Alexander Payne

Throughout his critically acclaimed career, writer-director Alexander Payne has shown a remarkably poignant vision with his films, in which the often quirky set-up was merely a launching point for a seriocomic exploration into human foibles. With "Citizen Ruth" (1996), Payne examined the gravely serious issue of reproductive rights, an unlikely subject for what turned out to be an adroit satire that managed to both present and rankle both sides of the issue. For his next film, "Election" (1999), he used a seemingly inconsequential high school presidential race to plumb the darkest recesses of our mutable human nature. Then there was "About Schmidt" (2002), which used a cross country journey to depict an anchorless average man trying to make sense of his life. But Payne - alongside longtime writing partner Jim Taylor - had perhaps his greatest critical success with "Sideways" (2004), an excursion into wine country that explored the unlikely friendship of two men struggling with their perceived failures. "Sideways" earned Payne numerous accolades, including an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. His critically acclaimed drama "The Descendants" (2011) also earned rave reviews and its director another Best Screenplay Oscar, all of which helped cement his reputation as a visionary filmmaker adept at making unflinching films depicting the more uncomfortable aspects of human nature.