Friday, April 15, 2005

Hollywood is ‘Sideways’

Mrs. Dueler and I recently had a few hours of free time to see the movie Sideways. I was dreading it a little because it appeared to have a little too much of a chick-flick vibe. I was right to dread it, but it wasn’t a chick flick. Since I don’t advocate you spending your money on seeing Sideways, I’m going to spoil the plot here.

The movie examines a depressed and struggling writer/English teacher from San Diego taking his actor buddy (the groom) on an extended bachelor party road trip to Central California wine country. Sideways spends all of its time on the author's inability to confront his personal problems while simultaneously glorifying the actor's devious lasciviousness in the face of his impending wedding. All through the movie, my wife and I kept hoping that the writer/teacher would make a good decision about something. It was apparently too much to hope for that he would recognize his expertise in wine and devote his talents to becoming a bona-fide wine critic. But he never did that – he just kept focusing on how much of a pathetic failure he was, grasping for contentment in the arms of a woman he barely knows. We also hoped that the actor would get a dose of karma for deceiving his fiancée and his lustful conquests. He received said dose, but somehow a broken nose as a result of a deliberate roundhouse to the face by a motorcycle helmet wasn’t enough.

I couldn’t help but start contrasting Sideways with one of the best movies I’ve seen recently, In America. If In America is about ordinary people doing the right thing in spite of overwhelmingly difficult circumstances, Sideways is about selfish people doing the wrong thing under ideal circumstances. It is self-indulgence to the awkward extreme. Even the choice of main characters screams egotistical Hollywood Insider – who would have guessed that the movie would be about and actor and a writer? Sideways did have one good point - its cinematographic representation of the lazy autumnal amber-hued atmosphere of California Wine Country provided a soothing respite from the movie’s general discomfort.

Mind you, I don’t particularly have a problem with a person participating in the making of a movie like Sideways, nor do I have a problem with somebody’s right to enjoy the movie. However, I reserve the right to hold a low opinion of their character. What I am most disheartened about, though, is the awards and accolades the movie received, i.e. two Oscar nominations and a couple of Golden Globe awards. Those awards and accolades demonstrate just how far Hollywood has strayed from recognizing decent and timeless human values and how inwardly-focused it has become.

Hollywood used to understand the inherent dignity of doing the right thing, especially doing the right thing “in spite of it all.” Instead, it usually celebrates negative human qualities. It's one thing to recognize one's own inadequacies and shortcomings. It's quite another to then accept, rationalize, and finally glorify them. The critical realization of desiring to overcome one’s shortcomings has been nullified by Hollywood, and therefore much of contemporary culture. I fear that a profoundly damaging event is the only thing that will cause Hollywood, and American Culture in general, to re-cognize that striving to be a good and decent person (and to avoid evil) really is a timeless human value.

1 comment:

Major Mike said...

I couldn't agree wife and daughter are wanting to see "In America" again. Your analysis is right on...great comparison. MM