- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 30, 2004

LOS ANGELES - “Sideways” leads the list of contenders announced yesterday for the Independent Spirit Awards with six nominations, including bids for best film, best lead actor for Paul Giamatti and best director for Alexander Payne.

“Maria Full of Grace” was second with five nominations for the awards, which honor movies financed, at least in part, by sources outside the Hollywood studio system.

The drug-running drama “Maria Full of Grace” joined “Sideways” in the best-film category, along with “Baadasssss!,” Mario Van Peebles’ re-creation of his father Melvin’s struggle to make the 1970s black-power flick “Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song”; “Kinsey,” a film biography of sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, with Liam Neeson in the title role; and “Primer,” a twisting techno-thriller that won the top dramatic honor at last winter’s Sundance Film Festival.

The road-trip comedy “Sideways” also earned nominations for Virginia Madsen as supporting actress, Thomas Haden Church as supporting actor, and Mr. Payne and Jim Taylor for their screenplay.

The nonprofit Independent Film Project, which sponsors the awards, will announce winners in a ceremony Feb. 26, the night before the Academy Awards.

Along with Mr. Giamatti, other lead-actor nominees are: Mr. Neeson for “Kinsey”; Kevin Bacon for “The Woodsman,” in which he plays a child molester trying to set his life straight after prison; Jeff Bridges as a father coping with a family tragedy through booze and extramarital flings in “The Door in the Floor”; and Jamie Foxx for “Redemption,” in which he played Stan “Tookie” Williams, an imprisoned L.A. gang member who becomes a crusader against violence.

“Maria Full of Grace” star Catalina Sandino Moreno earned a lead-actress nomination for her role as a young Colombian woman whose hope for a better life leads her into a perilous gambit as a “mule” smuggling heroin to the United States.

Also nominated for lead actress were Kimberly Elise as a woman traumatized by childhood abuse who lands on death row in “Woman, Thou Art Loosed”; Vera Farmiga as a wife and mother falling deeper into drug addiction in “Down to the Bone”; Judy Marte as a street-tough New Jersey drug dealer in “On the Outs”; and Kyra Sedgwick as an abused wife who returns to reunite with the daughters she abandoned in “Cavedweller.”

Joining Mr. Church as supporting-actor nominees are Jon Gries, “Napoleon Dynamite”; Aidan Quinn, “Cavedweller”; Roger Robinson, “Brother to Brother”; and Peter Sarsgaard, “Kinsey.”

Along with Miss Madsen for “Sideways,” supporting-actress contenders are Cate Blanchett, “Coffee and Cigarettes”; Loretta Devine, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed”; Robin Simmons, “Robbing Peter”; and Yenny Paola Vega, “Maria Full of Grace.”

“Baadasssss!” star Mario Van Peebles joined Mr. Payne in the directing category. The other nominees are Shane Carruth, “Primer”; Joshua Marston, “Maria Full of Grace”; and Walter Salles, “The Motorcycle Diaries.”

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