I pretty much stopped going to the movies by the end of the 1990s. I still watch four or five movies a week, but on TV. I never minded paying for tickets at the movie theater, no matter what they cost, and as bad as the movies might have been, I never felt like asking for my money back, either. You pays your money and you takes your chances. But aside from the fact that I was forever getting into confrontations with annoying assholes around me talking, I could no longer bear getting into endless arguments about whatever was new and considered good that I didn’t like. For me the two worst years of this were 1994 arguing about Schindler’s List, and 1999 arguing about American Beauty. Literally weeks of my life were wasted in pointless heated imbroglios that always left me feeling bad.
So I stopped going to the movies, thus no longer seeing new movies upon their initial releases, and this problem almost completely vanished. And when I finally see some recent sacred cow Oscar-winner, like Sideways, a year later when they finally show it on cable, nobody is willing to argue about it anymore.
Had I said a year ago that Sideways was a dull, dreary, over-long, meandering, unbelievable series of events about two shallow, creepy, uninteresting characters, people would have jumped all over me. Now, however, I think the most it would get it a “Huh, no kidding?”
Right off the bat I didn’t buy the film’s basic situation. A guy who is going to be married next week, goes off for an entire week with his old buddy on a wine-tasting pussy hunt? I kinda fuckin’ doubt it. A weekend, maybe, not a whole week. From my own experience attending other guy’s bachelor parties, it seems that women barely tolerate the ritual anymore, and quite frankly, they shouldn’t— bachelor parties are juvenile and in bad taste. And that’s what Sideways basically is, a variation of the old chestnut, Bachelor Party, either the 1957 version, or the 1984 version (which only have the title and basic premise in common), and even though the ’84 version isn’t very good, both were more fun than Sideways.
I really despise modern male characters like Paul Giamatti, which are all just slight variations on Woody Allen’s kvetching, sniveling, sickly, downbeat, stick-in-the-mud persona. At least in Woody Allen’s case, he’s funny about his deficiencies (“I’m just short enough, and ugly enough to make it on my own”). But all the others doing knock-offs of Woody Allen’s nebbish character are, in my opinion, impossible to watch. This is not a character I want to spend time with, although I guess it’s the only character Paul Giamatti will ever get to play because it’s the exact same character from American Splendor, just replace comics with wine. Nor do I want to waste my time with his stupid creepy, flatly-written actor buddy, either. They’re on a two and a quarter hour quest for something I don’t care about, broken up into the individual days as chapters, so that I too could feel like I’d been there for a week.
The basic plot of the film is that the stupid actor will fuck anything that moves, and the drippy divorced nebbish can’t recognize a beautiful woman who is improbably coming onto him like gang-busters over and over again. “Monday.” “Tuesday.” “Wedenesday.” Etc. Cut to me loading my .44 Magnum.
And am I really supposed to believe that Virginia Madsen actually read his 1000-page, unpublishable, unexplainable novel in a few days, and liked it? Fuck off! Man, you can’t get someone to read a 120-page script, let alone a 1000-page book, in less than a few weeks no matter how much they love you, or even if they paid you to write it. It’s just stupid.
And Sandra Oh, whom the stupid actor picks up and fucks that same night, nearly beats him to death pounding him the face with a motorcycle helmet as hard as she can a half dozen times because she finds out he’s about to be married? For a split second I thought the story was taking a turn toward realism and that she’d actually killed him, but no, it’s simply another meaningless, unbelievable plot turn.
I know, I know, this is where someone in the audience says, “You’re supposed to ‘suspend your disbelief’.” Yeah? Bullshit! The writer and director are supposed to do the suspending for me. It’s not my job to keep filling in the dumbass holes in their script, nor help along the poorly-written characters.
Okay, so the stupid actor picks up a fat ugly girl thus leaving his good buddy in the lurch yet again, then he returns hours later completely naked (what a brilliant plot twist). But alas he’s left his wallet at the fat girl’s house, and it happens to have the really, really special wedding rings in it, so it absolutely must be gotten back (sorry, not buying it). So then Paul Giamatti not only sneaks into a biker’s house, but into his bedroom while he’s fucking the fat girl, who just mere moments before fucked the actor, and Giamatti grabs the wallet and runs out with the naked biker running after him. Did I get all of this straight? Oscar-winner, Best Adapted Screenplay, 2004, huh? I don’t need to suspend my disbelief, I need to suspend my utter boredom and contempt.
And I don’t know about you, but all of that pretentious wine talk makes me feel like Woody Allen standing in line in front of the pontificating asshole in Annie Hall and wishing he had a sock filled with horse manure. Does every glass of wine have to have a dozen weary adjectives to go with it? Beguiling. Mysterious. Just get your nose out of your glass (which is both gross and unsanitary), drink your fucking wine and shut up!
For 99% of the population, drinking a lot of wine, just like drinking a lot of beer or whiskey, doesn’t make you a “connoisseur” or a poet like Dylan Thomas, it makes you a stupid drunk. That’s what these two characters in Sideways are, and all the adjective-slinging doesn’t hide the fact that they’re weak, poorly-drawn characters in an even weaker screenplay, the points of which are: recognize when a beautiful woman is coming onto you, and fuck everything before marriage. Neither point is valid, realistic or interesting.
Had I said this a year ago, even my own mother would have probably gotten mad at me. Now, luckily, it doesn’t matter anymore. Sideways is just one more fairly recent lame-fuck movie in a seemingly endless barrage of them.
Good or bad, I suppose they must give their silly Oscars to something, or they’ll just have call the whole thing off. But Sideways should not be in the same company as other Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars, like Midnight Cowboy and The Godfather. Perhaps it was one of the best films of 2004, but that doesn’t actually make it good.