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LA film critics toast Sideways as best film of 2004

Story by: Jack Foley

WINE-drenched comedy, Sideways, has become the toast of film critics in Los Angeles, who named it best film of 2004 recently.

The quirky comedy, about two men who go on a road trip through the Napa Valley Wine Region, in California, on the week before one of them is to marry, also picked up best director, for Alexander (About Schmidt) Payne, and best supporting actor, for Thomas Haden Church.

Virginia Madsen was also named best supporting actress for her performance in the film, but there were no prizes for main star, Paul Giamatti, who provides a masterclass in under-statement.

The film already looks set to become one of the best of 2005, after it hits UK cinemas in January.

In what proved a good year for British stars, Liam Neeson took the best actor prize for his role in Kinsey, about the sex researcher, while Imelda Staunton was named best actress for her portrayal of an abortionist in Mike Leigh's Vera Drake (which also triumphed at Venice).

Zhang Yimou's breathtaking martial arts epic, House of Flying Daggers, was named best foreign language film, while the animation award went to Pixar's The Incredibles.

The awards are to be handed out on January 13 at a ceremony in Las Vegas.

In an unprecedented step, the association also named the runners-up in each category, with Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby just missing out on the best film award.

And Martin Scorsese was a best director runner-up for his Howard Hughes biopic, The Aviator.

But a career achievement award will be handed to veteran actor and comic, Jerry Lewis.

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