‘Sideways’ – downward…

Intermittently, I feel like I’m lost in pop culture … TG and I went to a party yesterday, and it ended sooner than we thought, and Middle Guy was having some friends over, so we decided to go to the movies; the choices were ‘Constantine,’ ‘Sideways,’ and ‘Hitch.’

We hadn’t seen any of them, and so decided to see Sideways.

Half an hour in, I was wishing we hadn’t. I sat through it, and as we walked out, asked TG what she’d thought of it.

“I can’t for the life of me understand why it’s up for an Oscar.”

“Neither can I.”

I don’t for a moment get it. Compared to ‘Aviator’ or ‘Million Dollar Baby’ – this movie is just pathetically weak. it is weakest where – for the kind of small ensemble movie it is – it ought to be strongest, in the relationships between the characters and our relationship with them.
Each of the four lead actors felt like they were off doing an individual workshop exercise – or whatever. And to be honest the women were simply there as punching bags for the two dislikable male characters to seek as prizes – sexual and otherwise.Character notes don’t make characters.

But the main problem with the film is the one I mentioned in my comments on ‘Gunner Palace’ (which did get a PG-13 rating, BTW). The author has to respect, and ideally like, their characters. In Aviator – with a deranged central character – it’s clear that Scorcese does both. In MDB, it’s obvious from the getgo that Eastwood loves and honors his characters. It’s not clear that this writer and director give much of a damn about their characters – and so why should I?

In it’s defense, there’s good talk on Pinot, tho. And sorry, but Jocko’s in Nipomo blows The Hitching Post out of the water as far as Central California BBQ restaurants are concerned.

We wish we’d seen ‘Constantine.’ And say that knowing that I hate Keannu Reeves acting in everything he’s ever done.

15 thoughts on “‘Sideways’ – downward…”

  1. Thanks for the heads up. I had been planning to see Sideways, but now I’ll wait for DVD. As far as the Oscars goes, I think the people in the motion picture industry spend most of their time drunk, stoned, psychotic, or all three. Occasionally a good picture slips through and wins an award. Being nominated is no guarantee of quality.

  2. I happen to work part time in a specialty food store, and you wouldn’t believe the jump in Pino Noir sales since the movie came out.

    The problem with wine is the value. You get the same buzz from a $12 bottle as a $44 bottle. If you’re talking about the latter, I’d rather spend the money on some Johnny Walker Black Label. Way more character there, and you still have enough cash left over for a pizza and some smokes.

  3. Noooo… I could have told you not to do that! G-d, that was one of the most boring, pointless movies I’ve ever seen (BTW, as a point of reference, I liked “Castaway” with Tom Hanks). Plodding as hell, filled with main characters you couldn’t love, who spent most of their time being pretentious and windy. Or going through dilemmas that were supposed to be agonizing but just put me to sleep.

    I can’t understand why anybody gave it decent critical reviews either, and your assessment of its central problem is spot-on. Glad the guy from Wings is getting his moment in the sun, but still.

    Second you too on Jocko’s… which isn’t really a Pinot place, but has damn good BBQ. Can’t believe we drove 4 1/2 hours that Saturday to meet you for lunch.

    (“Armed Liberal’s Southern California BBQ suggestions, with links”:http://www.armedliberal.com/archives/000526.html )

  4. How can you not understand why this was up for an award???

    Obviously you are not from California.
    Look – in California – dysfunction reigns. There should be bumper stickers that say, “I Heart Dysfunction!” California is a celebration of dysfunction.

    This movie had it all. Dysfunctional characters who wallow in self-destruction – the beautiful wine country of the Central Coast, guaranteed to tug the heart strings of those from LA who escape to it on weekends, and an ambiguous ending with suicidal overtones.

    Now, usually, to get an Oscar, you have to get your audience attached to the characters and then kill them…kill them ALL. In this movie, dysfunction was celebrated, the women were sufficiently debased enough for the gay Hollywood crowd to feel smug and superior and though no actual suicide, there was enough “suicide potential” created by Maya’s saint-like need to grasp the meaning his novel – which is a metaphor of his own life.

    I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. But clearly this was Oscar material. Oscars are about being F*&^ed Up and Proud of It! And this was a delightful romp down that lane.

  5. look..I’m sorry – this crowd is just too well adjusted to enjoy a film like this. Go ruin your lives, to prove that you never grew up and throw it all away so you can wallow in the emotions of misery instead of happiness.

    Then – and only then – can you appreciate this film. ;-)

  6. Beck –

    I’m born’n’bred Californian, ride the roads they showed in the movie at least every month (my wife and I were pointing out our favorites as we walked out ofthe theater), and am as maladjusted as the next guy.

    Plus I’m laughing hard at your description…


  7. I liked it, but I went into it knowing what I was going to see so my expectations were set. It’s not normally the type of movie I’d like normally, 2 hours of whining? Nah.

    But I found that the characters were well done, that you could really believe the friendship between the nebbish and the actor. We all have friends like both, and we all go the extra mile for our friends and ignore their faults.

    Was the movie entertaining? No, but it was interesting. I often like movies that aren’t “popcorn” movies, but portray real people.

  8. Reviewers love Sideways because it is almost ideally crafted to flatter them. Paul Giamatti’s character is an obvious film-reviewer surrogate: obsessed with something that most people like, but don’t TRULY UNDERSTAND. At once humble before the transcendant glories of wine/film, and an obnoxious snob towards anyone who just wants something pleasant to go along with dinner. Also, consider Church’s character: it’s hard to spend your career covering the careers of people who are better-paid and better-laid than you can ever hope to be without being warped by jealously to some extent, so Sideways also panders to the reviewer’s conceit that hollywood people are his moral inferiors.

    It’s unsurprising that reviewers loved it (if the GGs had a Best Picture, this would have been it), just as it’s unsurprising that actual hollywood people preferred the “better dead than not-famous” story (also over the “highly successful people are often driven to their success by an underlying pathology” story — what successful, or success-obsessed person really wants to hear that?)

  9. Sideways is about the two main characters…and the wine. That’s why I enjoyed the movie. Paul Giamti makes a great neurotic and Thomas Hayden Church’s character can be appreciated by any of us who have been in that flawed life prison known as “marriage”. The dialogue is witty, and the interaction between the two of them great. Plus it made me want to go right out and by a bottle of Pinot on the way home from the theater ( Here in Japan, that’s commitment! At 2,200 yen per bottle.)

    So i disagree with you I think its a great film, even more so if conservatives don’t like it. And as for the women? Well the prinicpal characters got laid, so what else is there to say…..the women accomplished their purpose.


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