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A Backward Glance at ‘Sideways’

Three-quarters of the way through a long, unpleasant nose-drinking contest.Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures


Monday night I’m going to be introducing a screening of Sideways at Brooklyn’s Donna da Vine wine bar (378 Atlantic Ave.) at 8 p.m. I especially want to talk about the movie because a certain powerful critic (I won’t name him, but two of his initials are “A” and “O”) wrote a cheap, sleazy, opportunistic, and altogether scurrilous column to the effect that the film was acclaimed as intensely as it was because critics tend to be, like Sideways’ protagonist, pudgy, elitist, misanthropic alcoholics with no lives and not the faintest hope of snaring a dishy blonde like Virginia Madsen. To which I say, “Yes, but …”

The “but” I shall elucidate at the lovely Donna da Vine — and as a bonus I’ll interview the owner-sommelier, Alyssa Becker, on the subject of why she has always been bored by Pinot Noir in particular and Burgundy in general. (Incidentally, no Pinot Noir will be sold, but there will be Merlot.)

Needless to say, I think Alyssa is bonkers. I once — in the early nineties, a decade before the novel Sideways — embarked on my own Central California Pinot Noir–tasting odyssey to drown sundry disappointments. Perhaps novelist Rex Pickett was in those tasting rooms.

Sideways is great, though, for reasons other than my own obsessions. It’s a meditation — like so many these days, some of them directed and/or produced by Judd Apatow — on the American male’s quest to hold on to (or regress to) the irresponsibility of childhood. More Monday, after a few glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon.

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