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A wine tasting road trip to salute Jack's final days as a bachelor careens woefully sideways as he and Miles hit the gas en route to mid-life crises. The comically mismatched pair, who share little more than their history and a heady blend of failed potential and fading youth, soon find themselves drowning in wine and women. Emerging from a haze of pinot noir, wistful yearnings and trepidation about the future, the two inevitably collide with reality.
For more about Sideways and the Sideways Blu-ray release, see Sideways Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on February 5, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 5.0 out of 5.
Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Marylouise Burke, Jessica Hecht
» See full cast & crew
Sideways Blu-ray Review
Warning: Do not drink Merlot while watching this film.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, February 5, 2009
In a day and age where absurd comedy seems to be preferred by many audiences, it can become difficult to find those special little films that manage to marry intelligence and wit with genuinely heartfelt and inspired storytelling. Amongst contemporary filmmakers, one man in particular stands out from the pack of the most reliably astute producers of such films. Having written and directed the strangely endearing comedic classics Election, About Schmidt and Citizen Ruth, Alexander Payne continually delivers films that balance subversive and understated humor with a subtle understanding of fear, longing and sadness. Mr. Payne's most recent feature, Sideways, further solidifies his talents for creating monumentally funny and unconventional films that never shy away from genuine emotion.
Divorced, broke, struggling to find a publisher for his novel and frustrated with his life as an English teacher, Miles (Paul Giamatti) finds his only true solace in the form of the countless bottles of wine that he spends his days drinking and obsessing over. On the eve of his best friend Jack's (Thomas Haden Church) wedding, the two life-long buddies head out to California's Santa Barbara County for a few days of golf, vineyard tours, wine and, hopefully, women. Jack has his own set of issues to contend with; he's a past-his-prime television actor whose career has slowly faded. He's convinced that one last fling will satisfy him enough to commit to his looming marriage. As their trip progresses, Miles finds himself taken by a beautiful waitress named Maya (Virginia Madsen); she shares his passion for wine while appealing to his intellect. Jack, on the other hand, attracts a vineyard worker, Stephanie (Sandra Oh), who might not know exactly what Jack's intentions are. Fueled by the drunken haze of limitless wine, Jack and Miles stumble their way through a series of encounters in Santa Barbara and into an endless stream of embarrassing situations. Will this supposed last hurrah fizzle out?
Sideways is a tricky, sneaky movie. The film performs an effortless balancing act by presenting scene after scene of comic brilliance while continually weaving an undercurrent of pain, loss, depression and anxiety into the proceedings. That might sound pretty unpleasant, but Mr. Payne does a phenomenal job of never pushing his screenplay or actors into over-the-top moments that might take away from the natural unfolding of the plot. He keeps the film light enough, when necessary, to ensure that the movie's laugh-out-loud moments help to relieve instances of dramatic heft. It's breathtaking to take in and subsequent viewings help to uncover the film's many intricate layers.
Both Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church deliver career-defining performances in Sideways. Mr. Church is, perhaps, the biggest surprise of the bunch; prior to this role, he'd only been known as a television actor whose most prominent role was in the long-defunct series "Wings." As Jack, he completely embodies the character's likeable outward demeanor while never underselling his deeply childish tendencies. Mr. Church's performance clearly made an impression; he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the 2005 Oscars, won a large number of critic's association awards and an Independent Spirit Award while sharing Screen Actor's Guild honors with the entire ensemble from the film.
One of the great joys of experiencing Sideways lies in observing Miles' cleverly elitist behavior. Miles is a character filled with self-loathing and a complete lack of self-esteem. He compensates for these shortcomings by lashing out at others in sarcastic and snobbish ways, though he always adds humor in order to protect himself from angry rebuttals. Being a behavior that many of us have have witnessed in real-life, this essential detail has the dual benefit of adding a tangible touch of realism to Miles' tortured existence while serving as the source of many of Sideways' most hilarious scenes.
I'm thrilled to have added Sideways to my Blu-ray collection. It's among the funniest films of the last decade; never sacrificing character or plot for cheap laughs or contrived scenarios. If you've never seen Sideways, do yourself a favor and watch the movie as soon as humanly possible, preferably with a nice glass of Pinot Noir. You won't regret it.
Sideways Blu-ray, Video Quality
Intentionally shot in moderately soft focus while featuring a somewhat bland color palette, Sideways has never been a particularly lush-looking film. Given the film's extremely low budget (by Hollywood standards) it should come as no surprise that Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael shot the film as simply and naturally as possible. There's no CGI, camera trickery or telecine tweaking in Sideways and the entire films looks natural and unadulterated.
Colors are generally muted with the occasional splash of bright primaries. Skin-tones are a bit washed out and black levels can, at times, appear slightly crushed. Much of the film takes place indoors and at night; the film's use of natural light renders these scenes particularly dark and black levels excel in these instances. Digital compression issues are, thankfully, absent from this Blu-ray. I didn't detect any edge enhancement, macroblocking, ringing or noise; fortunately the film's fine grain structure is apparent throughout. In comparing this Blu-ray release to the previous DVD releases of Sideways, it is clear that colors, detail and overall clarity are greatly improved. The best thing about this Blu-ray edition is that Sideways finally looks like it was shot on film. The DVD version is far too smooth and its limited resolution eliminates most of the grain that adds essential texture to the look of the film. For those that appreciate the appearance of actual film, Sideways is sure to please. Recommended!
Sideways Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As the catalog of available Blu-ray films continues to increase, films featuring fewer explosions and less surround action will become more commonplace. Fans of explosive soundtracks have been spoiled up to this point as studios have concentrated on demo material as a priority in their Blu-ray release schedules. While there will always be plenty of action films to satisfy that market, there are far more films like Sideways; films that focus on dialogue over machine guns and quiet moments over momentary quiet.
Sideways is all about dialogue. It's a comedy / drama and no one has to fire a gun or ride in a helicopter during the duration of the film. As such, what this Blu-ray will provide is a perfectly realized 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio soundtrack that never wavers in its attention to making sure that every line is clearly heard. Those expecting anything else will be disappointed as Sideways sounds like it is supposed to.
Sideways Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
- Feature-length Audio Commentary with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
I wish that I could report that Sideways arrived on Blu-ray with a wealth of supplements. Unfortunately, that's just not the case. On the bright side, however, the limited features that did make it into the final product are better than average. The highlight of the set is the feature-length audio commentary featuring stars Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti. It's a tremendously entertaining track; both men recount various escapades on the set of the film while managing to sound like real friends in the process. Seven deleted scenes are also included; most are lengthened scenes from the film and none carry much weight, but it is always informative to see the impact that editing can make on a completed film. Finally, a short behind-the-scenes featurette is included. I didn't find it to be particularly enlightening, but some viewers might find it interesting.
Sideways Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sideways is a remarkable film. It explores some pretty dark territory while accenting Miles' downward spiral of self-doubt and loneliness with a genuinely subtle and intelligent sense of humor. Regardless of whether or not you happen to be a wine drinker, the film offers highly original storytelling and remarkable performances that continue to resonate to this day. Fox brings Sideways to Blu-ray replete with a video transfer that is a little underwhelming yet completely accurate to the film's theatrical exhibition. The audio presentation is subtle and front-loaded, yet remains consistent with the soundtrack's original intentions. Supplements, on the whole, are lacking in volume but excel in the quality department. Sideways is a film that I've cherished for quite some time. I sincerely hope that cinema aficionados who have yet to see this wonderful movie will give it a chance; it's a truly great film that deserves to be seen. Sideways easily earns my highest recommendation.
Sideways: Other Editions
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Sideways Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - February 3rd - February 3, 2009
Kevin Smith is living the dream. His first film, 'Clerks', which he both wrote and directed, was made for under $30,000, yet managed to make 100 times that at the box office. Since then, he continues to write and direct his own films, has seen relative box office ...
• Sideways Blu-ray Gets Detailed - December 2, 2008
Fox Home Entertainment has revealed the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Sideways', which is due to hit store shelves on February 3rd. This critically acclaimed comedy will come on a BD-50 featuring 1.85:1 1080p AVC accompanied ...
• Fox Makes Little Miss Sunshine and Sideways Official - November 20, 2008
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the two comedies 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'Sideways' to Blu-ray on February 3rd. Both of these titles were previously listed with retailers, and had remained unofficial announcement until ...
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