Oscar Categories Black Panther Can Be Nominated In (And Awards It Could Win)
Black Panther’s chances of nominations are strong in an array of categories. As with most films like this, the big guarantees for nominations are in technical categories. The effects and sound work are stunning, the costumes (by Ruth E. Carter, an Oscar-nominated costume designer who has worked with Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee) are easily some of the most sumptuous of the year, and the array of original songs on the soundtrack could easily land a place in Best Original Song (the best shot seems to be for Kendrick Lamar and SZA). In terms of wins, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design are the strongest bets.
But there's been rumblings of more than the standard superhero fare. Michael B. Jordan has had an incredible couple of years that have seen him rise into the A-List ranks thanks to work in films like Fruitvale Station and Creed. As well as playing the scene-stealing Killmonger in Black Panther, Jordan appeared in Creed 2 this year to high acclaim. His chance of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Black Panther is not a guarantee – the category has tough competition from Richard E. Grant, Mahershala Ali and Sam Rockwell – but it’s not impossible either.
A long-shot nomination would be for Ryan Coolger for Best Director. He would certainly be deserving and he’s been part of awards conversations before with his first two films, Fruitvale Station and Creed. 2018 has been an incredible year for black film-makers: Coogler, Boots Riley for Sorry to Bother You, Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman, Steve McQueen for Widows, and Barry Jenkins for If Beale Street Could Talk. The narrative for Coolger is certainly there, and a good awards story is as much a part of Oscar campaigning as making a good film. However, he faces tight competition and this seems like one of the more unlikely nominations.
Will Black Panther Get Nominated (& Win) Best Picture?
The ultimate dream, of course, would be for Black Panther to land a Best Picture nomination. With a limit of ten nominees available for the category, even in a very busy year where competition is tough, this doesn’t feel out of the realm of possibility. The 2018 Oscar season has been a curious divide between classic awards-friendly movies made by the big studios – A Star is Born, Green Book – and indie darlings with critical clout – If Beale Street Could Talk, Hereditary, The Favourite – but in this context, Black Panther is a curious outlier. It has the money and public presence of an all-powerful studio blockbuster but as a superhero genre story, it’s still outside of the boundaries of what is usually considered awards worthy. It’s a big film but something voters usually consider “too big” to award.
Yet the Oscars expanded the Best Picture category to ten nominees to accommodate such films following the outcry over the lack of love for The Dark Knight. The newly expanded field was supposed to create a more inclusive awards season, wherein the usual Oscar fare would sit alongside foreign language films, documentaries, blockbusters, animated movies and the sorts of stories that don’t usually get awards. However, that hasn’t really happened, as such films remain ghettoized to their respective categories and aren’t given the love of Best Picture. There are occasional exceptions but the tide has yet to fully turn. That’s why Black Panther, at this point in time, feeling like such a dead cert for a Best Picture nomination is so welcome.
It’s unlikely Black Panther will ever win Best Picture, even as its chances at the nomination remain high. It has too many bumps in the road to overcome – industry snobbery towards blockbusters, a highly competitive year, other films that more tightly fit the “awards bait” mold – and Disney knows that. Getting to a nomination is ground-breaking enough; for everyone involved, that itself is the win. Even if something else wins Best Picture, and it probably will, Black Panther being in that list of ten and being talked about in such explicitly prestigious terms breaks a major ceiling for the genre.
The 2019 Academy Award nominations will be announced on January 22. Voting opens on February 7 and closes a week later, with the show itself taking place on February 24th, much earlier than previous years. That leaves Disney with a solid month to push their Black Panther campaign as far as it will go. It’s not a lock yet. They’ll need to keep up their presence at major events, meet all the right people and ensure that voters do not forget the awards legitimacy of the movie, which is all too easy in a competitive year full of films that better fit our preconceptions of “awards movies.” Fortunately, they have the funds and structural support in place to make such a campaign a reality and one that can easily overshadow the work of indie distributors.
But their biggest challenge will be overcoming a decade's old mindset of worthiness and what films get to be part of the Oscar world. No amount of marketing of hand-shaking can force voters to accept something they’ve dismissed for a long time. Fortunately, Black Panther came out at a time when the Academy is greatly diversifying its membership, making it not only more inclusive along lines of gender and race but also age. These voters are more likely to be accepting of a flashy blockbuster as Best Picture material. Whether or not they will remains to be seen, but Black Panther remains the genre’s best chance of making Oscar history.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019