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'Slumdog' Leads BAFTA Film Nominations

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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Low-budget Indian drama "Slumdog Millionaire" picked up 11 nominations at Britain's top film awards on Thursday, building on its Golden Globes success and giving it another boost ahead of the Oscars next month.

It was tied at the top with "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," starring Brad Pitt, followed by Batman blockbuster "The Dark Knight" which won nine BAFTA nominations and Clint Eastwood's drama "Changeling," which won eight.

"Frost/Nixon" has six nominations, "The Reader" five and "In Bruges," "Milk" and "Revolutionary Road" four apiece, organizers of the Orange British Academy Film Awards said.

Slumdog Millionaire, a British picture about a young man from the slums of Mumbai who seeks to rise from rags to riches by winning a Hindi TV game show, triumphed at the Golden Globes earlier this month with four honors including best drama.

At the BAFTAs it was shortlisted for best film, while Danny Boyle, who made the acclaimed "Trainspotting" in 1996, is in the running for the best director award.

"We have spent much time away making this film in Bollywood and then promoting it in Hollywood," Boyle said in a statement.

"Witnessing these two tectonic plates of filmmaking stare at one another has been extraordinary - especially being a Brit caught in the middle of it."

Eighteen-year-old Dev Patel is also vying for best leading actor when the BAFTAs are handed out in London on February 8.

"To be nominated alongside Brad Pitt, Mickey Rourke, Frank Langella and Sean Penn is unbelievably exciting and such a huge honor," Patel said in a statement.

But the accolades have also come in for some criticism from Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan who wrote in a blog that Boyle's hard-hitting film might not have won so many plaudits had it been directed by an Indian.

"It's just that the SM (Slumdog Millionaire) idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition," Bachchan, 66, wrote in a blog posted on Tuesday. "The other would perhaps not."

The televised ceremony will be hosted by controversial presenter Jonathan Ross, who was recently suspended without pay from the BBC for his participation in obscene prank calls made to actor Andrew Sachs.

Curious Contender

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," in which Pitt's character gets younger with time, is also in the running for best film and best director.

Pitt won two nominations -- best actor for Benjamin Button and best supporting actor for his role in the Coen brothers' comedy "Burn After Reading."

The late Heath Ledger is nominated in the supporting actor category for his performance as the villainous Joker in Batman picture "The Dark Knight."

The Australian actor, who died last year aged 28 of an accidental prescription drugs overdose, won the same category at the Golden Globes and is many tipsters' favorite to win an Academy Award.

Kate Winslet, a double Golden Globe winner, competes against herself in the best actress category for "The Reader" and "Revolutionary Road," and is up against Angelina Jolie playing a mother desperately searching for her son in "Changeling."

Winslet has received two best actress BAFTA nominations in the same year before. In 2005, she was shortlisted for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Finding Neverland."

British media said the nominations underlined a strong year for home-grown cinema, and patriotic punters have made Slumdog Millionaire an early favorite to pick up a best picture Oscar.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)


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