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Chicago and Southeastern critics add toasts to Sideways



Story by: Jack Foley

ALEXANDER Payne's acclaimed comedy, Sideways, has picked up more critics' awards, to further strengthen its Oscar-winning potential.

The Chicago Film Critics' Association (CFCA) named it best film of 2004 among its four nods, with Paul Giamatti, the film's star, being named best actor.

While the Southeastern Film Critics also picked it out as best film, with Payne taking both the best director prize and the best screenplay, which he shared with co-writer, Jim Taylor.

The film is a delightful road comedy, co-starring Virginia Madsen and Thomas Haden Church, about two men who head off to California's wine region for a journey of self-discovery on the week before one of them is to marry. It marks a terrific follow-up to Payne's previous effort, About Schmidt.

The Chicago film critics also named Thomas Haden Church as best supporting actor, and Virginia Madsen as best supporting actress, although the best director accolade went to Clint Eastwood, for his boxing drama, Million Dollar Baby.

Imelda Staunton took the best actress prize for her portrayal of an abortionist in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake, thereby strengthening her Oscar chances.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was named best documentary, while A Very Long Engagement took best foreign film, and Zach Braff was named best new director for his sublime directorial debut, Garden State.

The Chicago critics have yet to set a date for their actual awards ceremony.

But the success of Sideways follows its triumphs among the New York and Los Angeles Critics' Circles, not to mention its Golden Globe nominations haul, at which it leads the field.

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