Sure, you've seen the Oscar-winning 1970 documentary capturing the festival, with innovative split-screen effects by editors Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese in their first hit collaboration. What you haven't likely seen is this behemoth of a three-hour, 44-minute epic, which adds songs and artists unseen in the original, 30 performances including Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, the Grateful Dead and Neil Young. It's playing in theaters nationally for the first time since the first release, for one night, Aug. 15, but it's available for home viewing, too
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Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation
There are plenty of inspiring, immortal Woodstock performance scenes in this smart, nostalgic PBS documentary (Aug. 6, 9 p.m. ET, check local listings), but it pulls back to give you the big picture and the history of the event, mixing you-are-there footage with thoughtful reminiscences by insiders and the kindly townsfolk who weren't into hippies but discovered they liked those 400,000 hungry kids who called them “Sir” and “Ma'am” and donated everything in their pantry to keep them fed. It should've been a disaster — a 50,000-volt cable was unearthed and thousands risked electrocution — but it was a wonder. Everybody helped everybody, as if peace and love weren't just a pipe dream.
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In a top-notch, Sundance Festival-hailed documentary few saw thanks to music rights issues, double Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple chronicles not one but three Woodstock music festivals: 1969, 1994 and the riotous one in 1999, with great insights from original fest celebs like Graham Nash, Richie Havens, Country Joe McDonald, and Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane. Hugh Romney, known as Wavy Gravy, explains how his security force, basically the opposite of the Hell's Angels at Altamont Festival, became what he called a “Please Force” urging people to do the right thing — and 400,000 did. The 1969 producers went bankrupt but made a profit at last in the 1980s. It's a fascinating comparison of youth culture through the ages.
Ang Lee (Life of Pi) makes a sweet if flawed fable from the real memoir of the owner of a rundown upstate motel who brought Woodstock to his town and came of age in the process. Lee recreates some real scenes — kids mud-surfing, a nun flashing a peace sign — but it's all about the townsfolk and the motelier's experience of the event. There are bad flubs (a clichéd Vietnam vet, Imelda Staunton oddly overacting as the hero's overbearing mom), but now-hot actor Eugene Levy is tops as Max Yasgur, whose farm the fest invaded, and the film leaves you with a warm glow.
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Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock (Deluxe Edition)
If all you've seen is Hendrix's famous “Star-Spangled Banner,” you haven't seen the best of his historic Woodstock performance. “Red House,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Spanish Castle Magic” are far better, and there's some footage not captured by the 1970 documentary's film crew. Available on disc and streaming.
Against the backdrop of Woodstock and the moon landing, a thwarted housewife (Diane Lane) falls out of love with her AWOL husband (Liev Schreiber) and gets sexually awakened by a hunky traveling blouse salesman (Viggo Mortensen). When her daughter (Anna Paquin) spots the adulterers at the festival, emotional fireworks erupt. OK, it's like a romance novel — what's wrong with that? — but there's much period flavor and the cast is unbeatable.
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Creedence Clearwater Revival Live at Woodstock
Creedence, which was just cresting as a titanic act in 1969, was not included in the 1970 documentary and album partly because John Fogerty was annoyed that their set was delayed until long after midnight, and he felt like they were Janis Joplin's warmup act. "I thought the band played really well at Woodstock,” Fogerty tells AARP. “Unfortunately, most of the audience was asleep at that late an hour. It's a happening that has taken on mythical recollections. It was a wonderful performance by a classic rock band and I'm proud of it." You can now listen to the hour-long performance of 11 tunes by a band at its peak from “Born on the Bayou” to “Suzie Q.” In fact, you can hear the first song of their show for free right now, and own it on CD, 2 LPs or digitally.
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Woodstock 50 — Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive
For Woodstock completists, the most comprehensive document you can get of Woodstock 1969 is Rhino's $800, 36-hour, 432-song, 38-CD set, with a Blu-ray of the Woodstock Director's Cut, a book, a program replica and various goodies in a plywood box. There are also 10-disk and three-disk versions for much less.