Oscar Predictions: Lightyear

The buzz for Disney/Pixar’s Lightyear is just fine, but it’s not in the stratosphere of some of the studio’s other efforts. The origin story for the co-lead of the Toy Story franchise (voiced by Tim Allen for those four pics and by Chris Evans here) is at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

If Onward at 88% or Brave at 78% nabbed nominations in the Best Animated Feature Oscar derby, this should manage to do so as well pretty easily. However, let’s see how the competition plays out in the second half of the season. Pixar’s spring title Turning Red has probably reserved a spot and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio looms. Other hopefuls include Apollo 10 1/2 and Wendell & Wild. 

In the 22 years of its existence, Pixar has taken home exactly half of the Academy’s animation trophies (with Disney traditional picking up four more). Two of them were the third and fourth Toy Story sagas. The category wasn’t around for parts one and two and I bet both would’ve won. That bodes well for Lightyear though the somewhat mixed chatter could complicate matters. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…

Lightyear Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (06/16): On the eve of its premiere, I’m revising my Lightyear estimate down again – from $95.5M to $85.5M

Blogger’s Note (06/15): Revising my estimate down from $101.8M to $95.5M

Disney-Pixar is banking that the buzz for Lightyear will propel it to a nine figure opening orbit on June 17th. Serving as an origin story for one half of the beloved Toy Story duo, Angus MacLane makes his feature-length directorial debut. Captain America himself Chris Evans takes over vocal duties as the title character, replacing Tim Allen (who was heard in the four TS blockbusters). Additional actors providing the sounds are Keke Palmer, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, Taika Waititi, Uzo Aduba, and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.

The Mouse Factory is moving onward with theatrical only outputs for its Pixar brand after Soul, Luca, and Turning Red all hit the streaming circuit on Disney+. The last big screen studio offering was over two years ago with… Onward. 

For over a quarter century, the Toy Story franchise has been a gold mine. In 2010, part 3 premiered with $110 million and eventually earned $415 million domestically. The fourth entry in 2019 built upon that with respective numbers of $120 million and $434 million. They also both took home the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Lightyear may not quite reach those stratospheric heights since it’s a spin-off, but I don’t think it’ll come in with a whole lot less. I do believe a launch of just under $100 million is feasible.

Lightyear opening weekend prediction: $85.5 million

Da 5 Bloods Movie Review

Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods shows the filmmaker in peak form with a sprawling and powerful story of war and the residual results on its soldiers. The title characters are a quartet of African-American Vietnam vets and one who didn’t make it out of the jungle. This is a mix of numerous genres – traditional war movie, treasure hunt, and exploration of racial themes to name three. Throughout his career spanning five decades, Lee has never lacked in grand ambition. When he’s in his element, the end product is something to behold. For the majority of the running time here, that holds true.

Following a prologue showing significant moments in the civil rights Vietnam eras, we meet the four soldiers reuniting in Ho Chi Minh City half a century later. They are Paul (Delroy Lindo), Otis (Clarke Peters), Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), and Eddie (Norm Lewis). The reasoning for the reunion is two-fold. Norman (played in flashback by Chadwick Boseman) was their squad leader who perished in battle. He was not just their leader in rank, but a mentor who tremendously shaped their overseas experience and beyond. The four remaining Bloods are there to retrieve his remains, but they are also looking to gather a large quantity of gold buried with him.

Da 5 Bloods is in many ways a concentration about what the group left behind. For Otis, this includes a girlfriend and child. For Paul, it’s no less than his sanity. His PTSD is severe and his character is quite a creation. Sporting a MAGA hat and a host of unresolved issues, his son David (Jonathan Majors) unexpectedly makes the trek to the former Saigon to join his unpredictable dad. The part of Paul is a well-constructed character. Yet much credit is due to Lindo, a veteran actor in the role of his career. Lindo delivers a couple of direct to camera monologues as the gold hunt takes unanticipated turns that are potent and riveting. Those moments will likely garner awards buzz for the performer and it’s deserved.

The supporting cast is impressive with Peters and Majors getting the most fleshed out characters behind Lindo’s. Jean Reno turns up as a Frenchman getting his cut of the gold and Melanie Thierry plays an activist dedicated to ridding the Vietnamese landscape of decades old landmines.

As mentioned, the use of flashback is employed and Lee makes a fascinating narrative decision here. While Norm is shown as his younger self, the four other actors are shown as is in the callbacks to wartime. This is a bit jarring at first, but it turns out to be a wise choice. As the story unfolds, we realize that it’s through the lens of their recollections of their hero Norm. The utilization of Irishman style de-aging or younger actors isn’t necessary.

Lee’s previous pic BlacKkKlansman told a tale from decades ago that resonates in 2020 (perhaps slightly more effectively). Same goes for Da 5 Bloods. Lee is an urgent director and we feel it throughout. With a commanding lead performance from Lindo, a fine score from Terence Blanchard, and a fresh take on the genre (s), Bloods is a vital watch.

***1/2 (out of four)