Black Panther’s Chances at the Oscars – Special Features #28

Last year — in one of the first Special Features-articles — I wrote about Wonder Woman‘s chances at the Oscars, and it was probably that article that made me confident that I could write these types of articles about pretty much any blockbuster film. So, today, I want to continue that trend by writing about another hugely popular superhero film that has broken many box office records and won the hearts of critics and audiences — Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther.

While I thought it could’ve appeared in a couple of categories, I was always skeptical about Wonder Woman‘s chances at the Oscars. In the end, Wonder Woman received zero Oscar nominations, in a year where Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 was nominated for Best Visual Effects and Logan was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

But just because two films based on Marvel Comics were nominated for Oscars at the 90th Academy Awards, that does not at all mean that Marvel has a good history at the Oscars. While Marvel-based films like Big Hero 6 and Spider-Man 2 have won Oscars, not a single film from Marvel Studios has ever won an Oscar in spite of the fact that 20 Marvel Cinematic Universe films have been released at the time of writing.

If you compare Marvel’s performance at the Oscars to the DC Comics-based films’, then you start to see that DC Comics films have done much better with the Academy. Just a couple of years ago, Suicide Squad became the first film in the DC Cinematic Universe to win an Oscar (for Make-Up and Hairstyling), and Tim Burton’s Batman and the iconic Richard Donner’s Superman have also been recognized with awards by the Academy.

And, of course, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight also performed well at the Oscars. We all know that Heath Ledger’s performance was recognized by the Academy with an award for the actor who had passed away a little bit over a year before.

What you may not know is how little Oscar-love has been shown to Marvel Studios’ films. Listed below is all of the Oscars-information you’d need for each Marvel Studios-film released before 2018:

  • Iron Man (2008): Two Nominations (VFX & Sound Editing).
  • The Incredible Hulk (2008): Zero Nominations.
  • Iron Man 2 (2010): One Nomination (VFX).
  • Thor (2011): Zero Nominations.
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (2011): Zero Nominations.
  • The Avengers (2012): One Nomination (VFX).
  • Iron Man 3 (2013): One Nomination (VFX).
  • Thor: The Dark World (2013): Zero Nominations.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014): One Nomination (VFX).
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Two Nominations (VFX & Make-Up and Hairstyling).
  • Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): No Nominations.
  • Ant-Man (2015): No Nominations.
  • Captain America: Civil War (2016): No Nominations.
  • Doctor Strange (2016): One Nomination (VFX).
  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017): One Nomination (VFX).
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017): No Nominations. 
  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017): No Nominations.

As you can see, The Academy isn’t thrilled about recognizing the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in anything other than the obvious Visual Effects category. A film like Avengers: Infinity War, which, like Black Panther, genuinely is one of my favorite films of the year thus far, would likely only get that one Visual Effects nomination if it weren’t for the new ‘Best Popular Film’ category announcement.

Now I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Originally, this article was going to be released a few weeks ago, but time got away from me, and, all of a sudden, the Academy had announced new changes that altered every chance this film had to get Oscar nominations.

Although I think Black Panther could’ve still been a contender for Best Picture without the new category, the Best Popular Film category has basically made at least one Oscar nomination a certainty. Because Black Panther is probably the most popular audience-pleasing blockbuster that isn’t technically a sequel. This is a movie that has been supported and will continue to be supported by fans and critics alike.

Remember how people supported the Wonder Woman movie? That is comparable to what happened with Black Panther, but I think Black Panther has had an even more noticeable cultural impact. I think Black Panther is the most noteworthy cultural movement blockbuster film that I’ve ever seen. At the time of writing, it is the biggest film of the year in North America, and it broke many important records.

Its cultural impact must not be underestimated, but it isn’t the only thing that makes Black Panther a genuine contender for more than one category. The fact of the matter is that both the director and the film’s stars have awards-credibility — they are on the Academy’s radar.

Although director Ryan Coogler’s first feature film — Fruitvale Station — was ignored by the Academy, many awards groups took notice of the impressive directorial feature film debut. Just a couple of years ago, Coogler’s Creed was nominated for a Best Supporting Performance Oscar, and I think Black Panther could get that same nomination at the next Academy Awards.

Michael B. Jordan has appeared in all of Coogler’s films, and he has given genuinely touching and relatable performances in all three films. His performance in Fruitvale Station was his breakthrough, his performance in Creed put him on the Academy’s radar as the voters saw the film, and Black Panther has made him an undeniable star.

Michael B. Jordan is fantastic in Black Panther, and he deserves just as much support as Patrick Stewart got for Logan. Jordan’s is probably the strongest supporting performance delivered by a male actor that I’ve seen halfway through the year.

But all of this doesn’t mean he will actually get the nomination. Ledger’s nomination and win seem more like exceptions than rules. The Academy doesn’t go crazy for superhero movie performances. But they may be starting to.

Logan‘s screenplay nomination at the last Oscars does suggest that Stewart and Jackman may have been closer to getting acting nominations than we may have initially thought. Nevertheless, Jordan’s nomination may not be as clear-cut and obvious in six months.

Were Logan, Deadpool, or Wonder Woman close to scoring Best Picture or Best Director nominations in the years they were eligible? The answer is that we just don’t know, but I wouldn’t bet on them being close. So while I think the film’s cultural impact may bring it far, I won’t suggest that it will necessarily go that far.

At the time of writing, I won’t predict that Black Panther gets a Best Director or a Best Picture nomination, but I do think the latter category is an option if around 9 films are nominated. It totally could get a surprise nomination there. But it is tough to say how difficult it will be without knowing exactly how tough the competition will be. We’ll know more in a couple of months when many Oscar-hopefuls have premiered at festivals.

The bigger problem is the addition of the new Best Popular Film category. Like with the Animated, Foreign Language, or Documentary categories, I think that the Academy will ignore films that they nominate for Best Popular Film when it comes to picking what films should be nominated for Best Picture. But, who knows, maybe the wide-spread criticism of this new category will lead voters to go for Black Panther in both of those categories.

But while, as I mentioned, the competition is tough to evaluate at this point of the year, it is possible to get a sense of what categories it may show up in. So, let’s start with the classic superhero category: the category for Best Visual Effects.

This may actually be a tough year for that film to make it in the category. Films like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Ready Player One will definitely be in contention here, which is also the case with other superhero films. You should expect to see Avengers: Infinity War score a nomination in this category, but Black Panther isn’t a shoo-in.

One of the most praised elements of Black Panther is its successful ‘worldbuilding.’ The costume design is extraordinary. The makeup designs, the hairstyling, the production design — it is all very effective. These are categories that Black Panther — if the Academy falls in love with the film — should be in contention for.

When it all comes down to it, I think the film’s strongest chances for Oscar nominations at this point in time are in the categories Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Song, and, obviously, the new Best Popular Film category.

But that doesn’t mean other nominations are unlikely. Have a look below at how I think its chances are in multiple categories.

Likely: 

  • Best Costume Design
  • Best Makeup and Hairstyling
  • Best Original Song
  • Best Popular Film

Possible: 

  • Best Original Score
  • Best Picture
  • Best Production Design
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Supporting Actor
  • Best Visual Effects

Longshots: 

  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Best Cinematography
  • Best Director
  • Best Film Editing

But what do you think? Is Black Panther your favorite film of the year? What nominations do you think it’ll get? What do you think about the new Oscar category? Sound off in the comments.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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