October 23, 2016
        Hollywood Contenders: New Oscar Predictions for October                Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant, Naomie Harris, Lily Collins get Honors at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                "Manchester by the Sea" leads the Gotham Award nominations                Tom Ford, Marc Platt and Kenneth Lonergan to be Honored at 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards                Tom Cruise is in his action hero comfort zone with "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"                "Moonlight" could be A24's big Oscar horse this year                Ewan McGregor steps behind the camera with "American Pastoral"                Hollywood Contenders: A second crack at Golden Globe predictions for 2016                "The Accountant" seeks to help give Ben Affleck another blockbuster                85 countries will be competing for Best Foreign Language Feature nominations at the Oscars                Tom Hanks to receive Hollywood Actor Award for "Sully" @ Hollywood Film Awards                "Certain Women" showcases Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Williams                Ben Affleck is perhaps Hollywood's biggest and most diverse superstar                "The Birth of a Nation" looks to survive controversy and contend for awards                "The Girl on the Train" hopes to transport Emily Blunt to the Oscar race        

Will “Up” soar to Best Picture heights?

Today’s announcement of the Director’s Guild of America’s nominations virtually shores up five of the Academy’s soon-to-be-announced 10 Best Picture slots. The DGA’s recognition of Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino probably means “The Hurt Locker,” “Avatar,” “Precious,” “Up in the Air” and “Inglourious Basterds” will represent in the top category come Oscar night.

I’m more concerned with the next five slots and, more specifically, if Pete Docter’s beloved “Up” can really grab a seat at the Best Picture table. No animated film has managed to nab a Best Picture nomination since the Academy created a separate category for Best Animated Feature in 2001. And prior to that, only Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” captured enough votes to make the Top 5 cut (though “Waltz with Bashir” competed in the Foreign Language category in 2008).

As we get closer to the Feb. 2 announcement of the Oscar nominations, I become less and less convinced “Up” will make the cut. It has plenty going for it, from positive critical response (98 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) to a hefty box-office take ($293 million domestic and $683 million worldwide). But then again, so do all of Pixar’s masterpieces, and they’re routinely relegated to the animation ghetto. Last year’s contender from Pixar’s dream studio, “WALL-E,” felt like it had a legitimate chance, and if there were 10 slots in 2009, it very likely could have competed alongside Chris Nolan’s “The Dark Knight.” But so far, history hasn’t been in Pixar’s favor. The expansion of the Best Picture field helps “Up’s” chances, but I don’t think inclusion is a guarantee.

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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