'Sideways' dominates with five awards

It was a great year for Santa Ynez Valley wine as far as the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. was concerned. Alexander Payne’s “Sideways,” a comic account of two men on the loose in vineyard country, dominated the group’s 2004 voting, taking five awards, including picture, director and screenplay.

Film’s distributor, Fox Searchlight, added to its tally by virtue of Liam Neeson’s actor win for his turn in the title role of “Kinsey.”

Imelda Staunton copped actress honors for her perf as the sympathetic backstreet abortionist in 1950s London in “Vera Drake.”

“Sideways” supporting thesps Thomas Haden Church and Virginia Madsen prevailed in their respective categories, while Payne, along with winning for direction, shared screenwriting honors with his habitual collaborator Jim Taylor. Michael London produced the film.

Foreign-language film award went to Zhang Yimou’s high-flying martial arts actioner “House of Flying Daggers,” while Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski’s “Born Into Brothels,” about the children of prostitutes in India who are taught photography, drew the documentary/nonfiction prize.

Cinematography honors went to Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron for “Collateral”; Dante Ferretti was singled out for his production design on “The Aviator”; and Michael Giacchino prevailed for his score for Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles,” which also took animated film kudos.

New generation award was shared by director Joshua Marston and lead actress Catalina Sandino Moreno of “Maria Full of Grace.” The Douglas Edward Independent/Experimental Film & Video award went to Ken Jacobs’ six-plus-hour, 47-years-in-the-making “Star Spangled to Death,” a personal take on history and civilization by the vet experimental filmmaker.

Awards will be presented at a dinner Jan. 13.

Several other films — including “Million Dollar Baby,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “The Aviator,” “Before Sunset” and “The Incredibles” — were nipping at the heels of “Sideways” during voting on Saturday, but in the end couldn’t surmount the prevailing sentiment.

“Million Dollar Baby” was runner-up for picture and Martin Scorsese for “The Aviator” came in second for director, as did Charlie Kaufman for his “Eternal Sunshine” screenplay.

Paul Giamatti for “Sideways” placed in the actor race, Julie Delpy for “Before Sunset” was second for actress, and Morgan Freeman for “Baby” and Cate Blanchett for “The Aviator” and “Coffee and Cigarettes” were runners-up in the supporting acting categories.

Other second-place finishers were Zhao Ziaoding for cinematography and Huo Tingxiao for production design on “Flying Daggers” and Alexandre Desplat for musical score for “Birth.”

“The Motorcycle Diaries” was runner-up in the foreign-lingo film category, while “Fahrenheit 9/11″ ran second among docs.

Group member Richard Schickel and Brian Jamieson and his supporting staff at Warner Bros. were voted a special citation for the reconstruction of a full-length version of Samuel Fuller’s 1980 war drama “The Big Red One.”

There were 36 members of LAFCA present for the voting.

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