Home Movie AwardsLos Angeles Film Critics Wine Country Road Movie + Incendiary Michael Moore Documentary Are Critics’ Favorites

Wine Country Road Movie + Incendiary Michael Moore Documentary Are Critics’ Favorites

Wine Country road movie Sideways with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. Life lessons, picturesque views of California’s Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country, and the (sexist) portrayal of adult men as overgrown babies are all found in Alexander Payne’s critics-pleaser.
  • Alexander Payne’s crowd-pleasing Wine Country road movie Sideways is also a “critics-pleaser,” as attested by its many wins this awards season. Stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, and Virginia Madsen are also critical favorites and likely contenders for the Academy Awards.
  • In the nonfiction category, Michael Moore’s explosive anti-Iraq War, anti-George W. Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 is U.S. critics’ runaway favorite.

Crowd-pleasing Wine Country road movie Sideways is U.S. critics’ favorite this awards season

So far this awards season, Alexander Payne’s coming-of-middle-age, Wine Country road movie Sideways is – easily – U.S. critics’ favorite 2004 release.

Based on a Rex Pickett novel (that also came out this year), Sideways traces the miraculous growing up of two fortyish friends (Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church) as they travel through the myriad vineyards of Southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh (Payne’s real-life wife) are the two women they meet along the way.

To date, this crowd-pleasing comedy-drama has been selected as the Best Film of the year by the following critics groups:

  • Boston Society of Film Critics.
  • Chicago Film Critics Association.
  • Florida Film Critics Circle.
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association.
  • New York Film Critics Circle.
  • San Francisco Film Critics Circle.
  • Southeastern Film Critics Association.
  • And in Canada, the Toronto Film Critics Association.

In the Best Director category, Alexander Payne has been singled out by the San Francisco, Southeastern, and Florida film critics. Payne was also the Best Director runner-up in Boston.

Additionally, Sideways earned Payne and co-screenwriter Jim Taylor Best Screenplay honors in Chicago, Florida, New York, and San Francisco.

In the Best Adapted Screenplay category, the Wine Country road movie was the selection of the Southeastern Film Critics, the Phoenix Film Critics Society, the San Diego Film Critics Society, and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association. (A more detailed list of winners can be found further down this post.)

Sideways award-winning cast

As the whiny wine connoisseur trying to find his way through both life and the Santa Ynez Valley vineyards, Paul Giamatti was named Best Actor in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Toronto. Giamatti was also the Los Angeles, Boston, and Southeastern film critics’ runner-up.

Virginia Madsen, Giamatti’s serene Sideways love interest, was the year’s Best Supporting Actress according to the Chicago, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, and Southeastern film critics.

As the film’s big, horny, middle-aged man-child, Thomas Haden Church was voted Best Supporting Actor – even though his role is about as large as Giamatti’s – by the Chicago, San Francisco, Florida, Boston, Phoenix, and Southeastern film critics, plus the National Board of Review (NBR).

And finally, Sideways won the Best Ensemble citation in Boston and Phoenix.

In a manner of speaking, that’s Sandra Oh’s only Sideways-related acting recognitions to date, as Oh, playing Haden Church’s emotionally abused and physically abusive Wine Country paramour, has been otherwise totally bypassed by the various critics groups.

Southern California’s Wine Country at the Oscars

Needless to say, Sideways is a shoo-in for the 2005 Academy Awards in various categories, especially Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress (Virginia Madsen), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Paul Giamatti is a strong Best Actor contender as well, but competition is going to be fierce. That includes Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator), Liam Neeson (Kinsey), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), Javier Bardem (The Sea Inside), and Jamie Foxx (Ray).

Noteworthy Best Film rule exception

As per the National Board of Review, Finding Neverland – Marc Forster’s Fantasyland version (from Allan Knee’s play) of J.M. Barrie’s relationship with the boys who inspired Peter Pan – is the Best Film of 2004. Sideways had to content itself with being listed as one of the year’s Top Ten releases.

Besides Johnny Depp as a Fantasyland version of early-20th-century man-child J.M. Barrie, the family tale features Kate Winslet as the boys’ mother, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, and Oscar-winning veteran Julie Christie (Darling, 1965) as Sylvia’s mother, Emma du Maurier.

Curiously, Finding Neverland topped only one other NBR category: Best Film Music Composition (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek).

Below are the four other Best Film exceptions so far this awards season:

  • Martin Scorsese’s Fantasyland Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator topped Phoenix.
  • Mike Leigh’s 1950s-set family/socially conscious drama Vera Drake topped San Diego.
  • Clint Eastwood’s sentimental boxing drama Million Dollar Baby topped the Seattle Film Critics.
  • Michel Gondry’s offbeat romantic comedy-drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind topped Washington.
Wine Country road movie Sideways with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. A few glasses of Merlot, a couple of willing younger (or at least younger-looking) gals, an irate cheated-on husband, and one broken nose make them do some fast growing up.

Incendiary anti-George W. Bush documentary is critics’ top choice

From the grape-flavored Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country to bomb-scarred Iraq: Among the various other movie critics winners, the preeminent title is Michael Moore’s controversial documentary blockbuster Fahrenheit 9/11, which succeeds in being, all at once, anti-Iraq War, anti-George W. Bush and his Republican administration, and anti-U.S. media cravenness.

Fahrenheit 9/11 topped the following critics groups: Chicago, Florida, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Southeastern. Moreover, Moore’s documentary was the runner-up in Los Angeles.

A curious aside: two other Best Documentary winners also have an (at least partial) Asian setting: Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman’s Born Into Brothels (Los Angeles, NBR), which takes place in Calcutta’s red-light district, and Jehane Noujaim’s Control Room (Boston, Seattle [tied with Kevin Macdonald’s Touching the Void]), about Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera.

Three-way Best Actress race

Below are a few other significant awards season winners to date:

  • Best Actress: Imelda Staunton (Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, San Diego, Seattle, Toronto, Washington) for her portrayal of a sweet-natured abortionist in 1950s England in Mike Leigh’s Vera Drake; Annette Bening (NBR, Southeastern) for her temperamental stage actress – shades of Bette Davis in All About Eve – in another period piece, István Szabo’s comedy Being Julia; and Hilary Swank (Boston, Florida, Phoenix), as a fierce boxer in Million Dollar Baby.
  • Best Supporting Actress: Laura Linney (NBR, Florida, Phoenix), as sex researcher Alfred Kinsey’s supportive wife in Bill Condon’s Kinsey; and Cate Blanchett (Washington) as actress Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.
  • Best Actor: Jamie Foxx (Boston, Florida, NBR, Phoenix, Seattle, Southeastern, Washington) for his performance as another real-life celebrity, singer Ray Charles, in Taylor Hackford’s Ray. In Washington, Foxx was also named the year’s Best Supporting Actor for his work in Michael Mann’s thriller Collateral.
  • Best Supporting Actor: Clive Owen (New York, Toronto), as Julia Roberts’ husband in Mike Nichols’ psychological drama Closer.
  • Best Director: Clint Eastwood (Chicago, New York, San Diego, Seattle) for Million Dollar Baby. In addition, Eastwood’s score topped the Best Music category in San Diego. And, as director-producer-actor-composer, he earned a special NBR commendation.
  • Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles (Florida, Los Angeles, NBR, New York, Phoenix, Seattle, Washington), Brad Bird’s action-comedy about a family of suburban superheroes.

Diverse Best Foreign Language Film winners

Below are five – quite diverse – Best Foreign Language Film winners, some of which have also topped other categories.

  • Two Zhang Yimou-directed China/Hong Kong period epics: House of Flying Daggers (Los Angeles, Boston) and Hero (Phoenix, Toronto) – the latter an Oscar-nominated 2002 release. In Boston, House of Flying Daggers also topped the Best Director and Best Cinematography (Zhao Xiaoding) categories; and it was the NBR’s Best Production Design (Huo Tingxiao) pick. Hero also earned Christopher Doyle the Best Cinematography award in New York, Chicago (tied with Robert Richardson for The Aviator), and San Diego (tied with John Mathieson for The Phantom of the Opera).
  • Joshua Marston’s Maria Full of Grace (San Francisco, Seattle, Southeastern, Washington), a U.S./Colombia co-production starring Berlin Film Festival winner Catalina Sandino Moreno as a drug mule. Maria Full of Grace was also named Best First Film in New York, earned director Marston Los Angeles’ New Generation Award, and was one of the NBR’s Top Five Foreign Language Films.
  • Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s World War I drama A Very Long Engagement / Un Long dimanche de fiançailles (Chicago, Florida), a French-American co-production starring Audrey Tautou, Gaspard Ulliel, and Marion Cotillard.
  • Alejandro Amenábar’s Spanish right-to-die drama The Sea Inside / Mar adentro (NBR, San Diego), starring Venice Film Festival winner Javier Bardem as a tetraplegic.

Along with Maria Full of Grace, The Sea Inside was one of four at least part-Spanish-language titles among the NBR’s Top Five Foreign Language Films. The other two were Pedro Almodóvar’s New York Film Critics winner Bad Education (Spain) and Walter Salles’ The Motorcycle Diaries (U.S. / U.K. / Argentina / Brazil / etc.). The lone exception was Christophe Barratier’s French-language The Chorus.

Jerry Lewis & reconstructed Samuel Fuller WWII drama honored

Among the various recipients of special awards, veteran – and controversial – comedian Jerry Lewis has been named the Los Angeles Film Critics’ Career Achievement honoree.

Also in Los Angeles, Brian Jamieson of Warner Bros. and movie reviewer Richard Schickel were cited for the reconstruction of Samuel Fuller’s – until now truncated – 1980 World War II drama The Big Red One, featuring Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, and former Claude Chabrol muse Stéphane Audran.

At the NBR, Jeff Bridges, Caleb Deschanel, and Milos Forman were named the recipients of, respectively, the Career Achievement, Career Achievement - Cinematography, and Excellence in Directing awards.

Lastly, the NBR’s Freedom of Expression mentions went to:

  • Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
  • John Deery’s Conspiracy of Silence, about obligatory celibacy and not infrequent (gay) sex within the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy in Ireland.
  • And, strangely, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which has been criticized in some quarters for its perceived anti-Jewish bias.
Wine Country road movie Sideways with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. There’s nothing like a broken nose to make a perennially horny, self-centered man-child discover the wonders of love, marriage, and monogamy.

Wine country road movie & other awards season winners

Below is a partial list of winners of the critics groups mentioned further up, plus the NBR.

Boston

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped four categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Director: Zhang Yimou, House of Flying Daggers.

Actress: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby.

Supporting Actress: Sharon Warren Ray & Laura Dern, We Don’t Live Here Anymore.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Ensemble: Sideways.

Screenplay: Sideways.


Chicago

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped four categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Actor: Paul Giamatti, Sideways.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby.

Screenplay: Sideways.


Florida

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped four categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Actress: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby.

Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Alexander Payne, Sideways.

Screenplay: Sideways.


Los Angeles

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped five categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Actor: Liam Neeson, Kinsey.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Alexander Payne, Sideways.

Screenplay: Sideways.


National Board of Review

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped two categories.

Film: Finding Neverland.

Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia.

Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Michael Mann, Collateral.

Adapted Screenplay: Sideways.

Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Charlie Kaufman.


New York

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped four categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Actor: Paul Giamatti, Sideways.

Supporting Actor: Clive Owen, Closer.

Director: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby.

Screenplay: Sideways.


Phoenix

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped four categories.

Film: The Aviator.

Actress: Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby.

Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Ensemble: Sideways.

Director: Martin Scorsese, The Aviator.

Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Adapted Screenplay: Sideways.

Original Score: Sideways.


San Diego

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped one category.

Film: Vera Drake.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman, Closer.

Actor: Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Supporting Actor: Phil Davis, Vera Drake.

Director: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby.

Original Screenplay: Mike Leigh, Vera Drake.

Adapted Screenplay: Sideways.


San Francisco

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped six categories, including Best Film.

San Francisco, it should be noted, is located in the vicinity of California’s Wine Country, but not the particular one (Santa Ynez Valley) shown in Sideways.

Film: Sideways.

Director: Alexander Payne, Sideways.

Actress: Julie Delpy, Before Sunset.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Actor: Paul Giamatti, Sideways.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Screenplay: Sideways.


Seattle

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped three categories.

Film: Million Dollar Baby.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby.

Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Adapted Screenplay: Sideways.


Southeastern

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped five categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Alexander Payne, Sideways.

Original Screenplay Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Adapted Screenplay Sideways.


Toronto

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped three categories, including Best Film.

Film: Sideways.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways.

Actor: Paul Giamatti, Sideways.

Supporting Actor: Clive Owen, Closer.

Director: Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Canadian Film: The Triplets of Belleville / Les Triplettes de Belleville, dir.: Sylvain Chomet.


Washington D.C.

Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped one category.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Actress: Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake.

Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, The Aviator.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Jamie Foxx, Collateral.

Director: Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Original Screenplay: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Adapted Screenplay: Sideways.


Los Angeles Film Critics Association website.

Images of Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti in the Wine Country road movie Sideways: Fox Searchlight.

“Wine Country Road Movie + Incendiary Michael Moore Documentary Are Critics’ Favorites” last updated in January 2020.

0 comment

You may also like

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion; *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive/bigoted, trollish/inflammatory, baseless (spreading misinformation, whether intentionally or not), spammy/self-promotional, and/or just plain deranged comments will be zapped, and, if we deem appropriate, reported. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More