Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I just re-watching "Sideways," which I had not seen since it was in the theaters. It took some effort. Ashdown's copy is scratched, so it freezes up during the double date scene. Besides the technological malfunction, I could not get around the while snobbery and the utter loathsomeness of Miles' character. For better or worse, I grew up in a family that shunned public conversation of anything that could lead to awkwardness, so my social awkwardness tolerance is low, low, low. After a short walk I made myself return to finish the film.

I noticed funny things, like how much the world has changed in four years. They buy gas in California for $1.71 a gallon. And the Hitching Post restaurant still has a pay-phone in the back. Not only that, but Miles remembers his ex-wife's phone number by rote. Of course, that isn't unusual for his character to focus on that sort of minutia. But when this movie came out was right about the time I got my first cell phone, and by extension, stopped remembering phone numbers. Anything that I knew before that moment I still remember to this day. Any phone number that has come into my life since then just exists on a computer chip on my phone. I'd be lying to say there wasn't part of me that missed having to know those things.

And this: I almost wish Miles were not redeemed. The beautifully crafted story arc makes you love him by the end even though he's gripped by the same sorts of loathsomeness he always was. It quits at just the right peak. But let me say this: there is value in having negative role models in your life. I remember when they first showed AFI's list of the 100 Greatest Films on television. One of the talking heads, during the discussion of "Citizen Kane," talked kiddingly about how they were going to treat their friends right and not end up miserable and alone like Charles Foster Kane. I don't think that I'm Miles, but I see some of the worst parts of my personality in his character. So I reveled in his self-perpetuated misery, mostly thinking, "My God, I'm glad I'm not him. May I never live to be so unhappy as he."

I wonder whether Thomas Haden Church is an underrated actor or is, in fact, Jack in real life.

I wonder what Sandra Oh was actually beating up in the parking lot fight scene. It's cleverly shot, so you never see Jack's body double, only her flailing and Miles recoiling in disgust.

Miles neurotic booze binges were a little played out by the end, but it makes it worthwhile when he actually doesn't self-destruct after the wedding. Anyway, the important point is that the scene where he pours the wine-spitting jug all over himself will go down as one of the best comedic scenes ever written.


Chris said...

One of my life's great wake-up calls was seeing Sideways for the first time and finding him deeply, effortlessly sympathetic. When I watched it again over the summer (with a bottle of Chuck for counterpoint), I, like you, found his redemption troubling. For a man of his personality, Maya is the worst sort of enabler, somebody who will indulge his worst pretentions to artistic melancholia. Maybe we're meant to think, after the wedding sequence, that he's over it, but it didn't sit right with me.

Chris said...

Miles, that is. Ahem.