Could we see “Black Panther” vie for a Best Picture nomination?

The month of February rarely sees Academy Award contenders released. Hell, it rarely sees good movies released. Furthermore, Marvel has never even come close to above the line Oscar contention. Throw in how much of a struggle it is for superhero movies in general to get prestige respect. And yet, right now, we’re already pondering what kind of awards love Marvel could see for Black Panther, one of the best installments of their Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU with a Best Picture nomination? It’s probably a long shot, but it’s not out of the question, and that’s something very unique and worth some discussion.

Before we begin, just keep in mind that it’s impossible to know how a Best Picture lineup will shake out almost a year in advance. As you’ll see when I drop year in advance predictions next month, it’s a total crapshoot. Go look at what I was predicting last year and you’ll see that in spades. So, no matter what, this is purely speculative. So much depends on what the competition is, how the year shapes up, and what stays on the minds of the industry. As such, while Black Panther is certainly worthy of this sort of pondering, nothing will be decided for almost a year. That’s just the way it is.

As a reminder, though considering the box office, it seems like everyone has seen this flick, Black Panther is the latest in the MCU. This is the IMDb plot description, to set the stage: “After the events of Captain America: Civil War, King T’Challa returns home to the reclusive, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to serve as his country’s new leader. However, T’Challa soon finds that he is challenged for the throne from factions within his own country. When two foes conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must team up with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Dora Milaje, Wakandan special forces, to prevent Wakanda from being dragged into a world war.” T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) may be continuing part of the MCU, but right at this moment, his solo outing is about to become a smash hit all on its own. Ryan Coogler co-writes with Joe Robert Cole and directs, while the A-list ensemble cast includes Angela Bassett, Sterling K. Brown, Winston Duke, Martin Freeman, Danai Gurira, Michael B. Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Forest Whitaker, Letitia Wright, and more. The score is by Ludwig Göransson, while the cinematography is by freshly minted Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison.

As I said last week, Marvel might even have an awards player here. To be fair, Black Panther is probably just a technical player for Disney and Marvel, but they certainly have the money for an across the board campaign. If so, look for them to launch efforts in Best Picture, Best Director (for Coogler), Best Actor (for Boseman), Best Supporting Actor (for Jordan), Best Supporting Actress (for Gurira, Nyong’o, and/or Wright), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Cole and Coogler), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Visual Effects. It’s impossible to know how it’ll do with the techs, but depending on how 2018 shakes out, there’s a very real possibility that this is a below the line player next time around with Oscar. We shall see what happens, but keep this in mind as the year progresses.

Now, let’s specifically talk about Best Picture. On the one hand, you can look at how Wonder Woman came up short this past year and say that’s a point against Black Panther, as well as the MCU just overall not being a huge Oscar attraction. On the other hand, Logan did crack Best Adapted Screenplay, while more unique nominees did make the latest Best Picture lineup, like Get Out, so hope springs eternal. Now, we’ve never quite had a contender like this one, so that’s worth taking note of. We’ll probably see the film cited by the Producers Guild, as well as maybe the Writers Guild and even the Directors Guild, which will give it substantial precursor love. Combine the likely PGA nod with another major guild nom and maybe there will be something here?

Suffice to say, Black Panther has a chance to do things that Marvel has never been able to accomplish before. It won’t be until December or even next January before we can tell what the chances of a Best Picture nomination truly are. In the meantime, this is something fun to ponder, and of course, the movie is still right there in theaters for everyone to enjoy. For now, Black Panther does seem like a unique awards contender to come, so that’s something fans can take comfort in and anticipate seeing evolve as 2018 progresses. The more people see the film, the more likely it remains in the public consciousness as the year continues…

Stay tuned to see how Black Panther fares with awards as the year progresses!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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