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|Index||16 reviews in total|
I love wine. I like to think I know wine. But I also know I do not know
all that much. There's too much to know. When I go to the places where
these guys work, I trust them to help me get things right. That's what
they do, its beautiful and it is absolutely an art.
These guys chasing the MS designation...THEY know a LOT about wines. More than any one else in the world. Seriously. They have to, just to be invited, even if they don't pass the test. Its brutal.
If you have sat for the Bar or the CFA or something similar, then the tale told here will ring very true. Its the same sort of obsessive all consuming effort required to get prepared.
The film gets very close to conveying what it takes and the methods used to even get to the testing table. And the Fraternity of the participants is absolutely one of the greatest messages that comes out. Its competitive but not in the 'I win you lose' sense. If you can raise yourself to the highest level of expertise in the world then you have a chance of passing. These guys are great.
There's a couple of slow moments but overall this keeps moving by portraying the toll on relationships and the character of all concerned.
Now I cannot judge whether a non-wine person would find it as emotionally immersive as someone that knows just what the hell they are talking about. The fluency and speed of interaction may all pass as a blur that gets boring after the tenth time, I dunno. But for me and the others in the theater, we were rooting for the contestants and making choices of winners and losers. Undoubtedly at some point I will look up at the Somm and it will be one of the guys in this movie.
If you want to know the outcome, you'll have to go cuz I ain't spoiling it here!
Greetings again from the darkness. Alexander Payne's 2004 hit Sideways
made wine tasting and discussion a fun thing to do with friends, and
U.S. wine tours exploded. In the movie, Miles (Paul Giamatti) is quite
knowledgeable and opinionated on wine. However, comparing Miles to the
real life characters in the Somm documentary is like comparing the boys
of The Sandlot to major leaguers ... it's not even close!
Filmmaker Jason Wise follows four guys as they prepare for the nearly impossible to pass Master Sommelier exam. The certification has been around for 40 plus years, and less than 200 applicants have actually passed. We get to know the four who are studying so diligently by watching them interact and even talk to the camera. The competitive nature is on full display through the trash-talking and emotions that are evident through each disagreement. Mostly we witness the enormous stress that comes from working so hard for a single shot ... the best comparison I can make is that of an Olympic athlete preparing for their single event.
We also meet Fred Dame, the Godfather of U.S. Master Sommelier. He trains through intimidation and seems to carry the burden of exclusivity in every interaction. Yeah, he's kind of jerk. As are the four vying for the certification. It seems one must be self-absorbed and borderline ego-maniacal to build the knowledge and fine tune the palate necessary to have a shot.
The exam is broken into 3 parts: Blind wine tasting, Theory, and Service. The wine tasting segments are most fun to watch as we quickly learn there is a skill, a science and some luck involved. Through a sniff and a sip, they must be able to identify the type of wine, the subtle flavors, the age of the wine, the country of origin, the specific region, and even the level of winery. The theory section involves knowing wine history from all over the globe. This is accomplished through endless hours of reading and flash card drills. The Service portion gets the short straw here, but we do get a taste of the outlandish nature of a game whose point seems to be humiliating the participant.
To add another touch of legend, we do get some insight from Bo Barrett, the legendary California wine maker profiled in the movie Bottle Shock. Mostly though, we learn that this most prestigious designation can only be obtained through an elitist Obsessive-Compulsive approach that kills all sense of acceptable societal manner. For most of us, enjoying a glass of wine with friends is reward enough ... for you others, best of luck learning the 3000 grape varietals in Italy alone.
I have an acutely ambivalent reaction to this attempted documentary. I
am more-than-average interested in the topic of wine, but SOMM instead
treats the subject of 4 guys preparing to take an exam to become
'master sommeliers'. So, to my disappointment, the film really wasn't
about wine at all, rather a reality-show style video of 4 fairly
obnoxious, unlikeable, uninteresting guys, full of themselves, and also
full of obnoxious 'frat bro' bravado, reciting wine attributes like a
mantra and spitting into a bucket. They manage to take the consumption
of wine, which should be an act of immense pleasure and sensation, and
degrade it into little more than a circle-jerk weenie-measuring
contest. If one of these clowns unctuously showed up at my table to
offer 'advice', I would totally ignore and wave him away. And these
guys are almost sympathetic in comparison to the men in the film who
already ARE 'master sommeliers'. If anything, this film demystifies the
credential, and exposes it as little more than a hazing ritual,
conferring a title of dubious value and dubious legitimacy. I like good
wine, and I'm certainly open to learning more and experiencing
something new, but I would want no part of what any of these jerks are
3 stars out of 10 for some pretty filmography, and a nice original soundtrack. I appreciate the filmmaker's intention here, but the content mostly fails. It's like having a decanter full of wine, where the decanter is more interesting than the wine.
This is really one of the worst documentaries I have seen in a while.
It has the feel of a 30-minute reality TV show about four guys who have
to take a test, but stretched out to two hours.
Generally speaking, a documentary should do one of two things (or both): (1) expand a person's knowledge of a subject; and/or (2) create a bond between the viewer and the subject so as to convey some sort of overriding message.
This film does none of that. It's four guys studying a lot, and then interviews with their wives and S/O's.
The film does not even begin to educate viewers about wine, wine provenance, or wine tasting. Despite devoting what seems like endless periods of time showing the four guys studying up on wine geography, for example, the film does not provide the viewer a brief explanation of the major areas in world where wine grapes are grown.
Similarly, we are exposed to dozens of shots of tasting sessions where the somm's use all kinds of technical jargon to describe wine -- and not once does the film attempt to convey to the watcher what any of it means.
Being a bit of a wine enthusiast, I picked up some of the meaning. But as a documentary? This thing is terrible. It's four guys who work in the wine industry and love wine who study for a big test. If they fail the test? They take it again next year.
By the end of the film, the viewer does not care about the guys, the test, or anything else. When I studied for the bar exam, I did not video record myself doing so because it lacked any sort of entertainment value. One wonders why the same restraint was not exhibited by the filmmakers here.
This documentary film is about several guys who are pursuing their certification as Master Sommoliers. While this sounds terrifically boring, it really isn't for many reasons. First, it's an incredibly difficult thing to actually achieve and very few folks on this planet are this knowledgeable, tenacious and talented to earn this. Second, the film makers manage to spin this all in an interesting way that makes you actually care about these oenophiles and their seemingly insane quest to be the best of the best. By the end of the film, my daughter and I actually found ourselves pulling for some of the participants and rooting for them...and in one case, rooting against them. All in all, an exciting film about what might sound like a very dull topic.
Compelling look at the dedication needed to pass one of the hardest
exams in the world. Each of the candidates featured in the movie had
interesting personality quirks that kept my interest... I found myself
rooting for all of them, knowing the odds were against them.
This documentary will likely appeal to wine lovers, but perhaps also those who are curious about wine or appreciate obsessions. This documentary reminded me of Kings of Pastry- a similar look at an exam that requires full obsession and dedication. Although not about an exam, the sushi documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi had a similar feel.
The constant background music during dialogue/ emotional high points was very distracting, enough to dock it a point or two.
Bunch of young guys try to become Sommeliers, who are experts in wine, said to be one of the hardest exams to pass. I didn't really learn any interesting facts about wine. It was really just guys sitting around offering their best descriptions of the wine they were tasting, doing a bit of study, getting annoyed, bit more study, mock exams, whinging. We never really became connected with the participants, or came to know much about them at all, except that they wanted to pass this test. I was intrigued by how they were able to correctly identify some of the wine, but it was never really explored how they do it. I assume from drinking a lot of wine from all over the world. I mean...how does one become interested in this??? Not answered. How is it done??? Not answered. How many varieties of wine are there??? They did say there only 147 qualified in the world, so that was one interesting fact. I did feel sympathetic to the guys and the amount of pressure they were under, but the whole topic and the characters were vastly unexplored. I wouldn't rush out to catch this.
SOMM tells the story of a group of young men working towards earning the prestigious title Master Sommelier. This is among the most difficult series of exams to pass in the world. Incredibly, the candidate must blind taste wine and identify its type region and vintage as part of the test. The people who choose to pursue this are an interesting and varied group. In the end, it's about wine, but It is also the tale of friendship, teamwork and perseverance. The pressure of the upcoming exam is palpable, weighing on relationships. We waited in line for two hours to see this film at the Napa Valley Film Festival. We were so gad we did. It was fabulous!
Double-blind tastings have as much relevance to real, hands- on
restaurant work as the Zodiac does to Astronomy.
What you have, rather, is a trade-show paper- chase that's been cooked up by the pretentiously self-qualified to scam money from the slightly less agile.
Suffice it to mention, moreover, that the 'masters' title has absolutely nothing to do with certification from an accredited college or university.
Real masters, from academia, are given by juries of PhD's to acknowledge mastery over a subject of which they, as individuals, have made a contribution to knowledge. Therefore, I challenge any judge of said 'court' to present qualifications that would demonstrate any contribution on their part. to the knowledge of wine.
'Proper' cigar service, perhaps, expressed as their own opinion of propriety? 'Proper' chilling of whites--ostensibly with far greater reference to Oscar Wilde than Van der Walls? Or how about yet another uselessly digressive, non-chemical explanation of 'tannins'?
Lastly, of course, the use of 'Court' speaks volumes about their collective idiocy. How do they support their right to hold court, or to judge, as it were? Where, pray tell, is there a public textbook that's made available for scrutiny much as, say, physics, chemistry, history, or whatever that's taught over at Dustbunny U?
Without reference to said text that's available for all to see, this self-entitled 'court' ranks nothing higher than podunk inquisitional circa AD1200--or rather a Humpty-Dumpty manifesto that states that things mean exactly what I say they mean at the time that I say it".
So much for restaurant 'professionalism': next, perhaps, chiropractics?
Somm mainly focuses on 4 people who are preparing to take the
certification test as a Master Sommelier, the highest level of
achievement for a wine professional.
For a person like me who can barely tell the difference between any two wines (whether red or white and even then I rely on eyesight rather than smell or taste), watching Somm seemed like it could be a waste of time. I get that some people take their wine very seriously, but watching the movie trailer I knew that these test candidates took themselves too seriously as well. For example, one candidate states that he has cried 3 times in his life: when his parents died, when his children were born, and when he passed this exam. Another candidate says, "Nothing else in my life has ever been this difficult." Well, I suspect that people sitting for the bar exam, the medical boards, and a few other objectively difficult tests would laugh with me at the tension expressed by the subjects here prior to this test. Not to say the test is easy (I would fail miserably), but it clearly is not nearly the life-or-death situation as the test-takers convey.
That being said, this documentary is well shot and edited; the leads are likable and engaging; the accompanying music is wonderful; the attempts to convey the tension felt studying for and taking this exam are effective even if a little exaggerated; and the narration educates non-connoisseurs (like me) just enough without condescension. So if you like documentaries that meet these criteria, you will like this one.
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