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'Benjamin Button' an early favourite for 66th Golden Globe awards

Among the film favourites for the 66th Golden Globes awards ceremony in January are 'The Dark Knight' and 'Benjamin Button', directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt.


AFP - Brad Pitt and Batman are expected to be among the front-runners here Thursday as the race for Oscars glory swings into top gear with the announcement of nominees for the 66th Golden Globes.

Hollywood heart-throb Pitt is vying for honors for his performance in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1922 short story about a man who ages in reverse.

Director David Fincher's movie, which sees Pitt star opposite Australian icon Cate Blanchett, does not open in the United States until December 25 but has already wowed critics and audiences at sneak previews.

"I think the presumption among pundits right now is that 'Benjamin Button' is the front-runner," Tom O'Neil, an awards-season expert with the Los Angeles Times', told AFP.

Long-regarded as an indicator of films likely to challenge for top honors at the Oscars, which take place on February 22 next year, the Globes have thrown up a series of red herrings in recent years.

The last movie to achieve the Golden Globes best drama and Oscars best picture double was 2003's fantasy epic "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

However the Globes, which are chosen by around 80 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and handed out on January 11, can help to shape the overall field and give valuable momentum to front-runners.

While "Benjamin Button" has emerged as the early favorite -- receiving another boost on Tuesday with eight nominations for the Broadcast Film Critics Association's annual awards -- it faces stiff competition from a glut of other films including blockbuster "The Dark Knight."

As well as raking in nearly 1 billion dollars worldwide since its July release, director Christopher Nolan's sequel was widely hailed as a masterpiece of movie-making that transcended its superhero genre.

The film was also notable for an extraordinary performance from late Australian actor Heath Ledger, who is being strongly tipped to win a posthumous Oscar at next year's Academy Awards for his cackling portrayal of the Joker.

"Whether 'The Dark Knight' was the best movie of the year is a subject of debate, but it was certainly the movie of the year," O'Neil said. "It was the most talked about, the one that mattered most, the one that made the most.

"And the Globes have an obvious appreciation for blockbusters, the big crowed pleasers."

O'Neil cautioned however that studio films such as Paramount's "Benjamin Button" and Warner Bros' "The Dark Knight" could yet be upset by a crop of smaller budget movies.

These include "Milk," Gus Van Sant's biopic starring Sean Penn as trailblazing gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk, and "Slumdog Millionaire," British film-maker Danny Boyle's soaring love story about a boy seeking to escape poverty in Mumbai who appears on the Indian version of television gameshow "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."

"These uplifting movies like 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'Milk' are likely to play a big role," O'Neil said. I think both of those films are pretty sure bets for best picture nominations at the Oscars and the Globes."

A slew of other acclaimed films are also tipped to be in contention, including Sam Mendes drama "Revolutionary Road," which sees "Titanic" co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet playing frustrated 1950s suburbanites; "Frost/Nixon," Ron Howard's adaptation of the successful stage play about disgraced former US President Richard Nixon's series of interviews with British journalist Sir David Frost; and "Doubt," starring Oscar-winner Meryl Streep as a Catholic nun locked in a duel with a priest played by Philip Seymour-Hoffman.

Lew Harris, a consulting editor with the website, said awards season could be "pretty chopped up" with prizes being evenly spread across several films.

"You've got 'Benjamin Button,' 'Doubt'. I just don't see one big movie emerging," Harris told AFP.

"'The Dark Knight' has the most possibility of doing well across the board. But it's hard to ignore some of the performances in films like 'Frost/Nixon' and 'Milk.' I think it's going to be pretty chopped up."

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