Final Oscar ballots mailed to voters

Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:48pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Will the Oscar go to "Button" or "Milk", or will "Slumdog" be top dog next month?

Final Oscar ballots were mailed on Wednesday to some 5,800 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who will cast their votes for the best 2008 movie, actor, actress, director and 20 other categories, organizers said.

The ballots -- still on paper despite the dominance of email and text messaging -- are due back on February 17, just ahead of the February 22 Oscar ceremony in Hollywood where the movie industry's highest honors are handed out.

They will be tabulated by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, who have never seen a breach of security concerning the winners in their 75 years of handling the Oscar ballots.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", about a man born old who ages backward, leads the field with 13 Oscar nominations, including best film and best actor for Brad Pitt. The Mumbai rags-to-riches story "Slumdog Millionaire" has 10, while gay rights tale "Milk", post-Holocaust romance "The Reader" and political drama "Frost/Nixon" round out the best movie contenders.

Only two PricewaterhouseCoopers partners know the identity of the winners ahead of the live, televised Oscar ceremony. The envelopes with the winner's names are handed to award presenters immediately before they walk on stage, the accounting firm said.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant)

<p>Oscar ballots for the 81st annual Academy Awards are prepared for mailing at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills, California January 28, 2009. REUTERS/Phil McCarten</p>