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Oenophilia (pronounced roughly eh-no-fill-ee-uh), originally from Greek, is the love of wine. Therefore, an oenophile is a lover of wine.

Sideways oenophile slang for getting drunk to the point of recklessness or, in less poetic terminology, to go out and get shitfaced.

Whether I am â"drinking" this movie in solely to chase the blues away or drinking it to get high on life, the week long excursion of two friends depicted in Alexander Payne's Sideways still gets me joyously drunk. The 2004 sleeper hit film is pure beauty; representing life as viewed through the sun-distorted prisms in an empty bottle of Château Cheval Blanc (picture an overturned paper cup next to it).

Based upon Rex Pickett's novel, Sideways is the story of failed novelist and depressed oenophile, Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), and his attempt to treat his long-time friend, Jack Lopate (Thomas Hayden Church), a washed-out soap opera star, to a week long trip through Santa Ynez Valley wine country. It is Miles' wedding gift to the nearly-married Paul, but it also serves as Miles' escape from a two-year depression on account of his failed marriage to Victoria, whom he still loves. Paul is the exact opposite of Miles; he is happy, he doesn't reflect or question his desires. He is an animal and embraces that side of him. He is impulsive and challenges Miles to shake things up when he discovers that Miles also carries a torch for Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress at Miles' favorite restaurant in the valley. The excitement begins, though, when Paul reveals to Miles that he is on the trek through wine country not for the wine testing, but to â"get my nut off" and that Miles â"better not ruin it" for him. Enter Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a friend of Maya's who works at a winery. Stephanie becomes Paul's last fling during the trip and neither of the men tells her that Paul will be married soon.

With the characters, conflicts and storylines introduced, Sideways takes off with moments of maddening beauty (note the picnic scene at sunset) and, at times, a gentle sway that revels in both humor (through the sexual escapades of Paul) and quiet reflection (Maya's eloquent waxing of wine's many qualities). For Miles, the tipping point arrives when Paul mentions to him (fairly early on) that Victoria (Miles' ex-wife) is getting re-married. This simple fact sends Miles into a fury of confusion as he wrestles with the news. After Paul's pending marriage is revealed to the ladies, he succumbs to his imbalance of emotion and explodes burying his failures as a husband, a son, and a writer in countless rages against the properties of Merlot. Giamatti is genius in this role; he is soft-spoken when he needs to be and furiously raging when events spiral out of control and he cannot tolerate his chosen company (or his own actions) anymore; Giamatti depicts this tragic fracture from the subtlest of mannerisms straight into the loudest without false notes. Perhaps the gentlest and toughest of moments for the actor is when he reacts to the news of his ex-wife's pregnancy; the look on his face is testimony to his talent as an actor and still brings tears to the eyes.

Sideways, at this point, seems to be Payne's crowning achievement and considering its placement after Election and About Schmidt it is his best work. We are still waiting to hear from him with word on a follow-up. In the meantime, it is no lie to suggest that his work with these actors in these roles is impressive, memorable, and worth revisiting, much like the wine country of California, again and again.


Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean

Language and Sound: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; Spanish: DTS 5.1; French: DTS 5.1; Portuguese: DTS 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; commentary; deleted scenes; behind the scenes featurette; trailers.

Supplements:

* Commentary
o Feature-length commentary track with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church
* Featurettes
o Behind-the-scenes featurette
* Deleted Scenes

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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