The most famous director in the world is Alexander Payne. He has won the Oscar, Emmy, and other prestigious awards for his movies like Election (1999), Sideways (2004), and The Descendants (2011). His father was a professor at the University of Nebraska, and therefore he had a chance to study classics at home.
After graduating, Payne worked as a journalist and then as creative director at an advertising agency. He started directing short films in the ’80s, experimenting with sequences of images that the French New Wave cinema strongly influences. His first full-length feature was Citizen Ruth (1996), a satirical political comedy starring Laura Dern. A few years later, he brought his signature style to the screen again with Election, a black comedy starring Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. This movie was nominated for Best Screenplay in 1998 by the Writers Guild of America.
Then he directed Pleasantville (1998), another film highly influenced by early French directors like Jacques Tati and Jean-Luc Godard. It is a science-fiction movie about two teenagers who get sucked into a black and white TV show called Pleasantville, which has been running continuously since the ’50s. They end up changing the town’s history by introducing some color to it and breaking down the barriers between white picket fences of this seemingly perfect world.
Alexander Payne followed with About Schmidt (2002), an acclaimed movie starring Jack Nicholson. He won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2002 and received a Golden Globe nomination for writing this film. In About Schmidt, Nicholson plays Warren Schmidt, a retired Omaha actuary who decides to travel across the Great Plains States with his daughter after losing his wife of 40 years. The story is about the journey of Warren’s life and his attempts to reform it, or at least to make sense of it.
His next movie was Sideways (2004), a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama starring Paul Giamatti, who plays Miles Raymond alongside Virginia Madsen as Stephanie Vanderhook. This movie follows the two characters during a week-long wine tasting trip in California’s Santa Ynez Valley. In this movie, Payne takes us through various colorful and vibrant locations in the Wine Country, evoking familiar experiences for anyone who has ever visited wine country before.