Paynes Sideways works, any which way you look at it

Thursday, January 27, 2005

When Oscar nominations were announced Tuesday, there was a reason Sideways received a bundle of accolades.

Writer/director Alexander Paynes tale of two middle-age men who embark on a journey through Californias wine country is funny, touching and features perhaps the best ensemble work of any film in recent memory. And like fine wine, the movie ages well upon reflection.

Sideways follows Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), college friends who take a week-long odyssey to celebrate Jacks impending marriage.

Miles, a failed writer still coping with a harsh divorce, sees the trip as the chance to give his best friend one final sendoff before marriage. Jack, a former television star reduced to bit parts, sees the trip as a chance to have one last fling.

During the trip, they meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh) and Maya (Virginia Madsen). Stephanie is a single mom who immediately connects with Jack, and Maya, like Miles, is a divorcee still looking to piece her life back together. Jack keeps his wedding secret from the women, which only complicates both relationships.

Payne who also adapted the screenplay from Rex Picketts novel continues to establish himself as a major filmmaker, following his excellent work in Election and About Schmidt. His pacing may be too meticulous to some, but it is perfect for the material in Sideways.

The entire cast is fabulous and adds a great deal of depth to the film.

Churchs work is such a change from his character Lowell on the TV series Wings that it would be no surprise if he wins the supporting actor Oscar. Madsen might make it a Sideways double in the supporting category with her best work in years. Oh has some solid moments as well.

But it is Giamatti who stands out even if the Academy chose to snub him of a nomination.

The 37-year-old character actor has developed an underappreciated portfolio with great work in American Splendor, Duets, and even Private Parts, but this may be his most complete work yet. Its hard to imagine anyone else playing Miles, because Giamatti captures the pain and agony of the character so well.

Giamattis work alone is enough to recommend the film. When you throw in the work of the rest of the cast, its enough to take Sideways to a level few films in 2004 were able to match.

Discount dandy of the week

This weeks discount dandy is Blade: Trinity (B-), which is probably about as far from Sideways as it gets when it comes to style of filmmaking.

Still, Blade has such a perverse tone that it works. Its the perfect example of mindless popcorn fluff, complete with bloody action sequences that are more impressive for their sheer goofiness than their thrills and spills.

This third installment of the popular vampire series picks up with the title character teaming up with a group of renegade vampire hunters, including Hannibal (Ryan Reynolds), a former vampire, and Abigail (Jessica Biel), the daughter of Blades mentor, Whistler.

The trio is tracking down a group of vampires (indie-film queen Parker Posey and WWE wrestler Triple H are among them) who have resurrected Dracula and plan to use him to take over the world.

Director David S. Goyer doesnt really concern Blade with too many silly details a coherent plot, for instance choosing to instead smother the film with a mixture of musical fight montages (most featuring at least one overly dramatic slow-motion sequence) and corny one-liners (many times delivered by the former Van Wilder Reynolds).

Ill admit, in most cases this is the formula for disaster, but there was a point in Blade: Trinity that I just gave up and enjoyed the film for what it was: mind-numbingly violent, yet entertaining.

Blade: Trinity opens Friday at the Plaza 6, where all movies are $1.50.

Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton, whose idea of a perfect movie involves vampires who discover the meaning of life while touring the California wine country, can be reached via e-mail at mcompton@bgdailynews.com.  Daily News ·813 College St. ·PO Box 90012 ·Bowling Green, KY ·42102 ·270-781-1700 

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