First, when discussing “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at this particular time, let’s remind everyone that this is specifically a discussion of its context in the 2022-2023 awards season. These are the movie’s chances of getting multiple Oscar nominations, SAG nominations, and more. This is the long-awaited sequel to “Black Panther,” a film that earned seven Oscar 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 a WGA Award nomination. So if you’re looking for a review, those won’t drop until Tuesday, November 8th. That being said, and in what will likely come as a relief to many in the Mouse House, more Oscar nominations for Marvel Studios are on the way.
Let’s talk about the top category first, the best image. The original 2018 film was a cultural phenomenon that moved voters even though the Afro-futuristic setting and social themes were part of a typical big showdown in the third-act superhero movie. To land a Best Picture nomination, you need to elicit some sort of emotion from AMPAS voters. It can be euphoric, exciting or, more often, heartbreaking. In many ways, “Wakanda Forever” has more of this key ingredient than its predecessor. Does that mean he will be one of the ten nominees? Maybe, but, for other reasons, we are not free to discuss (and, no, they are not related to Chadwick Bosemanit’s okay) it’s not necessarily a big slam dunk as we say, another studio blockbuster, Top Gun: Maverick. But he certainly has a better chance than others of trying to stay in the race. Pay attention to the actors. If this cast can vie for another ensemble nomination at the SAG Awards, with a little PGA love, it might have enough to repeat.
Other categories are much easier to predict. production designer Hannah Beachler, which won a statue for the first movie, does a spectacular job with even more world-building this time around. The industry’s favorite songwriter, Ludwig Goranssonwon for its original score in 2019 and you could say it delivered a superior composition this time around. Ruth E. Carter took a well-deserved statue for his costume design for the first film. She could easily return to the nominees table for “Wakanda.” The best sound is also in the, uh, mix (the original image earned both nods to the now-defunct mix and sound editing).
The utterly fantastic “All Stars” by Kendrick Lamar, Soundwave, and SZA (among others) had the misfortune to collide “Shallow” by Lady Gaga. The franchise could get its revenge on Mother Monster in the Best Original Song category in 2023. Rihanna co-writes and sings “Lift Me Up” a beautiful ballad that is wonderfully placed in the film (and also its first solo outing in years). And, yes, she will probably face Gaga’s reducer “Hold My Hand” of “Maverick”.
Notoriously, “Black Panther” was snubbed in the Visual Effects category. Despite competition from “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once”, “Avatar: The Waterway”, “Multiverse of Madness” and “NOPE,” he might have a stronger chance this year. Maybe. And Make-up and hairstyle? He missed out in 2019, but that was the last year of just three nominees. Better to break ground with two other pitches in contention.
Another category the franchise might crack for the first time is cinematography. Autumn Durald Arkapawwho earned a well-deserved Emmy nomination for his work on “Loki”, light up and fire the hell out of “Wakanda Forever”. And while we’re fans of Rachel Morrisonwho was the cinematographer on the first movie, Durald Arkapaw is a definite improvement in that context.
As for acting categories, it’s a tough road for Disney and its awards season consultants. We are big fans of Angela Bassette and she’s once again very, very good here, but is that enough to crack the field for supporting actresses? Reflect. And, in a kind of little surprise, Letitia Wright carries much of this film on its naturally narrow shoulders. But landing a nod in this historically stacked Best Actress class? It would take a huge ground swell. Possible? …Sure? Likely? Probably not.
However, it all comes down to Best Picture. Coogler’s original film was the first film to shatter that glass ceiling for Marvel Studios and the producer. Kevin Feige. They haven’t been close since. If tears start to flow in the AMPAS projections, they have their best shot since.
“Black Panther” opens nationwide on November 11