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Saturday, December 18, 2004
MAYBE IF I WATCHED IT SIDEWAYS?

If the film everybody is raving about, Sideways wins Best Picture in the year of The Passion of the Christ, I am going to seriously consider moving to eastern CT, to avoid a probable coming cataclysm. Honestly, along with Closer, this is the second film in four days that has made me want to flee this business, peeling of its slime as I run. It isn't so much the film - there have been mediocre, rambly, sexually explicit tales of moral pygmie navel-gazing narcissists before. It's just kind of, you know, excessively repulsive how everyone is falling all over themselves to rave about this project, because there are such a paucity of other serious competitors for Gibson's film.

Sideways is the story of two dreadful men, one an alcoholic manic-depressive loser, and the other a sex-addicted, pathological liar. (Are we having fun yet? Can't wait to rush out to the theater? But wait, there's more.) They hook up with two women, one of whom is a tramp who smokes pot and entertains men in the living room while her 8 year old daughter is in the next room. The other woman seems like less of a pot-smoking tramp, but in the end, she really isn't that much different in practice. She doesn't have a daughter though because she got divorced too early to have had kids. (Now, you're having fun, right? But, no, the entertainment goes on!) They are all just terrible, dreadful people. The sensation of watching them writhe around through two hours is alternately embarrassing and very, very sad.

I actually thought, as I emerged from the theater, which felt rather like climbing out a pit, that if a Christian had created those kinds of pagan characters in our projects, we would be accused of making one-dimensional "bad people" characters. But for some reason, when the pagans draw themselves in such dreadful lines, they are called "honest" and "profound". I guess it's the same rules which makes it okay for black hip-hoppers to use the "N" word?

People have raved to me about the movie because it has a lot of stuff about wine in it. But I found the whole wine sub-plot absolutely ill-fitting in this narative. It felt like the writer has a personal wine obsession, and he pretentiously stuffed the movie full of wine facts just to give some kind of background to his characters. But it didn't fit to me. Or at least, I don;t think the writers really understood what the whole wine thing might have added thematically. I mean, why ruin Miles' amazing love of wine, by making him a drunk? It kind of turns the whole 'Man will be saved by beauty" thing on its head. There were a few feeble - LONGWINDED - efforts to press some theme out of the characters grapes of wrath, but, in the end, the whole script was just a big mess. Intentionally mirroring the lead characters rambling 748 page novel? Hmmmm...

There was one lovely visual moment in the film. A baby "haunting moment" for you Act Oners out there. It had to do with the little bunch of pinot grapes that pull Miles out of his funk. Too bad the rest of the film didn't know it should have been about this.

The only thing I had heard about the film before I saw it was that it was "a bit wordy." HOLY MIND-BLOWING UNDERSTATEMENT, BATMAN! The two main male pigs in the film have the same conversation over and over and over and over again in the film's two plus hours. And it isn't a clever conversation either.

PIG 1: "Hey, Dude! Get over your manic-depressive sh*t because you're f*ckin' up my sex life!"
PIG 2: "Okay, okay, okay."

If Alexander Payne hadn't bought his own hype of being a clever genius, he should have submitted this project to some kind of script-doctor who could have cut out two-thirds of every dialogue scene (WHICH IS THE WHOLE MOVIE! NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS IN THIS MOVIE EXCEPT TALK!), and all of many of the scenes. It's just really sloppy writing. No narrative. An unbelievable story in which the female character's choices are all unmotivated. She just needed to make the choices she does so we can eventually get to some kind of ending. This is the definition of bad cinema story-telling.

I don't get the title either. Except for the fact that I really wish they would have filmed the extended male full-frontal nudity scene sideways. Talk about your highly offensive, stereotypical portrayal of the over-weight trucker and waitress class. (Someone say something about Hollywood being indignant about poverty, but despising poor people....) Indeed, people who don't want to see graphic portrayals of animal-like sex should stay away from Sideways. Don't be fooled by all the raves. There really is very little here.

Pass - forward, backwards, sideways.