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'Benjamin Button' Leads Oscar Race With 13 Nods

Brad Pitt ages backward — and gracefully, the Oscar nominators seem to think — in <em>The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.</em> The film took 13 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
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Brad Pitt ages backward — and gracefully, the Oscar nominators seem to think — in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The film took 13 nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button leads the 2009 Oscar pack with 13 nominations, including nods for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director.

The other Best Picture nominees: Frost/Nixon, Milk, The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire.

Slumdog, the rags-to-riches romance about a Mumbai orphan, claimed 10 nominations.

Left out in the cold: the latest Batman epic, The Dark Knight, and Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino. Partisans of both films had hoped to find them listed among the Best Picture nominees.

The surprise that did make the list: The Reader, a Holocaust drama starring Kate Winslet. It ended up in the No. 5 spot that many had thought could go to The Dark Knight.

The late Heath Ledger did earn a Best Supporting Actor nomination, as widely expected, for his indelible turn as The Joker in The Dark Knight. But the movie was shut out in the other high-profile slots, taking home chiefly technical nominations in such categories as cinematography, visual effects and editing.

Winslet's Best Actress nomination came for The Reader — another surprise, at least to those who had expected her to get the nod for Revolutionary Road.

There were two joyful surprises for indie-film connoisseurs: Melissa Leo earned a Best Actress nomination for her beleaguered, immigrant-smuggling mother in the fiercely unsentimental drama Frozen River, while Richard Jenkins — who drew near-universal raves for his performance as a woebegone widower in the immigration-themed indie film The Visitor — picked up the Best Actor nomination many had said he deserved. He joined shoo-ins Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon), Sean Penn (Milk) and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) alongside Benjamin Button's Brad Pitt in that category.

Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne talks to film critic Kenneth Turan about the morning's surprises — and its disappointments.

The complete list of nominees for the 81st Academy Awards was announced at 8:30 a.m. ET. Actor Forrest Whitaker joined the head of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to unveil the list.

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