Will Schmaltzy 'Benjamin Button' Win Oscar's Top Prize?

Though those numbers pale in comparison to what "The Dark Knight" has taken in, starting with $158 million on its U.S. debut weekend, the Academy's best picture panel has made sure it won't have to contend with Batman or any other superhero.

Despite having raised the hackles of more than a few, "Button" has received a fair critical reception overall. Those that like it are effusive.

"It's an amazing movie on many levels," said Howard Bragman, founder of public relations agency Fifteen Minutes. "We live in a short attention span society where anything over 89 minutes confuses people, but this movie combined storytelling and technological filmmaking in a remarkable way.

"Some won't connect with the movie, but I found Brad's performance and the complexity of the whole thing mightily impressive," added Bragman, who represented Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton scandal.

Whether "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is regarded as a profoundly moving masterpiece or sentimental slop depends entirely upon what one looks for in a movie.

However, while the Academy apparently shares the former opinion, it will be a surprise if it can take best picture ahead of favorite "Slumdog Millionaire."

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