Wakanda Forever A Best Picture Player?
Feb 6, 2023
First off, when discussing “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at this particular moment let’s remind everyone this is specifically a discussion about its context in the 2022-2023 awards season. It’s about the film’s chances at multiple Oscar nominations, SAG nominations, etc. This is the long-awaited sequel to “Black Panther,” a movie that earned seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, and won statues for Costume Design, Original Score, and Production Design. A film that won Grammy Awards, SAG Awards, and even earned a WGA Award nomination. So, if you’re looking for a review, those won’t drop until Tuesday, Nov. 8th. That being said, and in what will likely be a relief to many in the Mouse House, more Oscar nominations for Marvel Studios are on the way.
READ MORE: Ryan Coogler explains the original idea for “Black Panther 2” before Chadwick Boseman’s death
Let’s discuss the top category first, Best Picture. The original 2018 film was a cultural phenomenon that moved voters even if the afro-futuristic setting and social themes were part of a typical big showdown in the third-act superhero movie. In order to crack a Best Picture nomination, you have to elicit some sort of emotion from AMPAS voters. It can be euphoric, it can be thrilling or, more often, heartbreaking. In many ways, “Wakanda Forever” has that key ingredient more than it’s predecessor. Does that mean it will make the ten-nominee field? Maybe, but, for other reasons we’re not at liberty to discuss (and, no, they are not tied to Chadwick Boseman‘s passing) it’s not necessarily as big a slam dunk as say, another studio blockbuster, “Top Gun: Maverick.” But it certainly has a better chance than others trying to stay in the race. Pay attention to the actors. If this cast can wrangle another SAG Awards ensemble nomination, along with some PGA love, it might just have enough to repeat.
Other categories are much easier to predict. Production Designer Hannah Beachler, who won a statue for the first film, does a spectacular job with even more world-building this time around. The industry’s favorite composer, Ludwig Göransson, won for his Original Score in 2019 and you could argue he’s delivered a superior composition this time around. Ruth E. Carter took a long-deserved statue for her Costume Design for the initial movie. She could easily return to the nominee table for “Wakanda.” Best Sound also is in the, um, mix (the original picture earned both now-defunct Sound Mixing and Sound Editing nods).
The utterly fantastic “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar, Sounwave, and SZA (among others) had the misfortune to go up against Lady Gaga’s “Shallow.” The franchise may get some revenge on Mother Monster in the Best Original Song category in 2023. Rihanna co-wrote and sings “Lift Me Up” a beautiful ballad that is wonderfully placed in the film (and also her first solo release in years). And, yes, she’ll likely go up against Gaga’s reductive “Hold My Hand” from “Maverick.”
Notoriously, “Black Panther” was snubbed in the Visual Effects category. Despite competition from “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Multiverse of Madness” and “NOPE,” it might have a stronger chance this year. Maybe. And Makeup and Hairstyling? It missed out in 2019, but that was the last year of just three nominees. It better crack the field with two more slots in contention.
Another category the franchise could crack for the first time is Cinematography. Autumn Durald Arkapaw, who earned a much deserved Emmy nomination for her work on “Loki,” lights and shoots the hell out of “Wakanda Forever.” And while we’re fans of Rachel Morrison, who was the Director of Photography on the first film, Durald Arkapaw is a marked improvement in this context.
As for the acting categories, that’s a tough road for Disney and its awards season consultants. We’re massive fans of Angela Bassett and she’s once again very, very good here, but is it enough to crack the Supporting Actress field? Ponder. And, in something of a minor surprise, Letitia Wright carries much of this film on her naturally narrow shoulders. But landing a nod in this historically stacked Best Actress class? There would need to be a massive groundswell. Possible? …Sure? Likely? Probably not.
It all comes back to Best Picture, however. Coogler’s original film was the first movie to crack that glass ceiling for Marvel Studios and producer Kevin Feige. They haven’t come close since. If the tears start flowing in AMPAS screenings, they’ve got their best shot since.
“Black Panther” opens nationwide on November 11
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