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…

Oscar Watch: Flee

Back in January at the Sundance Film Festival, Flee was a home run with critics. The film has the very rare distinction of fitting multiple categories – it’s animated. It’s a documentary. And it comes from the nation of Denmark.

Directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen (and executive produced by last year’s Best Actor nominee Riz Ahmed), Flee tells the true life story of an Afghan refugee’s trials and tribulations. Based on nearly 50 reviews, it holds a pure 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Flee is unique in that it could contend in all four races at the Academy Awards honoring feature-length efforts: Best Picture, International Feature Film, Animated Feature, and Documentary Feature. The recent news coverage from Afghanistan could contribute to its urgent nature.

Bowing in theaters on December 3rd via Neon, the acclaim for Flee should get this in at least half of the categories where it is eligible. Just last year, Collective managed to do so in International Feature Film and Documentary. It remains to be seen whether this is the Danish pick for the former competition. My hunch is, if so, it could show up in both races.

Animated Feature is also a strong possibility though I’ve written before about how packed it could be. Other viable hopefuls include The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, Vivo, and the forthcoming Encanto and Wendell and Wild. 

Best Picture is obviously the toughest one to breach, but I wouldn’t count it out. I could even envision a narrative developing rooting Flee on for inclusion in the entire quartet.

Bottom line: expect to see Flee in the mix in more than one category next year. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch – PAW Patrol: The Movie

Let us begin with what might be the obvious disclaimer: I did not think I would be writing an Oscar Watch post on PAW Patrol: The Movie. Opening Friday, the cinematic rendering of Nickelodeon’s popular kids show was simply not on my radar screen for potential contenders in Best Animated Feature.

I’m not losing my marbles here. You won’t see me pontificating about whether Kim Kardashian gets a Supporting Actress nod for her voice work. Yet the fact of the matter is this… Patrol stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment. Some caveats: this is based on 13 reviews thus far. And a lot of the critical reaction isn’t exactly claiming this is a masterpiece. The general consensus is that fans of the show will lap it up and their attending adults might even be reasonably entertained.

So could this actually land a nomination? Well, it’s possible but still doubtful. As I’ve discussed before in my previous OW posts, this particularly race is already getting crowded. The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Luca, Vivo, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Flee (not out yet but recipient of Sundance raves) are all more likely contenders. And that’s five. Additionally, Encanto and Wendell and Wild are still to come and, on paper, should be serious hopefuls.

Bottom line: Tomatoes meter notwithstanding, don’t count on this getting in. However, it is certainly more of a possibility than anyone could have envisioned just days ago. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Vivo

While we wait to see whether or not most of the Best Picture contenders truly are viable, the Animated Feature race is already packed with contenders. Vivo is available on Netflix today. The Sony Pictures effort comes from director Kirk DeMicco (best known for making The Croods) and features original songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. The voice cast includes Ynairaly Simo, Zoe Saldana, Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Nicole Byer, and Gloria Estefan.

The film’s reviews are solid with an 89% Rotten Tomatoes rating. In a lighter year, that might automatically warrant inclusion in the final five. Not so fast in 2021. The list of other hopefuls already released includes Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, Belle and The Mitchells vs. the Machines (another Netflix title that they should campaign heavily for). Additionally, Miranda has Mouse Factory effort Encanto this autumn which is another likely player. Add to the list the critically acclaimed animated doc Flee and Henry Selick’s Wendell and Wild and Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 (also both upcoming from Netflix). So, yeah, it’s crowded.

If Vivo doesn’t make the cut, it could still make a play in Original Song. Estefan has the track “Inside Your Heart”. That particular competition is also expected to have plenty of tracks competing against each other.

Bottom line: there’s a lot of pics and songs in the mix, but Vivo is at least on the radar for attention. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Belle

Three years ago, Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai scored a nomination in the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars (ultimately losing to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse). The Japanese director has unveiled his follow-up effort Belle at the Cannes Film Festival (receiving a 14 minute standing ovation) and this looks to be another contender in an already bustling 2021 field.

Critics are praising the visuals of Hosoda’s latest creation and it’s even drawing references to The Matrix for its style. It opens in Japan today with North American distribution anticipated for the fall. As mentioned, we have already seen a handful of serious hopefuls for the Academy to consider. This includes Netflix’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines, Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca, and another Cannes selection with Where Is Anne Frank. The Mouse Factory also has Encanto later in 2021 while Netflix has Wendell and Wild and Richard Linklater’s Apollo 10 1/2 on deck.

Bottom line: add Belle as one more legit contestant for inclusion. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Oscar Watch: Where Is Anne Frank

In 2008, Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman received heaps of acclaim for his animated war docudrama Waltz with Bashir. It took home the Best Foreign Language prize from the Golden Globes in addition to winning the Annie Award. Bashir was in the Academy’s five nominees in their international feature competition. His 2013 follow-up The Congress did not match the bonafides of its predecessor as far as awards chatter.

At the Cannes Film Festival, Folman’s latest drawn feature Where Is Anne Frank has screened. As you can tell from the name, this is another title dealing with serious subject matter. Frank is told from the perspective of Kitty, the imaginary girl whom the title character addressed her letters.

While some early reviews are positive, the current 71% Rotten Tomatoes rating puts in the same realm as The Congress. That causes me to doubt whether this makes the cut in what is shaping up to be a competitive Animated Feature Oscar race in 2021. Disney already has a trifecta of hopefuls with the already released Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca and the forthcoming Encanto. Netflix has a strong contender with The Mitchells vs. the Machines and could have another in Wendell and Wild. And there’s already a checked box with animated fare showcasing more dramatic themes in Flee (which screened at Sundance earlier this year).

Bottom line: I wouldn’t completely count this out and we’ll see if it picks up any steam. Yet this could certainly be on the outside looking in come nomination morning.