Alexander Payne’s Election is among my favorite movies of the last 10 years, and combine that with the universal critical favor that Sideways received, and I went in with some pretty high expectations. And went out feeling, “Eh, it was pretty good.” Sideways goes a baby step beyond About Schmidt (which my dad dubbed About Nothing), by being about almost-nothing. When the movie ends, neither the characters nor story have significantly developed.
What’s to like about the film? Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church’s acting. Both provide stellar performances. What’s not to like? The filmcraft — I haven’t seen a movie as riddled with cliches (shaky-camera for drunkenness, soft light sunset wine country picnic scenes, a score that telegraphs emotions) in a long time. I was also disappointed that the film contains not one single narrative surprise–everything plays out exactly as you expect it would from the moment you meet these two folks.
So, even though I liked it, I found the film disappointing. That’ll learn me to have expectations.
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles proved a far more enjoyable cinematic experience. It takes a surprising while to get going (there’s a lot of setup — superheroes, who marry, who are banished by an enraged public, who attempt to “fit in” to normal society, who are then called back into action), but once it does, it rip-roars through an exciting second half. It replaced the laconic, easy-going charm of his The Iron Giant with more Pixar-friendly deadpan style, where amazing things happen all around you and people don’t react all that strongly. It’s also a quality feel-good movie, and it has plenty of laughs. I went to see it at a theater filled with children, and some of the scenes were too intense for the younger ones — there are images of death, and the evil machine can be rather frightening.