Academy Award Nominations: Benjamin Button, Slumdog, and Dark Knight lead the pack

After a few years of critically-lauded but hardly-seen films vying for the top spots at the Academy Awards, many were predicting that things this year would return back to the so-called "Golden Age", when commercially successful films could still win the big awards. The Dark Knight and WALL•E -- both massive box office successes -- were also loved by critics everywhere, and the thought was that either (or both) of them could've ended up being nominated for Best Picture.

Instead, though, the Academy ended up following their recent history, heaping nominations onto smaller films most moviegoers haven't even seen. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (which leads all films with 13 nominations) is the only Best Picture nominee to make north of $100-million. The other four films -- Slumdog Millionaire (which received 10 total nominations), Milk (8 nominations), The Reader (5 nominations), and Frost/Nixon (5 nominations) -- haven't even made $100-million combined, though with Slumdog's expected post-nomination buzz and the film still expanding, the Golden Globe winner for Best Drama does have a chance to beef up its current tally of $40-million.

The Dark Knight did end up with 8 nominations, including the expected nomation for the late Heath Ledger, whose turn as the Joker is the runaway favourite to take home a posthumous Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. And WALL•E received 6 total nominations, though outside of Best Animated Feature (a lock to win) and Original Screenplay, the rest are for sound and music, common for animated films. The biggest surprise from a big-budget blockbuster (and a pleasant one at that) came from Robert Downey Jr.'s nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Ben Stiller's outrageous and over-the-top Tropic Thunder.

Curiously absent from most categories are Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino (though his less-acclaimed film, Changeling, did get 3 nominations), Golden Globe-winner In Brudges (only getting 1 writing nomination), and Revolutionary Road (3 nominations, but none for Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, or director Sam Mendes).

The complete list of nominees can be found below.

Best Picture

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal)
  • Milk (Focus Features)
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight)

Best Director

  • Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire (Miramax)
  • Stephen Daldry for The Reader (The Weinstein Company)
  • David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Fox Searchlight)
  • Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Gus Van Sant for Milk (Miramax)

Best Actor

  • Richard Jenkins in The Visitor (Overture Films)
  • Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon (Universal)
  • Sean Penn in Milk (Focus Features)
  • Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)

Best Actress

  • Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Angelina Jolie in Changeling (Universal)
  • Melissa Leo in Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Meryl Streep in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Kate Winslet in The Reader (The Weinstein Company)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Josh Brolin in Milk (Focus Features)
  • Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.)
  • Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Penélope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)
  • Viola Davis in Doubt (Miramax)
  • Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler (Fox Searchlight)

Best Screenplay (Adapted)

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
  • Doubt (Miramax), Written by John Patrick Shanley
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal), Screenplay by Peter Morgan
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Hare
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Best Screenplay (Original)

  • Frozen River (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Courtney Hunt
  • Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax), Written by Mike Leigh
  • In Bruges (Focus Features), Written by Martin McDonagh
  • Milk (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Best Animated Feature

  • Bolt (Walt Disney)
  • Kung Fu Panda (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount)
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney)

Best Foreign Feature

  • The Baader Meinhof Complex, Germany
  • The Class (Sony Pictures Classics), France
  • Departures (Regent Releasing), Japan
  • Revanche (Janus Films), Austria
  • Waltz with Bashir (Sony Pictures Classics), Israel

Best Original Score

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.),Alexandre Desplat
  • Defiance (Paramount Vantage), James Newton Howard
  • Milk (Focus Features), Danny Elfman
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney), Thomas Newman

Best Original Song

  • Down to Earth from WALL-E (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
  • Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
  • O Saya from Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman andMaya Arulpragasam

Best Documentary Feature

  • The Betrayal (Nerakhoon) (Cinema Guild)
  • Encounters at the End of the World (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment)
  • The Garden
  • Man on Wire (Magnolia Pictures)
  • Trouble the Water (Zeitgeist Films)

Best Documentary Short

  • The Conscience of Nhem En
  • The Final Inch
  • Smile Pinki
  • The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306

Best Animated Short

  • La Maison en Petits Cubes
  • Lavatory - Lovestory
  • Oktapodi (Talantis Films)
  • Presto (Walt Disney)
  • This Way Up

Best Live-Action Short

  • Auf der Strecke (On the Line) (Hamburg Shortfilmagency)
  • Manon on the Asphalt (La Luna Productions)
  • New Boy (Network Ireland Television)
  • The Pig
  • Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Best Cinematography

  • Changeling (Universal), Tom Stern
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Claudio Miranda
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister
  • The Reader (The Weinstein Company), Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle

Best Editing

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), Lee Smith
  • Frost/Nixon (Universal), Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
  • Milk (Focus Features), Elliot Graham
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Chris Dickens

Best Art Direction

  • Changeling (Universal), Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
  • The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
  • Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage), Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

Best Costume

  • Australia (20th Century Fox), Catherine Martin
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Jacqueline West
  • The Duchess (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O'Connor
  • Milk (Focus Features), Danny Glicker
  • Revolutionary Road (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage), Albert Wolsky

Best Makeup

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Greg Cannom
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Best Sound Editing

  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), Richard King
  • Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Tom Sayers
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney), Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
  • Wanted (Universal), Wylie Stateman

Best Sound Mixing

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
  • WALL-E (Walt Disney),Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
  • Wanted (Universal), Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

Best Visual Effects

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
  • The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.), Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
  • Iron Man (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

Tags: Oscars, Academy Awards, awards, Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight

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Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found putting on and promoting music and comedy events with The Purple Room in Winnipeg, or co-producing the live comedy game shows Pants on Fire and The Great Patio Showdown. (@comedygeek)

Original Comments Posted (3)

mandi says...

I woke up ridiculously early this morning so I could watch the nominations live, and I nearly fell out of my chair when they said Tropic Thunder. I have not seen it, so I am probably in non place to judge, but it seems ludicrous to me that a Ben Stiller movie could be up for an Academy Award - whether or not Ben himself is linked to the nomination.

I have been discussing the nominations with people throughout the day, and we find it rather curious that Kate Winslet won supporting actress at the Golden Globes but is up for the lead actress Oscra for the same role.

I have to go see so many movies now.

Jan 22, 2009 3:43pm

sarahm says...

I know, I really need to see Slumdog Millionaire.

Jan 22, 2009 8:30pm

metal2000 says...

I know for television, for the Emmys, it's up to the actor what category to submit themselves -- comedy or drama, lead or supporting. I wonder if that's the same for the Oscars and Golden Globes, or just one? I haven't yet seen The Reader, so I'm not sure how much a focal point to the story she was, but I was definitely expecting her Lead Actress nomination to be for Revolutionary Road.

Also... Ben Stiller may not pick the best movies to simply *star* in, but as far as directing, his 4 feature outings have (in my opinion) all been a shoulder above: Tropic Thunder, Zoolander, The Cable Guy, and Reality Bites. And more specifically, Robert Downey Jr.'s performance was one of the most inspired acting jobs I've ever seen. Comedies need more recognition from the Academy, and this is a start, anyway.

Jan 23, 2009 1:41am

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