Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage

Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage ★★

This is the sort of inessential, mind-numbingly obvious, low-hanging fruit pop culture "analysis" that has defined Ringer founder Bill Simmons' mediocrity-fueled meteoric rise to media moguldom.

The attempts to use Woodstock '99--an event that was recognized by contemporaries in real time as being a total shitshow rife with cynical corporate greed and exploitation--as some sort of cultural watershed, as some sort of lens that reveals the ugly truths at the core of American culture, are incredibly strained when they're not being incredibly obvious.

Especially misguided are the film's insistence on retroactively injecting the woke/Puritan strain of 2021-style identity politics into the mix. So one moment we get Pulitzer Prize winner Wesley Morris praising the gospel call-and-response virtuoso performance of DMX, while in the next breath condemning the mostly white concertgoers who are singing along (at the insistence of DMX!) to lyrics that feature the n-word. To anyone who listens to Bill Simmons routinely contradict himself as to which basketball players are in his "Pantheon," it will come as no surprise that Morris and his tortured bullshittery find a welcome home at the Ringer, as before at Grantland.

As if that weren't bad enough, we are also treated to "music journalists" making pronouncements like: "The 20th century was a very top-down era." As opposed to what, exactly? The patrician-dominated Roman Empire? The divine right of Kings? Or even the year 2021 (aka "right now") where the three richest Americans have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans?

For all of the music journalists interviewed, it's odd that more focus wasn't devoted to the most embarrassing failure of Woodstock '99: the actual music, which was fucking atrocious. It's not just that many of these acts didn't fit together on the same bill, it's that almost all of them objectively sucked (The Offspring, Korn, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Creed, Alanis Morrissette, etc) or were well past their sell-by dates (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Sheryl Crow, etc)

The keening urge to sound profound and important about an event that was, in the grand scheme of things, fairly irrelevant, must have been overwhelming for all of those interviewed, and it shows. That's why films have editors, folks. Not everything is a metaphor for where America was, or where America is, or for white people in general. It was a shitty, cynical money-grab of a show, poorly planned, and beset by exactly the sort of mob violence one would expect in such a scenario (something reiterated by several interviewees in this doc, which prompts the question: what's the fucking point of this movie, then?)

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