''Sideways'' sweeps the Independent Spirit Awards -- The pre-Oscar ceremony recognizes many films snubbed by the Academy

By Joshua Rich
Updated March 07, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST
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It was the 20th IFP Independent Spirit Awards, but it could have been renamed the Sideways Show after the comedy swept away the competition at the Feb. 26 event (cosponsored by ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY). Though an afterthought at the following evening’s Academy Awards, the critical favorite prevailed in all six categories in which it was nominated. ”I am the returning hero!” joked best actor Paul Giamatti, vindicated for both this year’s monumental Oscar snub and the fact that his American Splendor went 0-for-5 at the last Spirits. In fact, Sideways‘ major players were all winners: Giamatti, Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church, director Alexander Payne, co-writer Jim Taylor, and producer Michael London all took awards, while Sandra Oh scored some lovin’ sucking face with hubby Payne before entering the main tent. ”It’s been a tumultuous ride,” said Church, moments after tearily accepting the supporting-actor prize. ”My writing partner [David Denney] called me this morning and said, ‘Dude, if you win it’s going to be your 22nd award.’ I’m like, ‘Are you high?!”’

We can’t speak for the dude, but moods were certainly elevated under the big beach tent in sun-dappled Santa Monica. There was schmoozing galore: Backstage Cate Blanchett, Dennis Quaid, and Greg Kinnear chatted about their kids; Robin Williams and Laura Linney bonded; and triple nominee Mario Van Peebles goofed around with his dad, Melvin. When Gael García Bernal — star of Best Cinematography winner The Motorcycle Diaries — wasn’t stuffing business cards into his pocket, he was glorying in the free booze. ”You get to have a lot of champagne and wine,” he said. ”You get to have fun!” Best actress Catalina Sandino Moreno (Maria Full of Grace) could relate. ”This is great,” she said. ”This day started very, very good, so I’m not complaining.” And for one winner — Zach Braff (Best First Feature, Garden State) — the day was a fantasy come true. ”I was outside the ropes for many years watching people go by,” he said wistfully. ”This whole year has been about meeting people I’ve always looked up to.”

As for those attending the Academy Awards the next day, sleep seemed to be a priority — at some point. ”There’s not really much time to relax,” said Linney cheerfully. ”I’m looking forward to Monday.” Not so Ray star Regina King, whose Oscar-eve plans were admirably restrained: ”I’m going to get in early tonight, watch a movie, and eat some chocolate-covered popcorn. Comfort food!” (Additional reporting by Clarissa Cruz and Gregory Kirschling)


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  • 124 minutes
  • Alexander Payne