Home Movie Awards 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 Southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country, and the (sexist?) portrayal of adult men as overgrown babies are all found in Alexander Payne’s crowd-pleasing comedy-drama Sideways. Both Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church are possible contenders for the 2005 Academy Awards; the former as Best Actor, the latter in the Best Supporting Actor category. Another Sideways awards season favorite is Virginia Madsen, to date the year’s top Best Supporting Actress choice. Sandra Oh is the one cast member that has been thoroughly bypassed.

Wine Country road movie ‘Sideways’ is North American film critics’ favorite

So far this awards season, Sideways, Alexander Payne’s coming-of-middle-age Wine Country road movie, has been the North American film critics’ favorite 2004 release.

Based on a Rex Pickett novel (also published this year) about two fortyish friends (Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church) who do some miraculous growing up after traveling through the myriad vineyards of Southern California’s Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country – Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh are the two women they meet along the way – Sideways 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.
  • 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, as Sideways’ co-screenwriter – with Jim Taylor – Payne was the critics’ top pick in Chicago, Florida, New York, and San Francisco, plus, in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, it 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 Wine Country, 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 the Best Supporting Actor – even though his role is about as large as Giamatti’s – in the opinion of the Chicago, San Francisco, Florida, Boston, Phoenix, and Southeastern film critics, plus the National Board of Review (NBR).

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

In a manner of speaking, that’s Sandra Oh’s only two 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, but definitely not Sandra Oh), 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 for Hotel Rwanda, Leonardo DiCaprio for The Aviator, Clint Eastwood for Million Dollar Baby, Liam Neeson for Kinsey, Javier Bardem for The Sea Inside, and Jamie Foxx for Ray.

Noteworthy exception to the Best Film rule

At the NBR, the period drama 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 – was the Best Film winner. 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 crowd-pleasing 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 category: Best Film Music Composition (Jan A.P. Kaczmarek). In fact, the NBR awards weren’t dominated by any one film.

Four more Best Film exceptions listed further below:

  • Martin Scorsese’s Fantasyland Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator topped Phoenix.
  • Mike Leigh’s 1950s-set socially conscious/family 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 Paul Giamatti Thomas Haden Church: Critics favoriteWine Country road movie Sideways with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. Alexander Payne’s Sideways, this year’s awards season favorite among North American film critics, chronicles the belated coming of age of two middle-aged men stuck in a pre-adolescent frame of mind. 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. Critics fave Virginia Madsen and filmmaker Payne’s wife Sandra Oh are Giamatti and Haden Church’s co-stars.

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 North American film critics winners, the most notable title is Michael Moore’s 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.

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 performance as a 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 determined and loyal boxer in Million Dollar Baby.
  • Best Supporting Actress Laura Linney (NBR, Florida, Phoenix), cast as sex researcher Alfred Kinsey’s supportive wife in Bill Condon’s Kinsey; and Cate Blanchett (Washington) for her portrayal of Hollywood star Katharine Hepburn in another biopic, The Aviator.
  • Best Actor Jamie Foxx (Boston, Florida, NBR, Phoenix, Seattle, Southeastern, Washington) for playing one more real-life celebrity, U.S. singer Ray Charles, in Taylor Hackford’s popular biopic 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), featured 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 which he also stars opposite Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman. Composer Eastwood also topped the Best Music category in San Diego. And director-producer-actor-composer Eastwood earned a special mention at the NBR Awards.
  • 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 several Best Foreign Language Film winners so far this awards season, some of which have also topped other categories.

  • Two Zhang Yimou-directed China/Hong Kong period epics: House of Flying Daggers (Los Angeles, Boston), starring Ziyi Zhang, Andy Lau, and Takeshi Kaneshiro; and Hero (Phoenix, Toronto), an Oscar-nominated 2002 release starring Ziyi, Jet Li, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung, and Maggie Cheung. 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).
  • Feature film newcomer Joshua Marston’s Maria Full of Grace (San Francisco, Seattle, Southeastern, Washington), a U.S./Colombia co-production starring Berlin Film Festival Best Actress winner Catalina Sandino Moreno as a drug mule. Maria Full of Grace was also named Best First Film in New York, earned director Marston the New Generation Award in Los Angeles, 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), toplining Javier Bardem as a tetraplegic, in addition to Belén Rueda, Lola Dueñas, and Mabel Rivera. 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 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 & 25-year-old Samuel Fuller WWII drama get Special honors

Also worth mentioning, the Los Angeles Film Critics named veteran – and controversial – comedian Jerry Lewis as this year’s Career Achievement Award recipient. Lewis’ movie credits range from lowbrow but popular comedies opposite Dean Martin (At War with the Army, The Stooge, etc.) to a well-regarded dramatic turn in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 social critique The King of Comedy.

Also in Los Angeles, Brian Jamieson of Warner Bros. and film 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 veteran Lee Marvin (Best Actor Oscar winner for Cat Ballou, 1965), Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, and former Claude Chabrol muse Stéphane Audran (Les Biches, The Unfaithful Wife).

There’s more: The NBR named Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show, Starman) as the recipient of the Career Achievement Award and Caleb Deschanel (The Black Stallion, The Right Stuff) as the recipient of the Career Achievement - Cinematography Award, while two-time Best Director Oscar winner Milos Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975; Amadeus, 1984), was honored with the Billy Wilder Award for Excellence in Directing.

Lastly, the NBR gave Freedom of Expression mentions to the following:

  • Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.
  • John Deery’s Conspiracy of Silence, about mandatory 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, a sleeper blockbuster that has been strongly criticized for featuring what some perceive as an anti-Jewish stance.
Wine Country Sideways Paul Giamatti Thomas Haden Church: Rough Path to EnlightenmentWine Country road movie Sideways actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church. While traveling through California’s Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country, in the vicinity of Santa Barbara, about 180 km northwest of Los Angeles, two middle-aged Southern California idiots miraculously discover their inner grown-ups. That goes to show 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 is early awards season fave

Below is the full list of winners of the following critics groups: Boston, New York, San Francisco, Southeastern, Toronto, in addition to a partial list of winners in Chicago, Florida, Phoenix, San Diego, Seattle, and Washington, plus the NBR.

As explained above, Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie Sideways is this awards season’s clear favorite to date in North America.

Boston

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: House of Flying Daggers.

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: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, Sideways.

Documentary: Control Room.

Cinematography: Zhao Xiaoding, House of Flying Daggers.

New Filmmaker: Jonathan Caouette, Tarnation.

 

Chicago

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: A Very Long Engagement.

Documentary: Fahrenheit 9/11.

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

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: A Very Long Engagement.

Documentary: Fahrenheit 9/11.

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

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: House of Flying Daggers.

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.

Documentary/Nonfiction Film: Born into Brothels.

Animation: The Incredibles.

Cinematography: Dion Beebe & Paul Cameron, Collateral.

Music Score: Michael Giacchino, The Incredibles.

Production Design: Dante Ferretti, The Aviator.

Career Achievement Award: Jerry Lewis.

New Generation Award: Joshua Marston, Maria Full of Grace.

Douglas Edwards Experimental / Independent Film or Video: Star-Spangled to Death, Ken Jacobs.

Special Citation: Brian Jamieson of Warner Bros. and Richard Schickel for the reconstruction of Samuel Fuller’s 1980 The Big Red One.

 

National Board of Review

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped two categories.

Film: Finding Neverland.

Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside.

Documentary: Born into Brothels.

Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia.

Supporting Actress: Laura Linney, Kinsey.

Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray.

Supporting Actor: Thomas Haden Church, Sideways.

Director: Michael Mann, Collateral.

Ensemble: Closer (Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Clive Owen, Natalie Portman).

Adapted Screenplay: Sideways.

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

 

New York

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: Bad Education.

Documentary: Fahrenheit 9/11.

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.

Cinematography: Christopher Doyle, Hero.

Animated Film: The Incredibles.

First Film: Maria Full of Grace.

Special Award: Milestone Films in honor of 15 years of restoring classic Films.

 

Phoenix

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped four categories.

Film: The Aviator.

Foreign Language Film: Hero.

Documentary: Fahrenheit 9/11.

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.

Overlooked Film of the Year: Stage Beauty, dir.: Richard Eyre.

 

San Diego

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped one category.

Film: Vera Drake.

Foreign Language Film: The Sea Inside.

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.

Documentary: Tarnation.

Body of Work: Don Cheadle, for Hotel Rwanda, The United States of Leland, and The Assassination of Richard Nixon.

 

San Francisco

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped six categories, including Best Film. San Francisco, by the way, is located in the vicinity of California’s Wine Country, but not the one (in the Santa Ynez Valley) shown in Sideways.

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: Maria Full of Grace.

Documentary: Fahrenheit 9/11.

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

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped three categories (more than any other movie).

Film: Million Dollar Baby.

Foreign Language Film: Maria Full of Grace.

Documentary (tie): Control Room & Touching the Void.

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

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: Maria Full of Grace.

Documentary: Fahrenheit 9/11.

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

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

Film: Sideways.

Foreign Language Film: Hero.

Documentary: The Fog of War, dir.: Errol Morris.

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.

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

Canadian Film: The Triplets of Belleville.

First Film: Maria Full of Grace.

Special Award: The National Film Board’s animated short film Ryan, a tribute to Oscar-nominated animator Ryan Larkin.

 

Washington D.C. Film Critics winners

Alexander Payne’s Wine Country road movie topped one category.

Film: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Foreign Language Film: Maria Full of Grace.

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.

Acting Ensemble: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

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

Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Sideways.

 

Los Angeles Film Critics Association website.

Boston Society of Film Critics website.

New York Film Critics Circle 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 May 2019.

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