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"Benjamin Button," Mickey Rourke snubbed by Oscar

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Benjamin Button" came undone at the Oscars on Sunday, while Mickey Rourke appeared in danger of heading back to obscurity after losing the closely fought best actor race.

While there were plenty of winners at the Academy Awards, there are always more losers, and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was a high-profile casualty.

The Brad Pitt drama, about a man who ages backward, led contenders with 13 nominations but ended up with just three prizes -- all in technical categories. As expected, it was overshadowed by "Slumdog Millionaire," which won eight awards, including best picture and director.

"Benjamin Button," which has been in development for decades, has earned about $176 million at the worldwide box office. But it cost about $150 million to make and is far from turning a profit. It was distributed by Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures and Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros. Pictures.

But it fared better than some. The cerebral dramas "Doubt" and "Frost/Nixon," with five nominations each, were completely ignored. The only major surprise of the ceremony was in the foreign-language category, where Israeli war cartoon "Waltz with Bashir" lost to Japanese film "Departures."

Rourke, whose career flatlined years ago, launched a major comeback with "The Wrestler," playing an enfeebled fighter whose best days are similarly long gone. The acclaimed movie garnered two nominations, but Rourke lost out to "Milk" star Sean Penn, and Marisa Tomei lost the supporting actress race to Penelope Cruz for "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

Rourke, 56, is "the likeliest one to go back to where he disappeared to," said John Wilson, organizer of the Razzie Awards, which honor the worst films in Hollywood.

"Us Weekly" film critic Thelma Adams suggested that Rourke reunite with "Wrestler" director Darren Aronofsky to "make movies that are somewhat tailored to Rourke's skills."

But Aronofsky joked at the Spirit Awards on Saturday that he would "wait five years 'til he screws it up again, and then come back and reinvent him."

Meryl Streep found herself in a familiar position. The two-time winner received a record 15th nomination this year with "Doubt," but had to look on as five-time nominee Kate Winslet finally heard her name called for "The Reader."

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Edwin Chan)

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