'Button,' 'Milk' top Critics Choice noms with 8

'Dark Knight,' 'Slumdog,' 'Doubt' trail with six each

With eight nominations apiece, the romantic fable "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and the political biography "Milk" are atop the list of nominees for the 14th annual Critics Choice Awards, announced Tuesday.

"The Dark Knight," "Doubt" and "Slumdog Millionaire" are next with six noms each.

The Broadcast Film Critics Assn., representing more than 200 film critics in the U.S. and Canada, votes on the awards, which often are a harbinger of Oscar nominations.

To hedge its bets, the group nominates 10 movies for best picture: The group includes the aforementioned films along with "Changeling," "Frost/Nixon," "The Reader," "WALL-E" and "The Wrestler."

"WALL-E" -- which is turning out to be a critics' darling, having been chosen as picture of the year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. -- also popped up in the animated film category along with "Bolt," "Kung Fu Panda," "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" and "Waltz With Bashir."

"Bashir," a look at Israel's 1982 war with Lebanon, also is a double nominee, vying for best foreign-language film along with "A Christmas Tale," "Gomorra," "I've Loved You So Long," "Let the Right One In" and "Mongol."

Clint Eastwood scored two noms: as best actor for his turn as an irascible ex-Marine in "Gran Torino" and as the composer of "Changeling."

In the best actor heat, he will face off against Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor"), Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon"), Sean Penn ("Milk"), Brad Pitt ("Benjamin Button") and Mickey Rourke ("Wrestler").

Pitt's "Benjamin Button" co-star Cate Blanchett is nominated for best actress along with Kate Beckinsale ("Nothing but the Truth"), Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"), Angelina Jolie ("Changeling"), Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") and Meryl Streep ("Doubt").

Eastwood missed a best director nom for "Changeling" or "Gran Torino." Instead, the five nominees are Danny Boyle ("Slumdog"), David Fincher ("Benjamin Button"), Ron Howard ("Frost/Nixon"), Christopher Nolan ("Dark Knight") and Gus Van Sant ("Milk").

Best picture nominee "Dark Knight" also is nominated for best action movie along with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," "Iron Man," "Quantum of Solace" and "Wanted."

The nominees for best comedy range from the dry humor of "Burn After Reading" and cosmopolitan wit of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" to the broader jokefests "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Role Models" and "Tropic Thunder."

Two "Milk" actors -- James Franco, who plays Harvey Milk's lover, and Josh Brolin, who appears as a political rival -- are nominated in the best supporting actor category along with Robert Downey Jr. ("Tropic Thunder"), Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Doubt") and the late Heath Ledger ("Dark Knight").

Kate Winslet failed in her bid for a best actress nomination for "Revolutionary Road" -- her co-star in that film, Leonardo DiCaprio, also didn't make the list of nominees -- but earned a supporting actress nom for "Reader" and will compete with Penelope Cruz ("Barcelona"), Viola Davis ("Doubt"), Vera Farmiga ("Nothing but the Truth"), Taraji P. Henson ("Benjamin Button") and Marisa Tomei ("Wrestler").

The awards, set for Jan. 8 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, will be broadcast by VH1. The nominations were announced Tuesday by Rosie Perez, "At the Movies" hosts Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz and VH1 president Tom Calderone at the MTV Networks studios in Times Square.

Other nominations included:

Best acting ensemble: "Button," "Knight," "Doubt," "Milk" and "Rachel."

Best writer: Simon Beaufoy, "Slumdog"; Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"; Peter Morgan, "Frost/Nixon"; Eric Roth, "Button"; and John Patrick Shanley, "Doubt."

Best young actor/actress (under 21): Dakota Fanning, "The Secret Life of Bees"; David Kross, "The Reader"; Dev Patel, "Slumdog"; and Brandon Walters, "Australia."

Best picture made for television: "John Adams," "Recount" and "Coco Chanel."

Best documentary feature: "I.O.U.S.A.," "Man on Wire," "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," "Standard Operating Procedure" and "Young at Heart."

Best song: "Another Way to Die," Jack White and Alicia Keys/Jack White, "Quantum of Solace"; "Down to Earth," Peter Gabriel/Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, "WALL-E"; "I Thought I Lost You," Miley Cyrus and John Travolta/Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele, "Bolt"; "Jaiho," Sukhwinder Singh/A.R. Rahman and Gulzar, "Slumdog"; and "The Wrestler," Bruce Springsteen/Bruce Springsteen, "The Wrestler."

Best composer: Alexandre Desplat, "Button"; Eastwood, "Changeling"; Danny Elfman, "Milk"; Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, "Knight"; and Rahman, "Slumdog."