Monday, March 11, 2024


 by Adam Riske

Nominated for “Best Picture” at the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards. It lost to The Aviator.

• Best Scene/Moment: The conversation between Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen that starts about why they’re both into wine and it becomes about them describing themselves instead.

• Best Song (tie): “Picnic” by Rolfe Kent and “Symbiosis: 2nd Movement (Largo-Andante-Maestoso-Largo, Pt. 1” by Bill Evans.
• Best Merch: A “Movie Ticket Stub Sideways November 5, 2004” for $18.10. It goes to show how weak the merch for Sideways was when the best (okay, maybe just funniest) thing you could buy is some random person’s faded ticket stub from when they saw the movie in 2004. Good luck with this posting, buddy.

• Writer/Director Grade: Sideways was directed (and co-written) by Alexander Payne. My first Alexander Payne movie was Election, which is still my favorite of his filmography although I think Sideways and The Holdovers are very strong in their own right. The Descendants is solid too. Payne movies sometimes leave me cold (such as Citizen Ruth, About Schmidt and Nebraska) despite me recognizing their quality. Payne is one of those directors where I’m never excited about his next new movie, but I’m reminded I’m more into his films than I initially thought when I watch them. He’s good with actors and comedy and I love that he’s one of the few remaining filmmakers who make movies about regular people under identifiable, ordinary circumstances. Overall Grade: A-

• Double It with This 2004 Movie: Spanglish

• Year 2004 Movies to Trailer Before Them: Before Sunset, Laws of Attraction, Shall We Dance?

Color of Night or Sideways? Sideways.
• Mall Movie? Nope. This is independent cinema gold. Those play at the fancy theater in town. This might make it to the mall after the Oscars and before it hits DVD.

• Only in 2004: Believing wine would become a major part of my adult life.

• Scene Stealer: Thomas Haden Church.

• I Miss: When you could go to the movies on any given day and see something about adults doing regular people stuff.

• I Don’t Miss: When I would have to drive to Chicago or Evanston to see indie cinema because it would take weeks to make it out to a nearby suburb.

• 2004 Crush: Sandra Oh.

• 2024 Crush: Sandra Oh.
• What I Thought in 2004: I loved it. In 2004 it was between Sideways, The Aviator, and Million Dollar Baby for my favorite movie of the year.

• What I Think in 2024: Sideways is still really good but in hindsight I might like it a little bit less than before. Not that there’s anything wrong with Sideways, but it felt more like a good road trip romantic comedy to me on this viewing than an all-time classic. The performances are terrific, with Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen getting roles of a lifetime and it’s still baffling how Paul Giamatti didn’t get nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for what might be his best performance (although The Holdovers gives this a run for its money). Sideways remains a poignant, very funny, and pleasant watch even if it’s no longer among my very favorite movies of 2004. To be fair, I don’t think Million Dollar Baby or The Aviator are either.


  1. When Revenge of the Sith was about to come out, Finnkino (Finnish theater chain) hosted an event for people queueing for tickets where they kept the theater open all night until the tickets came on sale in the morning. I saw three movies with my friends that night, Kingdom of Heaven, Sideways, and Hide and Seek. There were maybe ten people seeing Sideways at 4 am, and about halfway through one of them stood up, yelled "Holy fuck this is boring" and walked out.

    My most enduring memory of this movie.

  2. After Sideways was released, people stopped telling me I reminded them of Richard Dreyfus in Mr Holland’s Opus and started telling me I reminded them of Paul Giamatti in Sideways…

  3. Good timing with this review....with all the recent, incredibly well deserved, attention to Mr Giamatti, a thought hit me a few weeks ago. A thought about him and this movie. So off to google i went....

    "Did the movie Sideways negatively affect the sales of Merlot?"

    If the interwebs are to be believed, there WAS a dip of 2% and increase in Pinot Noir sales accordingly. Obviously its all silly conjecture and theres a zillion variables when it comes to the sales of any particular item. HOWEVER i know that ive bought far more Pinot than Merlot since watching and, more than once, chuckled at the thought of Giamatti yelling hes "NOT DRINKING F@#$ING MERLOT!".