I doubt ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSidewaysÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â will win Best Picture, but maybe it should.
One of director Alexander PayneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s goals is to return American films to the glory days of the 1970s. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSidewaysÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â is PayneÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s best film yet and it accomplishes that goal of reminding us of what American films have lost in the last thirty years. Specifically, Payne shines a light on character and ignores spectacle.
ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s rare to see a film where the two main characters are so pathetic and even despicable, yet so endearingly human that you end up pulling for them anyway. I went into the screening this weekend firmly resistant to relating to Paul GiamattiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s character, Miles, but ended getting choked up more than once during the filmÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âan effort to look bold in front of my wife was the only thing that kept me from actually blubbering. Many of the films of 70s had the same unflinching attitude toward showing a characterÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s humanity through their flaws and Miles and Jack fit the bill. However, what makes Payne such a promising filmmaker is that heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s not only interested in turning the clock back, heÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s also committed to intense emotional moments that give his main characters (and by extension humanity) a shot at redemption. Both ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œAbout SchmidtÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â and ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSidewaysÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â deliver a dose of hope at the end.
Giamatti, by the way, was robbed by the Academy and is way more deserving of an Oscar than a number of the nomineesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Âthis is clearly the sad result of a sort of glamorism, for a lack of a better word, among Academy voters. Giamatti may not be good-looking, but when Miles runs into his ex-wife at the end of the film, you see a whole lifetime of missed opportunity pass through his eyes and Giamatti doesnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t have to say a word. ItÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s a remarkable performance.
GiamattiÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s supported here by Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen who unlike Giamatti had their work recognized by the Academy. TheyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢re both extremely deserving. MadsenÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s monologue about the evolving nature of wine is enchanting. ChurchÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s comic timing and misguided lust for life drive the story and the passive Miles forward. His contribution was invaluable. I expect Church to win an award. Madsen faces tougher competition, but also has a decent shot. Kudos to Payne for casting actors that look like real people and are neither drop dead gorgeous, or well enough known yet to be surrounded by years of audience expectations about what they should bring to a performance.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œSidewaysÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â will probably not win Best Picture, but it should have a lock on the Best Adapted Screenplay award, which is often a better indicator of what the best picture of the year is than the actual Best Picture.