‘Sideways’ overrated or praiseworthy? | AspenTimes.com

‘Sideways’ overrated or praiseworthy?

Stewart Oksenhorn

New York Times film critic A.O. Scott, in exposing “Sideways” as the most overrated film of the year, opined that critics have warmed to the film because the protagonist, Miles Raymond, has the mind of a critic. Miles speaks about his favorite topic, wine, in the lofty, bewildering terms that do tend to separate the casual observer from the professional critic.Scott, though she may have a point about why critics have taken so warmly to “Sideways,” appears to make up a minority of one. Critics’ societies from Seattle to New York to Chicago to Europe have all named “Sideways” the best film of 2004.On its surface, “Sideways” appears an unlikely object for such unanimous affection. In its structure, the film – from director Alexander Payne and screenwriter Jim Taylor, the team behind “About Schmidt” and “Election” – is simplicity itself: Miles and his old college buddy, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), send Jack off into married life with a romp through the wine country near Santa Barbara. There are few outright twists in the story; Miles and Jack drink, bicker, lament – and hook up with two local hotties (Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh).So “Sideways” must survive on the strength of its dialogue, its character revelations and its ruefully humorous observations on life. Which it does. Miles is exposed as a compromised weakling, Jack as an even worse cad. But “Sideways” exposes its flawed, everyday Joes with such affection and honesty that they attain the status of heroes.”Sideways” opened this weekend at Aspen’s Stage 3 Theatres.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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