If you’re still on the fence about the Oscar prospects of Black Panther, it’s time to see the light. The Venice, Telluride, and Toronto film festivals are about to get underway, at which point the key first phase of Oscar season begins. But Marvel Studios and Disney are also ready to pull the trigger on their Oscar campaign for Black Panther in earnest, and they’re aiming for all that gold.
After the film hit theaters in February to rave reviews and massive box office (it’s grossed a whopping $700 million domestic—more than Infinity War), Disney hired veteran Oscar strategist Cynthia Swartz to orchestrate a campaign. That campaign is now very much underway, as evidenced by the fact that Variety’s Kristopher Tapley moderated a Q&A with star Michael B. Jordan and production designer Hannah Beachler just last night. The Oscar odds for Black Panther are not only real, Marvel is breaking new ground in actively campaigning for the film.
Indeed, the Los Angeles Times reports that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige backed the move to give Black Panther an Oscar campaign with a significant awards season budget—a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of how one goes about actually winning an Oscar. This kind of commitment has never been made on any previous Marvel movies, and despite the fact that the Academy has announced a new “Outstanding Popular Film” category, the campaign for Black Panther is aiming for the top prize: Best Picture:
“I would like to see the hard work and the effort and the vision and the belief of the talented filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who sat across the table from us a few years ago and said, ‘I have been wrestling with questions about my past and my heritage and I think I really want to tell a story within this movie,’ ” Feige said. “And that he did it so unbelievably well and with so much impact … seeing that potentially being recognized is what excites me the most.”
Awards consultants who spoke with the LA Times speculated that it’s possible the Oscars delays the “Best Popular Film” category to next year or scraps it altogether, for fear of it potentially resulting in Black Panther missing out on a Best Picture nomination.
And make no mistake, Black Panther is absolutely a frontrunner to land a Best Picture nomination. The film is unlike other recent superhero movies in key ways, especially with regards to Wonder Woman. While Wonder Woman had great reviews and tremendous support, it lacked the eye-popping craftsmanship that is often necessary to vault a blockbuster into Oscar contender status, as with Mad Max: Fury Road or even The Dark Knight. Marvel gave Black Panther a bigger budget than usual and allowed Coogler to select his own behind-the-scenes team, which resulted in stunning work from the aforementioned Beachler, costume designer Ruth E. Carter, hair and makeup designers Camille Friend and Joel Harlow, and cinematographer Rachel Morrison who became the first woman nominated for Best Cinematography for Mudbound last year. Some or all of these folks could very much find themselves nominated for their work on the film come January.
Below-the-line nominations are key for Best Picture contenders of a big budget variety, and part of Marvel’s strategy here is to pick those up for Black Panther, boosting its support in the various Academy branches and thereby increasing its Best Picture chances.
Fegie is hopeful that the hard work that went into making Black Panther a reality will be paid off:
“I think it would be wonderful,” he says of a potential nomination in the Oscars’ top category. “The people behind the camera, the people on screen that acted in the movie, any of them being recognized would bring us great joy because they did tremendous work. And it’s always nice when tremendous work is recognized.”
Hold on to your butts, folks. Black Panther may not be done making history just yet.