Stephen Zeitchik wants to know.
Poor Ang Lee. The last four years have seen the versatile helmer do some of his best work of his career (which is saying something). And yet the American movie gods have sprinkled on the rain.
The karma started nearly four years ago when an Oscar best picture win that was rightly his, for the socially conscious and richly character-driven “Brokeback Mountain,” leaked away to the faux social consciousness and thinly-veiled caricatures of “Crash.”
The director then goes and makes what is arguably the most ambitious film of his career — the culturally important, narratively compelling and beautifully photographed “Lust, Caution” — but finds the period Chinese-language pic released in the toughest market for foreign and specialty fare in a generation, resulting in a modest $4 million domestic take (though a huge overseas haul).
Lee then dramatically switches course to make the entertaining and likable “Taking Woodstock.” And what do many critics do but… lambaste him for not being important enough.
I love Ang Lee/James Schamus movies but don’t have any plans to see Taking Woodstock. First, the trailer makes it look godawful. Second, the friends I know who’ve seen it have twittered that it’s middling. Call it a Twitter Effect if you want. But I’ll stick with the old-fashioned term: word of mouth.