Film review: Sideways (2004)

Love this film about friendship, about flawed but likeable characters, and how we encourage the ones we care about. We follow two middle age men presumably in their forties, Miles and Jack, who are on a road trip through California to celebrate Jacks last freedom before he’s to be married.

Sideways is a drama/comedy road movie. The title is a reference to the best way to store wine, on its side. And in some ways Miles is also lying down in life. He has never recovered mentally from the break-up of his marriage two years earlier.

The wine plays a symbolic role in the film, and reflects the mood of the characters. Miles feels like a Pinot, the potential of which is not revealed unless you take your time. Miles must learn to open his inner wine bottle, before its too late, his life lacks that spark, and he devotes his attention to having good taste, maybe to make himself more interesting towards the ladies. My favourite scene I can rewatch endlessly is between Miles and Maya, where they discuss wine after the dinner, here are some screenshots from my dvd:

Sideways was nominated for an oscar for best picture, didn't win, but won an academy award for best adapted screenplay based on a novel by Rex Pickett.

Alexander Payne is among my favourite directors, his films are so warm, smart, funny and rewatchable. The flawed characters have a genuine emotional core.

The two men realize that you can’t run away from who you are. It’s a journey of self-discovery. I think we laugh with them and not at them. An exploration of life, longing and second chances. The director makes us care about these two misfits who seem headed towards their own destructions.

Sideways is about the rewards of friendship and the frustrations of middle age. The director is tackling the gloom of modern mediocrity, and exposing weakness in a warm-hearted package. Although I still prefer About Schmidt, I think Sideways succeeds on every level. And I don’t hesitate calling it one of the best films of 2004.

I saw on the DVD that director Alexander Payne was looking to have cinematography like some of the movies from the 70s, which I can see now is similar to sun drenched images in Badlands or Harry and Tonto. Payne is not influenced so much by recent films, but older ones.

I’ve read that the film increased tourism in the Santa Ynez Valley, where parts of the story took place. They also believe it affected sales of wine mentioned in the script.



Readers, any thoughts on Sideways?

Songs for your iPod

Devon - Grimes

(Music is as beautiful as the picture)


All Come Down - Steve Mason

(what a nice discovery, I had to wade through a lot of crap, but it was worth it by finding this album)


I Let Her In (live) - Steve Mason

(Haunting acoustic ballad, you feel his emotions so clearly)

Readers, any thoughts on this week's music?

Film review: Look Both Ways (2005)

A heart-felt (and overlooked) Australian independent film that tackles the subject of death in a unique way. Death that for many people is difficult to put into words and talk about and deal with. But the film is not preachy, morbid or negative, quite the opposite!

Even though it’s a contemporary story, it has a timeless quality I think, as the story could take place anytime or anywhere in the world, and still mean something to people, because the subject matter is universal. About ordinary people dealing with death.

Stream-of-consciousness creative animation scenes worked well, I thought, as they give an insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking. But be warned, they are fast-paced and not for everyone, and will likely appeal more to the MTV generation. Apparently first time movie director Sarah Watt has been a writer-director of animation for 15 years. The last animation at the end of the film was the only one I thought should have been made like an ordinary scene.

The film can function for the viewer as a way of coming to terms with a person you have lost in your own life.

Seeing death in the newspaper reminded me of a powerful scene in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), where the couple listen to the car radio and are alarmed by all the violence in the world. It really does put you off following current events with all the death and destruction, why do we need to hear about all these negative news stories, they don’t make us happy or inspire us?

Look Both Ways has an ensemble feel to it like Magnolia or Short Cuts, but the multiple stories are told well enough that I got to know and care what happened to the main characters. Perhaps this approach was chosen, because people cope with death in many different ways?

I didn't think the film completed what happened to every character at the end, though, which is one of the few critical things I have to say.

And you should track down the soundtrack, really good!

Other films dealing with loss and death, which are OK, but not as good in my opinion: The seventh seal, On the edge, Imaginary heroes.

I give it an 8/10



Readers, any thoughts on Look Both Ways?

Songs for your iPod

(3 songs from 2010 that can help you cool off at work)

Emerald and stone - Brian Eno

(best track on the album for me, too bad it wasn’t longer!)


I L U - School of Seven Bells

(Reminds me of the Lost in translation soundtrack.)


Ramona – Beck

Desert Island CD Blogathon: 12 tracks from soundtracks

(Everyone seems to be participating in Castor's blogathon, so thought I'd join the party. I've been a bit lazy with the captions, so bear with me. 1-6 are instrumental. Songs 7-12 have lyrics. Hope you find some music you like. I'd love to hear from you, feel free to comment)

1.) The Staight Story - Angelo Badalamenti - Country Theme
(Simple and beautiful. Badalamenti is one of my fave soundtrack composers, his work with Lynch is exquisite)

2. ) Box of moonlight – opening credits instrumental
(I could listen to this melody all day)

3.) K-PAX soundtrack - Grand Central
(Beautiful soundscape about the mystery of space, so well-crafted)

4.) Edward Scissorhands - Danny Elfman - Ice Dance
(Danny Elfman was never better in my opinion)

5.) White Masai - end credits
(An underrated soundtrack. If you haven't seen the film, I suggest scrolling away from the video and just listening to the score)

6.) Crocodile Dundee - end credits
(You’ve gotta love that soundtrack)

7.) Lost Highway - David Bowie – I'm Deranged
(Another Lynch film. One of my favourite opening credits sequences, together with this amazing electro 90s song. Works so well with the story)

8.) Tower of song - Leonard Cohen & U2
(Debated whether to go with Everybody knows from Exotica, or Waiting for the Miracle from Natural born killers, in the end, I want to listen to this song today. )

9.) I'll Try Anything Once - The Strokes
(Loving the new soundtrack to Somewhere, I like Sofia Coppola's taste in music. The Lost in translation soundtrack is also great)

10.) Big Time - Peter Gabriel
(Kind of has that 80s vibe I love in Talking heads' This Must Be the Place from "Wall street"(1987). Inside job"(2010)is also about banking, so perhaps I'm on to something?)

11.) Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon - Urge Overkill
(Love the way he sings "girl". I can’t leave out Tarantino, his soundtrack choices defined a generation. I think Pulp Fiction is Quentin's best music compilation)

12.) High Fidelity - Bob Dylan - Most of the time
(I wish Dylan would make more songs like Most of the time. From Vanilla Sky I considered, 4th Time Around, after all, you know what they say, Cameron Crowe is a genius at putting a soundtrack together)

I'd love to hear from you, feel free to comment below

You might also be interested in my post: I liked the soundtrack better than the movie!

Funny Inspector Clouseau playing billiards

Songs for your iPod

Better times - Beach House

(Beach House is relaxing/easy-listening dream pop. This is my fave from their 2010 album)


Citizen - Broken Bells

(The singer from The Shins)


Our Deal – Best Coast

(I think overall the album was a bit overrated, but liked this track)

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

Songs for your iPod

(I found this music on breathingmovies’ personal website, thanks for recommending!)

Cloudy Shoes - Damien Jurado

(Track is a bit like Moby, I think. Also liked from album: Beacon hill, Rachel & Cali, and Arkansas)


Save Yourself – Sharon Van Etten


Cold Summer - Seabear

Readers, any thoughts on the music?

Film review: In A Better World (2010)

Winner of Golden Globe and Oscar for best foreign language film at the recent 2011 award shows. Really liked this film, will go on my year-end list. Stayed with me, which most of Susanne Bier’s films have, she is one of my favourite directors working today.

I recently reviewed a couple of Bier’s other films as a build up to watching this one, Open Hearts and After the Wedding, should you be interested, they are both favourites of mine.

Without giving away too much, In A Better World takes place in both Africa and Copenhagen. It’s about two young boys in Denmark of about 10-years-old who become friends. Their parents are going through some problems, which affects the boys. Christian having lost his mother at the start of the film, and also having a distant father means Christian has plenty of free time on his hands to do what he wants. Nobody is guiding him, so in a way he guides himself, he is struggling to know the difference between right and wrong. His behaviour may be a result of grief, it’s hard to know where his anger comes from. A sense of justice is what drives him. Elias, Christian’s friend, on the other hand, is not strong-willed, he is constantly bullied at school being called “rat face”.

Elias’ father (Mikael Persbrandt) works in Africa as a doctor, he has seen violence doesn’t lead to peace.

The film is about fighting on a small scale in Denmark, and if anything good can come from it. This is obviously a metaphor for war on a grand scale, where soldiers take revenge and kill, and it’s a vicious circle that never ends.

Mikael Persbrandt represents the non-violent pacifist approach. The film raises the question, should a doctor help an evil person, if saving them might lead to more violence? Doctors don’t really have a choice, who they treat, you could argue.

Questions what is strength and what is weakness among the two boys. It’s about the choice between pacifism and revenge. And how being strong can lead to power, and how doing nothing can make you look like a wimp, and does being a pacifist make a child respect their father less? Its original Danish title is Haevnen, which means "The Revenge".

As another blogger points out, the story is about peer pressure among the two boys to agree to do certain morally wrong actions because you value more the friendships that you develop in school than ethics that you have adopted during your upbringing. And are the parents there during critical moments when they are needed the most? Director Susanne Bier said: "Our experiment in this film is about looking at how little it really takes before a child – or an adult – thinks something is deeply unjust. It really doesn't take much, and I find that profoundly interesting. And scary.

Interestingly, the boy's name name Elias is from the Old Testament. If you know any more about this, please let me know!

Visually the film uses many close-ups so we feel really close to their emotional state of mind. I’m unsure why we see so many shots of the countryside near Copenhagen and from Africa, there’s no denying the beauty. Maybe it’s an invitation for tourists to go on holiday to those places? The peaceful images of nature are in stark contrast to the struggles going on in the character-driven scenes.

Susanne Bier talks about in an interview, that she finds it interesting to have an innocent boy incredibly powerful who poses a serious threat, because he is so angry. One of the notions was also to show we as human being are not that different in Africa and Copenhagen. The standard of living is obviously different. Bier wanted to make Mikael Persbrandt the focus of the film, because many people in the western world want to do good, but have a hard time figuring out their own life. Is it because we don’t want to deal with something in our own lives, or just a pure desire to help someone else? It’s probably a mix according to Bier, a theme she also explored in After the Wedding and to a certain extent in Brothers.
One of the themes of the movie is how you meet aggression, is revenge the right answer? Or not engaging in the aggression the answer? The film makes a point of making us understand our desire for justice, which revenge in its core is. After the film there is something to talk about. She has attempted to make a thriller type film that is also thoughtful. Bier doesn’t like message movies, because they insist on wanting to prove something which ideally might be right, but which in pragmatic terms is useless. It does not change that you would ideally work towards that, but you have to still be in the real world. She prefers to make a film that asks questions and debates themes, where we wonder what will happen to the characters after the credits.

And last but not least, great acting all around!



Readers, any thoughts on IN A BETTER WORLD?

Songs for your iPod

(Obscure, but a few good tunes on this acoustic-folk album from 2010)

Once in a great while - Nathaniel Rateliff

Boil & Fight - Nathaniel Rateliff

Happy Just To Be - Nathaniel Rateliff

Readers, any thoughts on the music?


Related Posts with Thumbnails