'Benjamin Button' leads Oscar nominations

'Slumdog' follows with 10; 'Dark Knight' shut out for best pic

With 13 nominations, romantic fable "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" led the parade as the nominations for the 81st Annual Academy Awards were announced Thursday morning.

The Paramount/Warners co-production will compete in the best picture race with the political dramas "Frost/Nixon" and "Milk," the post-Holocaust tale "The Reader" and the Mumbai-set rags-to-riches story "Slumdog Millionaire."

"The Dark Knight," the most popular movie of the year, was frozen out of the best picture race. But Heath Ledger did receive a posthumous nom for his role as the Joker, and "Knight" picked up seven other nominations in the technical categories.

The best actor nominees include Richard Jenkins for "The Visitor," Frank Langella for "Frost/Nixon," Sean Penn for "Milk," Brad Pitt for "Button" and Mickey Rourke for "The Wrestler."

Best actress nominees are Anne Hathaway for "Rachel Getting Married," Angelina Jolie for "Changeling," Melissa Leo for "Frozen River," Meryl Streep for "Doubt" and Kate Winslet for "The Reader."

Winslet's nomination for playing a former concentration camp guard in "The Reader" proved a particular surprise because the actress had been promoted in the lead actress slot for her performance in "Revolutionary Road," while it had been suggested to the Academy that it consider nominating her for a supporting role in "The Reader," even though her character is the dominant figure in that film.

This year, all the best picture nominees also earned their respective directors best director noms. Making the list are David Fincher for "Button," Ron Howard for "Frost/Nixon," Gus Van Sant for "Milk," Stephen Daldry for "The Reader" and Danny Boyle for "Slumdog Millionaire."

Although it did not earn any acting nominations for its cast of Indian actors, all of whom are relatively unknown to Western audiences, "Slumdog" still proved a hit with the Academy, which showered it with 10 nominations, including two for best song for its tunes "Jai Ho" and "O Saya," which should translate into a genuine Bollywood moment at the Academy Awards broadcast Feb. 22.

Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman, who contributed to both of those songs, also picked up a nomination for his original score for "Slumdog," which is up against "Button," Alexandre Desplat; "Defiance," James Newton Howard; "Milk," Danny Elfman; and "WALL-E," Thomas Newman.

Just as when the SAG Award noms were announced, "Doubt" proved particularly strong in the acting categories. In addition to Streep's mention as best actress for playing a fiercely certain nun, the film corralled a supporting actor nom for Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays her adversary, a reform-minded priest, as well as supporting actress nominations for Amy Adams, who plays a young nun caught in the crossfire, and Viola Davis, who has a couple of compelling scenes as the mother of a boy who might have been molested.

The other supporting actresses include Penelope Cruz, who lends a fiery presence to "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," Taraji P. Henson, the kindly housekeeper who adopts a withered infant in "Button," and Marisa Tomei, who bares nearly all as an independent stripper in "The Wrester."

Hoffman and Ledger, who faced off in the best actor category three years ago when Hoffman took home the gold for "Capote," will once again compete, this time for best supporting actor. The category also includes Josh Brolin's portrayal of a troubled San Francisco supervisor in "Milk," Robert Downey Jr.'s comic turn as a Method actor who switches races in "Tropic Thunder" and Michael Shannon's appearance as the slightly mad truth-teller in "Revolutionary Road."

While Ari Folman's animated documentary "Waltz With Bashir," a critical look at Israel's 1982 war with Lebanon, was eligible in both the animated and foreign-language film categories, it did not make the 'toon list, where the nominees are Disney's "Bolt," DreamWorks Animation's "Kung Fu Panda" and Pixar/Disney's "WALL-E."

"WALL-E" showed strength well beyond the animated category, though, earning six nominations, including one for its futuristic yet also humanistic original screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon with an original story by Stanton and Pete Doctor.

Pixar, as it often does, also popped up in the best animated short film crowd, with a nom for Doug Sweetland's "Presto," a film about a magician and a pesky rabbit. The other animated short film nominees are Kunio Kato's "La Maison en Petits Cubes," Konstantin Bronzit's "Lavatory -- Lovestory," Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand's "Oktapodi" and Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes' "This Way Up."

"Bashir" does figure in the foreign-language film contest. There, it is up against Germany's "The Baader Meinhof Complex," France's "The Class," Japan's "Departures" and Austria's "Revanche."

Along with "WALL-E," the nominees for original screenplay are "Frozen River," written by Courtney Hunt; "Happy-Go-Lucky," Mike Leigh; "In Bruges," Martin McDonagh; and "Milk," Dustin Lance Black.

In the adapted category, the nominees are "Button," screenplay by Eric Roth, screen story by Roth and Robin Swicord; "Doubt," John Patrick Shanley; "Frost/Nixon," Peter Morgan; "The Reader," David Hare; and "Slumdog," Simon Beaufoy.

The nominees for best documentary feature are "The Betrayal" (Nerakhoon), directed by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath; "Encounters at the End of the World," Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser; "The Garden," Scott Hamilton Kennedy; "Man on Wire," James Marsh and Simon Chinn; and "Trouble the Water," Tia Lessin and Carl Deal.

A complete list of nominees is on the next page.



Nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards:

(Noms by film: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" -- 13; "Slumdog Millionaire" -- 10; "The Dark Knight" -- 8; "Milk" -- 8; "WALL-E" -- 6; "Doubt" -- 5; "Frost/Nixon" -- 5; "The Reader" -- 5)

Best picture
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk"
"The Reader"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

Actor
Richard Jenkins, "The Visitor"
Frank Langella, "Frost/Nixon"
Sean Penn, "Milk"
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler"

Actress
Anne Hathaway, "Rachel Getting Married"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Melissa Leo, "Frozen River"
Meryl Streep, "Doubt"
Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

Supporting actor
Josh Brolin, "Milk"
Robert Downey Jr., "Tropic Thunder"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Doubt"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Michael Shannon, "Revolutionary Road"

Supporting actress
Amy Adams, "Doubt"
Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis, "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Marisa Tomei, "The Wrestler"

Director
David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Gus Van Sant, "Milk"
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Foreign-language film
"The Baader Meinhof Complex," Germany
"The Class," France
"Departures," Japan
"Revanche," Austria
"Waltz With Bashir," Israel

Adapted screenplay
Eric Roth and Robin Swicord, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt"
Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"
David Hare, "The Reader"
Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog Millionaire"

Original screenplay
Courtney Hunt, "Frozen River"
Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"
Martin McDonagh, "In Bruges"
Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon and Pete Docter, "WALL-E"

Animated feature film
"Bolt"
"Kung Fu Panda"
"WALL-E"

Art direction
"Changeling"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"The Duchess"
"Revolutionary Road"

Cinematography
"Changeling"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"The Reader," "Slumdog Millionaire"

Sound mixing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"WALL-E"
"Wanted"

Sound editing
"The Dark Knight"
"Iron Man"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"WALL-E"
"Wanted"

Original score
Alexandre Desplat, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
James Newton Howard, "Defiance"
Danny Elfman, "Milk"
A.R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Thomas Newman, "WALL-E"

Original song
"Down to Earth" from "WALL-E," Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman
"Jai Ho" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar
"O Saya" from "Slumdog Millionaire," A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Costume design
"Australia"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Duchess"
"Milk"
"Revolutionary Road"

Documentary feature
"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)"
"Encounters at the End of the World"
"The Garden"
"Man on Wire"
"Trouble the Water"

Documentary (short subject)
"The Conscience of Nhem En"
"The Final Inch"
"Smile Pinki"
"The Witness -- From the Balcony of Room 306"

Film editing
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Frost/Nixon"
"Milk"
"Slumdog Millionaire"

Makeup
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army"

Animated short film
"La Maison en Petits Cubes"
"Lavatory -- Lovestory"
"Oktapodi"
"Presto"
"This Way Up"

Live action short film
"Auf der Strecke (On the Line)"
"Manon on the Asphalt"
"New Boy"
"The Pig"
"Spielzeugland (Toyland)"

Visual effects
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Dark Knight"
"Iron Man"
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