Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dear Youtube Team

I respectively request that the three videos I posted on December 11, 2013 be put back online.  These are the three videos titled "Blanc or Noir? A Sideways Film Analysis" (Parts 1 to 3).  These three videos are an analysis for educational use and should not be in violation of any copyright.  The material used from the movie is intended to educate and promote the film.  I never at any point, claim that the movie is my property in any way nor do I ever portray the movie negatively in any way.  Note that I have posted other similar videos where no such admonishment occured.  These videos have been online at youtube for over two and a half years.

If you do not agree with this, please inform me on what changes are necessary.  Do I need to modify my disclaimer?  Please understand that I have the highest respect for the movies I analyze and understand the effort and money it takes to create full-featured movies and I have no desire to personally profit or inhibit profits to the filmmakers.

I want to point out that today, I went to and searched "Sideways movie" and found at least fourteen other videos that use video and audio from the movie "Sideways".  I don't mean the trailer or the deleted scenes, but actual footage from the movie.  I also found several youtube videos that promoted and linked to illegal sites where one could watch the full movie for free.  I expect that if you continue to find the videos I posted as a violation of youtube policy, then you will consequently remove these other videos as well.  I presume you will have no trouble finding the videos I'm referring to but if you want, I'd be more than happy to provide the links.

Again, I respectfully request that the videos I posted be allowed.

Thank you for your attention,

Robert Wilson

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blanc or Noir? An Analysis of the film Sideways

(Here's another film analysis.  It's best if you've already seen the film Sideways.)

(Since the Youtube embedded links don't seem to always work, I've now included links to the youtube site, itself.")

Blanc or Noir? A Sideways Film Analysis (Youtube Movie) 

Blanc or Noir? An Analysis of the Movie Sideways

Alexander Payne has directed a number of movies and they each have some common general themes.  The one I see the most is that they all seem to involve very ordinary people in common situations.  In other words, Payne’s movies are not about grand events or people doing something extraordinary.  Take his first major movie – Citizen Ruth.  Here, we have a low-life, drug addicted, female lead who somehow finds herself to be the focal point of the abortion controversy.  Never at any time, does Ruth do anything remotely heroic, yet she is the protagonist.  Election makes an ordinary high school presidential election way too big a deal for most of the characters.  Every character in Election has noticeable flaws, and none of these people are particularly likeable.  About Schmidt is exactly what the title says.  It’s about a retiring man who’s dealing with the sudden realization that he’s led a very ordinary - one could say meaningless, life.  The Descendants takes place in exotic Hawaii, but the main character points out that even on a tropical island, people have the same issues and have to deal with the same problems as everybody else.  Nebraska, like Citizen Ruth, Election, and About Schmidt, takes place in Payne’s home state of Nebraska.  It features a somewhat demented, elderly man on a quest to Lincoln, Nebraska believing he won a million dollars with a son not sure whether he should stop him or humor him.
                                                          Other Alexander Payne Films

Now, let’s move on to Sideways.  It came out in 2004 after About Schmidt and before The Descendants.  It stars Paul Giamatti as Miles, Thomas Haden Church as Jack, Virginia Madsen as Maya, and Sandra Oh as Stephanie.  Sideways follows the exploits of two male friends approaching middle age taking a trip to a wine-producing region of Southern California.  Miles is a middle school English teacher while Jack is a low-grade actor who once had a role in a soap opera and now does voice-over work when he can get it.  Of course, with this being an Alexander Payne movie, when I say “exploits”, don’t expect anything completely zany or unpredictable.  Miles and Jack fit the Payne archetype of “ordinary people” doing a fairly common thing in taking a week-long trek together.  Incidentally, the purpose of the trip on the surface is to celebrate one last week of Jack’s bachelorhood as he is getting married the upcoming Saturday.  Also, Miles is trying to get a novel published and will likely get an answer from his agent this same week.



So we might believe this is going to be a road trip movie – following the adventures and misadventures of our protagonists.  We probably anticipate a romance and some comedic action or perhaps, it will be a more introspective “journey within the journey” movie where the characters learn about themselves and become better people in the end.
Miles Can Seem Confused
Well, it’s both all of these things but ultimately none of them.  That’s the problem that I believe many viewers had when they saw the movie the first time.  Many, I believe, went in with fixed expectations and were ultimately disappointed.  Perhaps for those of you, this review may get you to watch the movie again.  I am going to explore the aspects that make it so unusual.  This analysis is not for those who have not seen the movie.  Understand that this is strictly about the movie and not the novel by Rex Pickett.
We Don’t Like the Main Characters

Sideways wastes no time in getting us to dislike the main characters.  Miles wakes up - apparently hung over.  We later learn that he had come home late that evening from a wine tasting so when we see his car practically touching the bumper of the car in front of him, we might think he drove home under the influence and parked poorly.  Miles then proceeds to re-park his car right behind another vehicle indicating he’s just a very inconsiderate person, intoxicated or not.  He then lies to Jack on the phone saying he’s already on the road.  Miles is obviously behind schedule but appears to be in little hurry.  Perhaps he’s not really that enthused about going on the road with Jack.  Once he’s finally on the road, he’s doing the New York Times crossword puzzle while driving.

Very Inconsiderate Parking

The first time we see Jack, he is obviously irritated that Miles is late.  Jack is seen relaxing with his fiancé and his future in-laws.  As soon as Miles shows up, Jack wants to leave.  Apparently, spending time with his family to be is not a pleasant thing for him.  This happens again later when Jack prefers leaving a message for his fiancé instead of actually talking to her.

Now that Miles and Jack are together, we like them even less.  Jack, despite Miles objections, opens a bottle of champagne while Miles is driving.  Miles’ objection wasn’t too strong, apparently, as he willingly and openly drinks the champagne while driving.  Jack then proceeds to lie to Miles about reading the latest revision of his novel.
"That's tasty."
Miles suddenly swerves over to an exit in Oxnard and explains to Jack that he wants to see his mother as it is her birthday.  This is a lie as well as Miles has an ulterior motive.  He’s there to fund the trip by stealing cash from his mother.  Note that the mother’s apartment complex looks a lot like Miles’ San Diego apartment.  In fact, both stairways resemble wine bottle openers.  This symbolizes that Miles is a “mama’s boy”.  Note that as his mother’s dresser shows, she’s on medications. It is revealed shortly after that Miles is also taking multiple medications for his depression. The whole visit is a charade of Miles pretending to be interested in what his mother has to say and when the opportunity comes, he and Jack sneak away even though his mother wanted to spend more time with them.
Miles' Apartment in San Diego

Miles’ Mother’s Apartment

See the Resemblance?
We next learn that Jack is a womanizer.  He sees the trip as a way to get women for himself and Miles.  Oddly, Miles, who is single, doesn’t seem interested.  Remember, Jack is getting married at the end of the week?
Oh, and Miles always seems to be in a funk.  He is not a happy person and always seems to be irritated with Jack.  He commonly uses sarcasm.  He’s a boozer and is on medications that he gets from his therapist. 
We are now about 18 minutes into the movie and for 18 minutes, we’ve been given reason after reason to dislike Miles and Jack.

Miles and Jack are Very Different People
There is one scene that brilliantly shows the differences between Miles and Jack.  It’s at the first winery they visit where Miles carefully explains the procedures to taste and evaluate wine properly. 

Miles: “Let me show you how this is done.  First thing, hold the glass up and examine the wine against the light. You’re looking for color and clarity.  Just get a sense of it, okay - Thick, thin, watery, syrupy?  Okay? “

Jack: “Okay.”

Miles: “Now, tip it.  What you’re doing here is checking for color densities, it thins out towards the rim.  Now that’s going to tell you how old it is among other things, it’s usually more important with reds.  Okay? “

Jack: “Okay.”
Miles: “Stick your nose in it.  Don’t be shy – really get your nose right in there.”  (Sniffs) “A little citrus, maybe some strawberry, passion fruit, and…, oh, there’s just like the faintest soupçon of just like asparagus and there’s just a flutter of like a nutty Edam cheese.”

Jack: “Wow!  Strawberries, yeah."

Miles: "Good."

Jack: "Strawberries."

Miles: "Yeah!"

Jack: "Not the cheese."

Miles: "Put your glass down.  Get some, get some air into it.  Oxygenating it opens it up.  It unlocks the aromas, the flavors - very important.  Smell again.  Ah, that's what you do with every one of them."

Jack: "Wow!  When do we drink it?"

Miles: "Now."

Jack: "Mmmm, ahhh."

Miles: “Are you chewing gum?”

Proper Wine-Tasting Procedure
Wine-tasting is something Miles is passionate about.  He is meticulous and obviously quite knowledgeable.  This demonstrates that Miles is a complex person.  He has layers of pent up emotions that will briefly come out at key times in the movie.  Jack is the complete opposite.  He goes along with Miles about the wine-tasting but clearly has no real interest in it.  He always likes every wine he tastes yet is never descriptive about it like Miles.  That is Jack in a nutshell, he is simplicity and compliance.  This scene is repeated several times where Miles carefully analyzes the wine he tastes, Jack gulps it down and accepts it for what it is.
When it comes to women, it’s the same thing.  Jack will go after just about any woman he sees while Miles is much more discriminating.

The First (but not the last) Waitress to Catch Jack's Eye
When Miles and Jack are having lunch on Sunday, it becomes very clear that the two have very different ideas on what’s going to happen on the road trip.
Jack: “You need to get laid, Miles.  You know what?  That’s going to be my best man gift to you this week.  I’m going to get you laid.”
Miles: (Sarcastically) “Wonderful!”

Miles: “This week is not about me.  It’s about you.  I’m going to show you a good time.  We’re going to drink a lot of good wine, play some golf.  We’re going to eat some great food, enjoy the scenery, and we’re going to send you off in style old friend.”

Jack: “And get your bone smooched.”
The conversation basically picks up where it left off Monday at breakfast.

Jack: “What’s the plan for today, Miles?”
Miles: “Ah, good, we head up north – begin the grape tour up there, uh, work our way south.  The more we drink, the closer we get to the motel.”  (Jack gives a sarcastic thumbs up.)  “What’s your problem?  What is it?”

"Whatever you say."

Jack: “I’m going to get mine up on this trip, Miles and you are not going to fuck it up for me with all your depression and anxiety and egghead downer shit.”
Miles: “Oh, ho, ho… well, now the cards are on the table.”

Jack: “Yes they are.  And I am serious.  Do not fuck with me Miles.  I’m going to get laid before I get married on Saturday.  Do you read me?”
Miles:  “Sure, big guy, absolutely. Loud and clear, whatever you say.”

Wines Representing the Characters
Even for those who don’t look for symbolism in movies, there is one that is quite obvious. Miles and Jack, as well as the two women characters are represented by a type of wine.  For Miles, this is shown first when he describes Pinot Noir to Jack.

Miles: “Pinot is a very thin-skinned grape.  It doesn’t like constant heat or humidity – very delicate.”

Driving Through "Pinot" Country

Pinot Noir is clearly a metaphor for Miles’ personality.  Miles shows how thin-skinned he is.  He can easily go into a bad state of mind with seemingly very little prodding such as when Jack tells him that his wife re-married or when the publisher turns down his book.  Miles gets even more descriptive about Pinot on the porch with Maya, thus, revealing more about himself.

Miles’ Not So Good Moments

Miles: “It’s a hard grape to grow as you know, right?  It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early.  It’s not a survivor like Cabernet – which can just grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected.  No, Pinot needs constant care and attention.  In fact, it can only grow in these really specific little tucked away corners of the world – and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it really.  Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression.  Oh, its flavors!  They’re just the most haunting and brilliant, thrilling, and subtle – ancient on the planet.”
Miles - The Pinot Noir Describing Himself

We know Miles is a want-to-be writer and it’s interesting how even in casual conversation, he is quite poetic and descriptive.  Note too, that Maya’s response is equally profound – suggesting she is a good match for Miles.
This little speech not only indicates Miles’ complexity, he is also admitting he can be a great writer and a better person if he ever met the right woman.  His ex-wife clearly wasn’t that person as that relationship put Miles into a depression.  Here, Miles is metaphorically wondering if Maya would be that right person who can nurture and coax him to his fullest.

The speech also refers to Cabernet or more specifically, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Guess who that is?  Jack seems to be able to adapt anywhere and in any situation.  He can act, do voice-over work, is willing to learn his future father in-law’s profession.  He even, at one point, considers becoming a grape farmer.  He likes every wine he tastes and every woman he sees.  Whatever the situation is, he’ll adapt.  He is the survivor that Miles is talking about. 
Going back to Maya, Maya appears very interested in Miles.  Perhaps, she is that right person that Miles so badly needs.  She is after all, studying horticulture.  That’s a very nurturing profession.  The restaurant she works at is named “The Hitching Post” so that’s probably a clue as well.  This question is essentially answered before the porch scene when they discuss a certain wine that Miles owns.

Maya - The 1961 Cheval Blanc
Miles: “I’ve got things that I’m saving definitely.  I guess that the star would be a 1961 Cheval Blanc.”
Maya: “You’ve got a ’61 Cheval Blanc and it’s just sitting there?”
Miles: “Yes, I do.”
Maya: “Go get it!  I’m serious, hurry!  I mean I think the ‘61’s are peaking right now, aren’t they?  At least, that’s what I’ve read.”
Miles: “Well, that’s right, yeah.”
Maya: “It might be too late, already, what are you waiting for?”
"Go get it!"
Maya is that 1961 Cheval Blanc.  Maya is played by Virginia Madsen and can you guess what year she was born?  She is metaphorically telling Miles that she’s the one for him and she’s ready now. 

Virginia Madsen's IMDB Page
Stephanie is Cabernet Franc.  Listen to how Miles describes the wine.

Miles: “Well, I will tell you something.  I’ve never come to expect greatness from a Cab Franc and this one is no different.  It’s kind of a hollow, flabby, over-ripe…”
Jack: “I don’t know.  It tastes pretty good to me.”
Stephanie, while not dumb, is rather shallow and doesn’t possess the qualities Miles needs.  However, she’s just fine for Jack.

Stephanie - The Cabernet Franc
To sum up, Miles is Pinot Noir – complex, needy, but full of potential.  Jack is Cabernet Sauvignon – straightforward and agreeable to anything or any situation.  Stephanie is Cabernet Franc – likeable but nothing special.  Finally, Maya is the 1961 Cheval Blanc, a rare and very special wine.

Now we know the characters.  We’ll dig a little deeper.

A Geography Lesson

Actually, before we go into the story more, let me give a brief geography lesson for those who aren’t familiar with California and its wine-producing regions.
The story starts out in San Diego where Miles drives north to West Los Angeles to meet up with Jack, approximately 130 miles.  Jack and Miles stop in Oxnard where Miles’ mother lives.  The next day, they drive to Buellton where they stay the week.

The 130 Mile Trip from San Diego to West Los Angeles where Jack's Fiancé Lives
It’s 360 Miles from Buellton to Napa
Buellton is in what is known as the Santa Barbara County Coastal Wine Region.  Note that it is approximately 360 miles south of the more well-known Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  Just thought I’d clear that up as I often see reviews and discussions about Sideways and many seem to think that Miles and Jack are in Napa or Sonoma.  Nope.

The Light and the Dark
Kristina: “So, which one do you like better?”

Miles: “Oh, I like them both, but if pressed, I would have to say that I prefer the dark.”
The Big Choice
Miles is in a state of conflict.  He can’t quite decide for sure if he prefers “the light” or “the dark”, but believes he prefers “the dark”.  His depression over his divorce has put him in a dark state of mind so he seems to be on edge throughout most of the movie.    Incidentally, his ex-wife Victoria is a brunette and serves as a symbol of “the dark” which makes Miles’ new love interest, Maya, a blonde, a symbol of “the light”.  

Miles: “She’s a fucking waitress in Buellton, Jack.  How is that ever going to work out?”
However, Miles does not yet realize that he really prefers “the light” and he shows almost no interest in Maya when he first sees her as a waitress wearing white.  However, later that evening, when she is in black and smoking a cigarette, Miles invites her over to sit with him and Jack. 

                   Maya in White – Miles is not Interested
Maya Showing Her “Dark Side” – Suddenly, Miles Shows Interest
Jack: “Just try to be your normal, humorous self, okay?  The guy you were before the tailspin.  Do you remember that guy?  People loved that guy.”

Jack: “Come here, Miles.  Do not sabotage me.  If you want to be a fucking lightweight then that’s your call but do not sabotage me.”

Miles: “Aye, aye, Captain, you got it.”

Jack: “If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.”

Miles: “No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking ANY FUCKING MERLOT!”

Jack: “Do not drink too much. Do you hear me? I don’t want you passing out or going to the dark side. NO GOING TO THE DARK SIDE!”
A Little Chat Before the Big Date
At first, Pinot Noir is the only red wine that Miles seems to like.  He brushed off the Cabernet Franc he got from Stephanie.  He dismisses Cabernet Sauvignon.  Obviously, he has real issues with Merlot.  We know that Stephanie is represented by Cab Franc and Jack, the Cabernet Sauvignon.  So actually, Miles’ love of Pinot Noir shows his self-indulgent side.  However, Miles really likes the Sauvignon Blanc that Maya is drinking and he admitted earlier that he likes white wines as well as reds.

Jack: “I thought you hated Chardonnay.”

Miles: “No, no, no, I like all varietals. I just don’t generally like the way they manipulate Chardonnay in California – too much oak and secondary malolactic fermentation.”

“I like all varietals.”
This might be a stretch but I think you can interpret that little comment as a knock on California blondes being manipulative and artificial.  Then again, maybe it’s not such a stretch when you consider Stephanie’s boorish, chain-smoking blonde mother Carol at the bowling alley.

Carol – The California Chardonnay
Notice how Miles seems to be in good spirits early on in the date when he is drinking the white Fiddlehead Sauvignon Blanc.  Notice how his mood darkens again when the wine changes to Pinot Noir. In drinking Pinot, he is being self-indulgent and he ends up calling Victoria.  Calling his ex-wife is only going to make him feel sorry for himself, but that’s where Miles is at this point.

Miles in Light Spirits Drinking Sauvignon Blanc
A Lot of Pinot Noir was Drunk that Night
Miles Going to the “Dark Side”
What is with Miles and Merlot?  Merlot is a dark red wine so why would Miles object to it so strongly?  Just like Miles, Jack, Maya, Stephanie, and Carol, Victoria is represented by a wine and that wine is Merlot.

Victoria – The Merlot
Now, let’s look at Maya.  She’s a Cheval Blanc and looking at Wikipedia, we can see that Cheval Blanc is a mixture of primarily Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  These two wines are commonly used for blending. They are also represented by Stephanie and Victoria respectively meaning they don’t stand out like, say, a Cheval Blanc would. 
From Wikipedia’s “Chateau Cheval Blanc” Page

So basically, Maya has traits of Stephanie, the Cabernet Franc and Victoria, the Merlot but with the “dark side” removed.  I told you she was special.  
Miles drives a red Saab.  This is not a particularly common vehicle one sees on the road so it’s notable when you see a second black one in the background when Jack first brings up how he wants to get Miles laid.  If you look carefully, you’ll see a man and a woman getting out of it.  It’s like some dark reflection of Miles and Victoria had they stayed together.

The Black Saab
The whole road trip is marked by titles stating what day of the week it is.  The first one we see is Saturday, the day the trip began and the last one is the following Saturday, the day of Jack’s wedding.  Note how every title has a black background except for Thursday, the morning Miles woke up with Maya.  This is the one day of the trip that began with Miles not in a depressed or “dark” state of mind.  Of course, things go awry that day and we’re back to the black background the following Friday.

 Thursday was a Special Day
Father and Son

Maya: “So what’s your novel about?”
Miles: “Oh brother … well, it’s difficult to summarize.  It starts out as kind of a first person narrative about a guy taking care of his father after a stroke.  It’s kind of based on a personal experience but only loosely.”

Maya: “What’s the title?”
Miles: “The Day After Yesterday.”

Maya: “Oh, you mean today?”
Miles: “Um…yeah…I mean, right.”

Maya: “So, it’s about, like death and mortality or…”
Miles: “Yeah.  No, not really.  It jumps around a lot, that’s what it’s about.  You start to see everything from the point of view of the father and a lot of other things happen – parallel narratives, kind of a mess.  And, then eventually, the whole thing sort of evolves, or devolves into this sort of a Robbe-Grillet mystery, you know?   With no real resolution.”

Maya: “Wow!”
Miles Describing His Novel
If you forget the “father” part, Miles’ description of his novel can also describe the whole movie Sideways.  Note the title – “The Day after Yesterday”, which, as Maya concludes, is a roundabout way of saying “today”.  This hints that his novel ends up where it started.  Note the title and the story Sideways is this as well.  The week Miles is spending with Jack is imitating what Miles went through in his novel.  I’ll discuss the ending later.  So if the movie is structured like Miles’ novel, where does the father figure fit in?

Let’s also consider what was said by Maya about the novel after she read it.
Maya: “There are so many beautiful and painful things about it.  Did you really go through all that?  It must have been awful.”

So Miles, apparently, went through a painful experience dealing with his father.  In the movie, it is Jack who is the father character.  Here are some examples.  Jack, at first, is trying to wean Miles out of his depression like a father dealing with a troubled son.  Jack wants to find a woman for Miles.  Miles runs away when he couldn’t deal with his wife re-marrying and Jack, like a father, chases after him and consoles him.  Jack scolds Miles as if he were a naughty child during the “No going to the dark side” scene.  Jack pushes the wine bottle away from Miles when he knew Miles had too much to drink.  Jack continually is upbeat about Miles’ novel and tries to keep Miles optimistic about it. Jack defends Miles at the golf course.  There’s even a scene that spells out this whole idea.
Jack: “There’s my boy!  There he is, but who’s your daddy?  Who is your daddy?  Oh, ho, ho, - oh, let me love you.  I am so proud of you.”

“Who’s Your Daddy?”
Jack’s unadvised relationship with Stephanie is akin to the stroke Miles’ father had.  Suddenly, Miles is reluctantly forced to look after Jack like a son suddenly forced to take care of a sick or addicted parent.  It’s awkward!  Miles is clearly uncomfortable about the whole thing.

Miles: “What the fuck are you doing?”
Jack: “What?”

Miles: “…With this chick?”
Jack: “Why?”

Miles: “Does she know about Saturday?”
Jack: “Not exactly.  I’ve been honest with her.  I haven’t told her I’m available and she knows this trip is only for a few days.  Besides, I just…”

Miles:  “Besides what?”
Jack:  “Well, you know, it’s just, the wedding?”

Miles: “ What?”
Jack: “I, uh , I’ve just been doing some thinking about it.”

Miles: “Oh, you’ve been thinking?  And...?”
Jack: “I might have to put the wedding on hold is all.  Look, I know that can be tricky for certain people to accept at first, all right?  But life is short, Miles.  I have to be sure I’m doing the right thing before taking such a big step, and you know what?  That’s not just for my sake.  I’m looking out for Christine’s feelings too.”

Jack – The Cabernet Sauvignon
Jack is doing wrong.  He knows he is doing wrong, and is doing it nevertheless.  He is like a boozing father.  He rationalizes his wrongdoings, just like, perhaps, an alcoholic rationalizing that his drinking isn’t hurting anybody.  Miles can only helplessly sit and watch Jack mess things up.  He, as the son figure, has no control or even much influence on the father figure.

Miles, like a dutiful son, helps Jack and bails him out of trouble – several times.  Miles even sacrifices his car so that Jack can look good to his fiancé and his in-laws to be.

There is also a theme of addiction in the movie.  Miles continually gets drunk and takes all sorts of medications to treat his depression. 
Gary: “What can I get you?”

Miles: “Highliner.”
Also, note how when Miles couldn’t find Maya at the Hitching Post, he drinks her drink – Highliner.  I guess the wine is to compensate for lack of female companionship.

Jack has an addiction, too.  He’s addicted to women.  Like an addict, he rationalizes about it.  Like an addict, it continually gets him into trouble.
Jack: “Listen, man.  You’re my friend and I know you care about me and I know you disapprove and I respect that.  But there are some things that I have to do that you don’t understand.  You understand literature, movies, wine, but you don’t understand my plight.”


Jack: “Look, I know I fucked up, okay?  I know I fucked up.  But, you got to help me.  You got to help me, Miles.  Please!  Please!  I can’t lose Christine, Miles.  I can’t.  I can’t lose Christine.  I know I fucked up.  I know I did a bad thing, alright?  And I know I’m a bad person.  I know I am.  But you got to help me.  You have to help me Miles, okay?  Tell me you’ll help me.  If I lose Christine, I, I, I’m nothing."

“You got to help me, Miles.”

The movie is full of restaurants.  The quality of the restaurant follows the general mood of the movie.  The first one is a plain, ordinary, coffee shop before there’s any drama.  Maya works in a very nice restaurant and that’s when things pick up.  The quartet of characters eats together in a fine dining restaurant.  This and the romantic sunset picnic represent the good times.  When Miles is alone, he sulks in a coffee shop.  Worse is at the bowling alley with Miles in a funk and having to contend with Jack’s shenanigans and crass Carol.  When things go bad near the end, Miles and Jack are in a tacky western-themed restaurant.  Finally, when Miles is alone and depressed at the end, he’s in a cheap fast-food restaurant.
Starting Out at a Coffee Shop
Seeing Maya at the Hitching Post
Coffee Shop Again
A Fine Dining Establishment with a lot of Wine
Alone in Another Coffee Shop
Low-Class Eating at the Bowling Alley
A Romantic Picnic
The Western-Themed Restaurant
Fast Food
Frass Canyon

“Frass” is defined as “Debris or excrement produced by insects.”  There’s a foreboding image as Miles and Jack drive up to the Frass Canyon Winery.  The camera angle makes it appear as though a man is urinating wine into a truck.  Miles doesn’t want to be there and this is where things really go badly for him.  He’s already lost Maya and knows Stephanie is going to be through with Jack.  He learns that his novel will not be published which really pushes him over the edge.
The “Bug Excrement” Winery
Miles: “Half my life is over and I have nothing to show for it. Nothing!  I'm a thumbprint on the window of a skyscraper. I'm a smudge of excrement on a tissue surging out to sea with a million tons of raw sewage. “

Jack: “See?  Right there.  Just what you just said. That is beautiful.  'A smudge of excrement... surging out to sea.'”
Miles: “Yeah.”

Jack: “I could never write that.”
Miles: “Neither could I, actually. I think it is Bukowski.”

No, I think Miles was inspired by the Frass Canyon locale to come up with the “smudge of excrement” remark.
“I’m a smudge of excrement…”
 The Ending

As I mentioned earlier, “Sideways” ends where it begins.  Nothing has moved forward so thus, the title.  Jack is back in Los Angeles with his new bride.  Miles is back in San Diego teaching English.  It’s obvious that Jack is still the womanizer and the beating he got from Stephanie and the near disaster he had with the waitress did nothing to deter him.  He’ll be cheating on his wife within a month.  Miles goes back into his depression of a life – further spurred by the news that his ex-wife is now pregnant.  How pathetic!  He is drinking his prized Cheval Blanc from a styrofoam cup at a fast food restaurant.
1961 Cheval Blanc in a Styrofoam Cup

Maya (from the voice-mail): “And the sister character, geez!  What a wreck!  But I have to say that, well, I was really confused by the ending – I mean… Did the father finally commit suicide or what?  It’s driving me crazy.”
Maya finds the end of Miles’ novel ambiguous.  Sideways ends this way as well.  Earlier, Maya had warned Miles that it might be too late to drink his 1961 Cheval Blanc.  So is it too late?  It’s probably not important whether or not Miles ends up with Maya and ends his depression, although most viewers would probably prefer to think that.  What is important is that Miles made a decision.  He’s finally willing to try.