"The Dark Knight" dominates the competition at the upcoming Saturn Awards, leading with 11 nominations, including a best picture bid as well as acting nods for leads Christian Bale and Maggie Gyllenhaal and supporting players Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart. Three years ago, "Batman Begins" won three of its nine Saturn Awards races — fantasy film, lead actor (Christian Bale), and writing (Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer).
This 35th annual edition of the awards honors films across four genres — sci-fi, fantasy, horror and action/adventure/thriller. That last catch-all category is where "The Dark Knight" is competing against "Changeling," "Gran Torino," "Quantum of Solace," "Traitor," and "Valkyrie."
"Valkyrie," directed by sci-fi veteran Bryan Singer, earned mixed reviews but did surprisingly well in terms of the Saturns. Besides that best picture bid, the film's seven Saturn nods include one for leading man Tom Cruise and another for Singer. Cruise is a previous seven-time Saturn nominee with one win for "Vanilla Sky" back in 2001, while Singer is a five-time contender winning for "X-Men" in 2000.
As the acting races span all four genres, Cruise's competition besides Bale (a two-time nominee) includes Oscar nominee Brad Pitt, who picked up his third Saturn nod with his bid for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." That epic time-traveling fantasy earned nine nods in total. Sci-fi hit "Iron Man" scored eight including a lead actor nom for Robert Downey Jr., who won this award in 1993 for "Heart and Souls" and had one other nod. Harrison Ford contends for his work in the sci-fi romp "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," which has six nominations in total. Ford won lead actor for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1982 and has now been nominated for all four films in the franchise.
Heartthrob Robert Pattinson was snubbed for his leading role in "Twilight." Did past four-time nominee Will Smith, who won the award last year for "I Am Legend," edge him out with his nod for "Hancock"? That critical flop but commercial hit also landed a bid for best fantasy film as well as a second supporting actress nod for Charlize Theron. The only nomination for "Twilight" came in the fantasy film race where it faces off against "Hancock" as well as "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "The Spiderwick Chronicles" and "Wanted."
Pattinson's "Twilight" love interest, Kristen Stewart, was likewise left off the list of lead actress nominees. Oscar contender Angelina Jolie competes here as "Changeling" earned her a third Saturn nod. Among her competiton are two other Oscar winners — Cate Blanchett, who picked up Saturn nod No. 4 for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and Gwyneth Paltrow, who landed her second Saturn nom for "Iron Man" — as well as four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, who is now a four-time Saturn nominee with her bid for "Blindness," newbie Emily Mortimer ("Transsiberian"), and one-time past Saturn nominee Gyllenhaal.
Members of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror decide on both nominees, and the winners which will be announced June 25. Begun in 1972 to honor often overlooked films, the organization has expanded its reach in recent years, adding TV awards in 1989 as well as that expanded category of action/adventure/thriller films in 1994 and DVD releases in 2003. An abbreviated list of film nominees is below; visit the official website for the complete list of nominees across all categories.
Best Science Fiction Film
"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
"The Incredible Hulk"
"Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Best Fantasy Film
"The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Spiderwick Chronicles"
Best Horror Film
"Hellboy II: The Golden Army"
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor"
"The Strangers "
Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film
"The Dark Knight"
"Quantum of Solace"
Christian Bale, "The Dark Knight"
Tom Cruise, "Valkyrie"
Robert Downey Jr., "Iron Man"
Harrison Ford, "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Brad Pitt, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Will Smith, "Hancock"
Cate Blanchett, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Maggie Gyllenhaal, "The Dark Knight"
Angelina Jolie, "Changeling"
Julianne Moore, "Blindness"
Emily Mortimer, "Transsiberian"
Gwyneth Paltrow, "Iron Man"
Best Supporting Actor
Jeff Bridges, "Iron Man"
Aaron Eckhart, "The Dark Knight"
Woody Harrelson, "Transsiberian"
Shia LaBeouf, "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight"
Bill Nighy, "Valkyrie"
Best Supporting Actress
Joan Allen, "Death Race"
Judi Dench, "Quantum of Solace"
Olga Kurylenko, "Quantum of Solace"
Tilda Swinton, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Charlize Theron, "Hancock"
Carice van Houten, "Valkyrie"
Clint Eastwood, "Changeling"
Jon Favreau, "Iron Man"
David Fincher , "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Christopher Nolan, "The Dark Knight"
Bryan Singer, "Valkyrie"
Steven Spielberg, "Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Andrew Stanton, "Wall-E"
Photo: Warner Bros.