And in the always competitive race to land a best animated feature nominations, here are your, um…three nominees?  Uh, oh.  That's not what the Academy had in mind when it changed the rules this summer qualifying animated films just over 40 minutes as feature length.  Besides the fact it duplicates the live action rule, the goal was to try an insure that there were 16 nominees ever year to qualify five slots.  Nov. 1 was the deadline to hit that mark with official submissions and last count has the number somewhere around 14. 

Obviously, the more nominees the more drama and chances for an upset in a category which has been mostly predictable since its inception in 2001.  In fact, you can argue the only surprise in the honor's history was when "Happy Feet" upset "Cars" for the Oscar in 2006.  Unfortunately, it appears only 14 candidates will submit to the Academy by today's Nov. 1 deadline.  And while we won't know for sure until the end of the week, that likely means somebody gets screwed. Let's take a moment and look at the contenders shall we?

"Toy Story 3-D"
It's in. It's the frontrunner.  It may be impossible to upset. 

"How to Train Your Dragon"
It should be in and wants to try to steal a conventional best picture nod too.

"Despicable Me"
It should be in, but could bet upset by "The Illusionist" for the third slot.

"The Illusionist"

Could upset for the third slot.  There will be genuine drama regarding this on nomination day.

"Tangled"
Without five nods, no way, no how.  But your young daughter will love it!

"Megamind"
Without five nods, no way, no how.  But your young son will love it!

"Legend of the Guardians"
It was iffy if there were five nods…without?  Yikes.

Other films hoping for five nominees include "My Dog Tulip," "Yogi Bear" and "Alpha and Omega."


In other awards season news…

- Annette Bening is the recipient of the Santa Barbara Film Festival's American Riviera Award. The honor was established by the festival to "recognize an actor who has had a strong influence on American Cinema." Bening will join past recipients including Sandra Bullock, Mickey Rourke, Tommy Lee Jones, Forrest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kevin Bacon and Diane Lane in trekking up the 101 to receive the award.  The Santa Barbara Film Festival will present its awards during a gala on Friday, January 28, 2011.  The award is nicely timed to help promote Bening's best actress Oscar hopes for her work in "The Kids Are All Right."

- James Franco is planing on taking a break from the "127 Hours" awards campaign.  The acclaimed actor and best actor contender will return to the Sundance Film Festival with an installation in the New Frontier program.  According to the Sundance Institute, his "Three's Company: The Drama" is described as "a multi-media examination of the classic 70s sit-com. Television has undoubtedly shaped our world: our increased exposure to dramatic entertainment, the shapes of our houses, the shape of the time in our day. In this piece James Franco hopes to pull television from the box and view it from 'a slightly oblique perspective'."  Franco appeared at last year's Festival for the opening night drama "Howl."

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