I know! I’ve started doing that too–observing all storytelling as craft, on some level, and not just falling into it as I used to. I figure it can only help us, right?

    Actually, I have to take that back. Last night I watched “I Love You, Man,” and didn’t think on pacing or character development. But I was also exhausted and had two glasses of wine in me and almost a whole box of Godivas. *shakes head at self*

    But yeah. It’s cool when we can draw that out. There’s a lot to learn from any tale, no matter the medium in which it’s spun…

    1. Sometimes movies need to be watched solely for entertainment! And enjoyed with accompanying foodstuffs. 🙂
      I find that I analyze movies when I’m either engrossed or bored.

  2. Many think that writing is writing, but it isn’t. There are many novelists out there that couldn’t write a screen play if their life depended on it. It’s a totally different kind of writing with different rules and goals. Pacing, dialogue, character development, all different. Watch movies and TV shows for fun. Read novels and short stories to learn your craft. Just the opinion of an old key basher. 🙂

  3. I just finished watching the Woodstock documentary, and I have to say that it was wandering, oddly paced, and at times boring. But I think that was due to the nature of the festival itself. Some acts were dynamite. Some were tedious. There were long intervals. All kinds of people with all kinds of opinions. Perhaps Mr. Lee was trying to capture this spirit in his film, in which case he’s taking story telling to a different level.

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