Message in a Bottle

'Sideways' & 'Closer'

The unanimous critical approval greeting Sideways has created some surprising Best Picture buzz—surprising, because Oscar rarely smiles on small movies with loser protagonists. But, if any director can break this unspoken rule, it might well be Alexander Payne, the poet laureate of American losers. Payne’s first three movies depicted the flailings of some of recent American cinema’s most pitiful protagonists. Citizen Ruth gave us an unwed pregnant...

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About the Author

Rand Richards Cooper, one of Commonweal's film critics, is the author of two works of fiction, The Last To Go and Big as Life.