Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Self-Portrait in a Sideways Mirror

And just as there are no words for the surface, that is,
No words to say what it really is, that it is not
Superficial but a visible core, then there is
No way out of the problem of pathos vs. experience.
You will stay on, restive, serene in
Your gesture which is neither embrace nor warning
But which holds something of both in pure
Affirmation that doesn’t affirm anything.
--John Ashbery

I’ve been meaning to write something about Sideways for months—ever since I saw it and loved it like so many others. Full disclosure is necessary here: I live in Santa Barbara, have been going to our county’s wine futures sales all ten years that I’ve lived here and have tasted my way around the beautiful back roads many a weekend. It’s one of the things I like best about living here, even if my expanding waistband might not always agree. Even better, the wine production is small enough that you can even get to know the winemakers (OK, make “know” “meet”), so it has that farmers’ market feel to it. I really value the idea of knowing where the grapes are from and who turned them into wine and that land and science and art all have to meet in a bottle. (And one of my running jokes is that Disney’s California Adventure park needs to open a wine ride called the Tower of Terroir….when you crash to the basement you end up in Temecula covered with glassy winged sharpshooters.)

Sure the film is far from perfect. The montage sequences are almost too Tourism Bureau approved (are they meant to be parodies of the ones from the 1970s, and if so, why?). No one keeps his wedding rings in his wallet; Jack doesn’t even need them on the trip, except to give the film its final act. The film romances alcoholism a tad, too, but I suppose no one is going to think Miles is such an appealing character that you should be like him, even if he has enough good sense to dump the spit bucket on himself at the tourist trap Frass Canyon (which is actually Fess Parker Winery, land of bus tours, mediocre wines, coonskin cap wine toppers, and a too-rich owner who continually tries to force projects way too big onto the Santa Barbara waterfront).

Of course, I personally have a tender spot for a 40 year old man who realizes that a mediocre, regular life is the best he can hope for and thereby develops a cultish knowledge of wine to justify drinking so much of it. Jeez, I went to grad school years ago with dreams of writing the next “Sunday Morning” and now I write a blog. ("Sunday Morning" by Stevens, not Velvets—my lack of musical talent is a whole ’nother kettle I’ll have to put to the metal sometime.) Luckily I have a good marriage and don't drink quite as much as Miles, but still it's easy to find poignancy in a guy who has to call his impossible novel The Day after Yesterday because Today is too uncomfortable.

Then there’s A.O. Scott’s backlash piece on the film. His theory is that film critic dweebs (a group I’m not even quite part of, so that makes me a wannadweeb?) read themselves into Miles and therefore over-praise the film as it suggests they could land Virginia Madsen (and even her casting is a kind of coup for that, as I'm sure there are critics who felt all along she had a Maya in her while she did all those B pictures).

But if that's true, shouldn't critics love The Brown Bunny too? I mean, Victor Gallo is obnoxious and pretentious like many critics, and what critic wouldn't want to project himself into that scene with Chloe Sevigny?

Oh well. See the film, drink Santa Barbara wines, and don’t be jealous that I actually own 4 magnums of Hitching Post pinot noir (only because I go into a sort of fugue state at silent auctions for good causes). This NPR story on the phenomenom of the movie is quite good, and that Frank Ostini is a really nice guy who makes killer wines and killer grilled artichokes.

If you’re interested in other fine SB County wines not in the film, be on the hunt for Au Bon Climat, Qupé, Longoria, Palmina, Stolpman, Jaffurs as a start.

And remember, don’t drink and blog: take the computer keys out of the slobbering one’s hands and offer to be a designated blogger. You don’t want to post anything you’ll regret in the morning, since the cyber-walk of shame is a painful one.


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker