Thursday, April 14, 2005

Scroll down for a Sideways mini-review, past the Thai chilli obsession

I had a great late-night plate of pad kee maw (a very pleasant fallout of going with Em for his Zankou chicken fix) but now I'm so stuffed. I've officially decided that the Thais are the chilli champions of the world, better than Koreans, better than Mexicans, better than Sumatrans, certainly better than wimpy Bengalis and heck, even better than residents of coastal Andhra. Now that's some feat, considering the coastal Andhra sambhar (lentil soup) comes with a layer of very innocuous looking red flakes floating on top.....till you eat a bit..and..ignore the soup for the rest of your meal. No, the Thais are a league apart, and I'm befuddled, and the only way I can explain this is that portions in Thailand must be considerably smaller and many of the dishes eaten as moderate amounts of condiments with copious amounts of rice. Don't know if that's true.

So finally last night, after much deferrment, we got to see "Sideways". I really liked the movie, perhaps I'm biased, because I didn't think the soft near-sepia tones for the California wine country were over-flattering at all. Actually they seemed quit true to life, and reminded me of the time we missed a freeway entrance and drove a few miles through very misty and eeriely beautiful Castroville, Artichoke Capital of the World, rows and rows of artichokes interspersed with white-flower meadows, a short distance away from Monterey Bay. The little detours through Santa Barbara agricultural land with the vineyards visible in a distance, past a long-forgotten town with supposedly the best split-pea soup in the world.

I loved the scale of the film, it made everything seem so accessible, taking the scenic route everywhere, rather than the faster, straighter, dismal freeway. It was easy to take an interest in the characters, and yet they did not offer themselves bluntly, but revealed themselves over the course of the film. I fully empathise with the anguish felt by admirers of the movie about the Oscar snub for Paul Giamatti. I don't know how much of his own personality he brings to the character, but his passion for wine, his depression, his inability to make himself emotionally available are so convincingly potrayed by Giamatti, that the only reason for the Oscar lookover might be that he was a bit too "real", too much of a natural.

Of course the initial interest in the movie for us was sparked by it being the work of Mr. Director, and certainly, he is a fine practitioner of his craft. I respect Emil's opinion on films and filmmaking immensely, and he said it was one of the best films he has seen in recent times. He said there were shades of Francesco Rosi here, and I too felt that it evoked Rosi's very evocative "Three Brothers" (Tre Fratelli). Em felt that the film worked because it made the mundane, quotidian very interesting and I agree. The only thing that Em and I were slightly unhappy with (only slightly, otherwise the movie was great) was the ending. I guess Payne was working for some sort of closure, which for us was provided in the scene where Miles drinks the finest wine in his collection. It was a perfect scene, and could have been a very satisfying end to a very happy film. Ah well, even with a slight flaw, it is probably the best movie I have seen all year and I look forward to following Payne's career in the years to come.


Blogger Urmea said...

I have become a wimp - I could not even finish my plate of som-tum at the Songkran festivities at the Wat-Thai because it was too spicy for me... [hangs head in shame]

2:52 PM  
Blogger Urmea said...

Oh, and Giamatti was so robbed!!!

2:53 PM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

That som tum by the way is quite notorious, more than one chilli warrior has been humbled before. But I think I've definitely become more wimpy about jhaal in 5 years.

The only consolation for me with regard to Giamatti is that it would be a pity for him to occupy a hall of fame filled with the likes of "Titanic".

7:38 PM  
Blogger Vishnupriya said...

loved sideways. i think virginia madsen is one of the most beautiful women around now, and i mean beautiful in a real kind of way. and i love pinot too :).

1:34 AM  
Blogger thalassa_mikra said...

You thought so too? So did I. I thought that warm luminous quality that she had was just so breathtaking. And she looks like that in real life as well, because I checked in the award shows!

I don't think I've had too many glasses of pinot. The usual is merlot or cab, but in the interests of the boyfriend's nationalistic fervour, I've checked out a lot of Greek wine lately. Maybe I should do a post sometime about why wine snobbery puts me off.

12:26 PM  
Blogger Vishnupriya said...

greek wine! that should be interesting. i didnt know they were a grapegrowing nation. shows just how much i know.

11:26 PM  
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11:50 PM  

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