By the time Oscar nominations come around each year, there are few surprises and this year proved no exception. Leading the pack, with 13 nominations, was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which landed nods for its lead actor, Brad Pitt, his on-screen mother, supporting actress Taraji P. Henson, and director David Fincher. Following on its heels was the Golden Globe Best Motion Picture – Drama winner Slumdog Millionaire. Danny Boyle’s independent hit will go head-to-head with the time-bending Benjamin Button in the directing, cinematography, editing, original score, sound mixing, adapted screenplay and best picture categories.
Behind the two leading contenders were The Dark Knight and Milk, which received eight nominations apiece. A heavy favorite to be honored with a posthumous Oscar, Heath Ledger was nominated for his supporting role in The Dark Knight as was Milk’s Josh Brolin. Sean Penn, who transformed himself into the movie’s title character, Harvey Milk, was nominated for his lead performance alongside Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon, this year’s Golden Globe winner for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler, the aforementioned Pitt and a surprise nomination for Richard Jenkins, who was recognized for his work in The Visitor.
In the Best Actress category, the highly-praised performances of Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Angelina Jolie (Changeling), Meryl Streep (Doubt) and Kate Winslet (The Reader) were acknowledged, along with Melissa Leo, whose performance in the Sundance Grand Jury prize winner Frozen River nabbed her a nomination alongside the more recognizable peers.
Supporting actress nominations went to Amy Adams (Doubt), Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), Viola Davis (Doubt), Henson (Benjamin Button) and Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler). Along with Ledger and Brolin, supporting actor nods were given to Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt) and Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).
The nominees for achievement in cinematography included Tom Stern (The Changeling), Claudio Miranda (Benjamin Button), Wally Pfister (The Dark Knight), Chris Menges and Roger Deakins (The Reader) and Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire). For achievement in film editing, the nominees are Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (Benjamin Button), Lee Smith (The Dark Knight), Mike Hill and Dan Hanley (Frost/Nixon), Elliot Graham (Milk) and Chris Dickens (Slumdog Millionaire).
Alongside Fincher for Benjamin Button and Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire, this year’s achievement in directing nominations went to Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon, Gus Van Sant for Milk and Stephen Daldry for The Reader. Each of the nominated director’s movies also received Best Motion Picture of the Year nominations.
Winners for this year’s Academy Awards will be announced during the televised ceremony February 22, 2009. For more information and for a complete list of this year’s nominees, visit www.oscars.com.