Sunday, October 31, 2004

Sideways (IMDB) (Netflix)
Paul Giamatti (American Splendor) is Miles, an Everyschlub wine snob still binding his wounds after a divorce and dying a slow creative death as he tries to get his novel published, and Thomas Haden Church (yes, Lowell Mather from Wings) is his bad-boy actor buddy about to get married for the first time. They head up to the Santa Barbara wine country for a last bachelor go-around of wine-tasting and golf. Comedic and transformational situations ensue.

And they're extremely enjoyable situations—I can't remember an audience having a better time at the movies. There's something about the bi-play between these two incompatible guys that's irresistable, with juicy, funny dialog ("if the girls want to drink Merlot, we're drinking Merlot") giving two natural comedic actors ample, high-quality material. Along the way, they meet Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen, and Madsen in particular gives the movie some essential grounding, and a fine performance in the bargain.

"Sideways" will be on many, many top 10 lists this year.