Another day, another batch of movie reviewers are saluting Sideways.
The quirky wine-quaffing road movie was toasted as best picture of 2004 by two more groups: the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Southeastern Film Critics Association.
Already the toast of the pre-Oscar awards season, Sideways has been named Best Picture by professional movie watchers in New York (both the New York Film Critics Circle and the New York Film Critics Online), Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The indie comedy was named one of the year's 10 best by the American Film Institute and the National Board of Review and led the list of nominees for the Golden Globe Awards, Critics' Choice Awards and Independent Spirit Awards.
In addition to Best Picture, the Chicago Film Critics Association bestowed four other honors on the film, which follows two middle-aged friends on a quest for wine, women and adventure before one of them marches down the aisle. The Chitown types lauded Sideways for Best Actor (Paul Giamatti), Supporting Actor (Thomas Haden Church ) and Actress (Windy City native Virginia Madsen) and Best Screenplay (shared by director Alexander Payne and writing partner Jim Taylor).
Payne, however, came up short in the Best Director race, finishing behind Hollywood veteran Clint Eastwood for the boxing drama, Million Dollar Baby. Scrubs star Zach Braff was dubbed Best New Director for his debut, Garden State.
Imelda Staunton added to her growing Oscar buzz by nabbing the Chicago critics' Best Actress award for her performance in Mike Leigh's abortion-themed period piece Vera Drake. Jean-Pierre Jeunet's sweeping World War I epic, A Very Long Engagement, which reunited him with his Amélie star Andrey Tautou, was selected Best Foreign Film.
Michael Moore's controversial Fahrenheit 9/11 walked away with Best Documentary honors. Most Promising Performer went to actress Catalina Sandino Moreno for her turn as a drug smuggler in the indie hit Maria Full of Grace.
There was a tie for Best Cinematography between famed Hong Kong-based lensman Christopher Doyle for his work on Hero and Robert Richardson for The Aviator. The Aviator also earned composer Howard Shore a nod for Best Score.
Meanwhile, the Southeastern Film Critics Association gave its Director Award to Payne, Adapted Screenplay to Payne and Taylor, and supporting acting honors to Church and Madsen.
Jamie Foxx was named Best Actor for Ray, while Annette Bening earned Best Actress props for Being Julia. Charlie Kaufman reeled in Best Original Screenplay for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Fahrenheit 9/11 grabbed Best Documentary, and Maria Full of Grace snagged Best Foreign-Language Film.