April 13, 2005


Oh, come on. Does anyone really care about this movie? I mean anyone other than the kind of guys who merge with the Paul Giamatti character and women who think they are bursting with Virginia Madsen-ish sensuality? Let me exclude all the people who self-flatter with identification and restate my question.

Does anyone really care? I tried to go to see that movie back in January and I wrecked my car and never got to our destination. That's just a fluke. If I didn't want to see the movie, I'd just stay home. I wouldn't venture out and then wreck my car to avoid the ordeal. That's just something that happened that I feel very bad about, and if you maybe some day pay more attention to red lights than I did that day, maybe my regrettable experience will produce some good in this world.

But last weekend, I blogged that I was going to watch the DVD and report back later, and, though I've got email and comments, not one person has said, so what did you think of the movie you said you'd opine about?

Let me say that I adore the director Alexander Payne. My favorite Alexander Payne movie is -- it's not even close -- "Election." Let's watch "Election" again! I'm always up for that. My second favorite Alexander Payne movie is "Citizen Ruth." I bow down at the feet of Alexander Payne for making that movie about abortion, which took on every possible political angle and tore us to shreds.

Oh, but Hollywood! Here's Jack Nicholson ready to be in a movie. "About Schmidt." Kathy Bates too. And maybe our hero will end up redeemed.

And now, in the orange glow of California, we've got "Sideways." Four flawed adults sip wine and find redemption, some more than others. It's very nice. There are some well-written lines that make me laugh. There's some beautiful acting, but it's beautiful acting that takes the edge off everything. The sexuality is promising. Give me Matthew Broderick in "Election," desperately washing his privates at the spigot of a motel bathroom in preparation for his ill-advised tryst. That's more real and more funny.

Alexander Payne, I'm glad you're successful, and I hope you're happy, but I'll go back to the old movies that you made in the days when you were really you.

UPDATE: One of the commenters brings up "Wonderfalls." I posted about buying the DVD of 13 episodes of the cancelled show, and then, as with "Sideways," I never posted about my opinion of it. So, okay. I watched about six of the episodes. The pilot was quite good, but it was downhill from there. Maybe they didn't have the money or the commitment, but the show never lived up to its promise. The main character, Jaye, had little to do but to listen to talking animals, and following their orders was more of a shallow puzzle than anything at all deep (as following God's orders on "Joan of Arcadia" usually is).

There was a bunch of regular characters, such as Jaye's family, but they never got a chance to amount to anything. We found out the sister was a lesbian, but that's just a stock revelation, nothing interesting. Compare that to the strong development of the secondary characters on "Joan of Arcadia." The last few shows before I gave up on the series, centered on a guest star. Somebody came to town and Jaye had to help him or her, mostly by trying to understand the slightly hard-to-understand message some animal was giving her.

The show seemed at times to want to be "Joan" for savvier, hipper people, but it seemed to be a mindnumbingly Californian idea of hipness, which just amounted to scoffing and not caring about anything -- except in the sappy endings of the story, where Jaye understood the animals and helped people. Bleccchhh!

I tried to watch the show back when it was on TV, and got through only part of one episode. Here's my post about that.


Alcibiades said...

Speaking of no one commenting on your posting about a particular show (though that was before you turned comments back on), didn't you buy Wonderfalls recently? What did you think of that?

I loved it personally. Thought it was without doubt one of the most intelligent shows written for TV - for the 3 or 4 episodes before Fox nixed it. I thought it was funny, clever, and actually an intelligent commentary on human affairs -- as opposed to most of the stuff on TV.

Judith said...

I love Election.

DannyNoonan said...

I just watched "Sideways" and I thought it was great. I liked it more than "Election" and MUCH more than the unwatchable "About Schmidt." I suppose I can see what you mean about it not being as "real" as "Election." I can't think of a more far-fetched idea than two bachelors picking wine country for their male-bonding road trip. But for some reason it worked.

Ann Althouse said...

Alcibiades: I did an update about "Wonderfalls."

Someone emailed to say I ought to read the novel "Sideways" was based on. I'm willing to believe it's better than the movie but I can't imagine spending time reading something like that.

Contributors said...

Get season 1 of "The Greatest American Hero." The show rocks. But I really liked "About Schmidt" too.

And no, I'm not 10.

Ann Althouse said...

Eddiep: good point about "full size." I hadn't noticed that. Check it out now. Actually, it's a blurry photograph, taken in very dim light, so there's not much to see.

Also, I didn't jus say I bought the DVD. I said we're all getting together and watching it tonight. The truth was though that I had to run out on an errand and missed most of the first half, then watched the second half, then had to go back and watch the first half. So I didn't experienced the arc of emotion the filmmaker had planned. Coming in in the middle, I brought my own attitude, not the one shaped by the artist.

Jane Bellwether said...

As far as style goes, I'd say that Election was pretty pure farce, can't comment on Citizen Ruth (although you've made it sound interesting enough that I'll probably see it sometime), About Schmidt was farcical realism, and Sideways was fairly stark realism with undertones of farce. It looks to me like an arc from reality embedded in story to vice versa. I think it worked better in Election, and probably in Citizen Ruth, but not so well in Schmidt or Sideways. And I found myself wondering who could identify with any of the characters in Sideways, though it was an interesting sub-Hollywood view of Southern California.

Nitpicky: If the one character had been such a wine snob, their trip would have taken them to Sonoma; the map of the wine world includes the continents of France, Sonoma, and Italy, then the rest of the world on some small island archipeligo.