Black Panther makes Oscar history with first superhero Best Picture nomination
On Feb. 24, winners will be crowned at the 91st Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, Entertainment Weekly has inside intel on the 2019 nominees. Keep checking back at EW.com this week for spotlights on contenders in all the major categories.
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan
Total nominations: 7
Can they forge a special Oscar made of Vibranium?
Black Panther, last year’s domestic box office king, scored the first-ever Best Picture nomination for a superhero film, marking another landmark for the action-adventure drama about a high-tech African nation and the warrior-king who is sworn to protect it.
The film’s status as a groundbreaker for representation was already obvious. With a predominantly black cast, the Afrofuturist fable not only set box office records, it toppled social barriers. The Academy Awards are one more accomplishment for the Marvel Studios movie.
In addition to Best Picture, Black Panther collected seven total nods — for costume design, original score, Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s original song “All The Stars,” production design, and the two sound categories, editing and mixing.
Filmmaker and co-writer Ryan Coogler was not nominated for director or adapted screenplay, and neither Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa nor any of the other actors received performance nods.
Nonetheless, in discussing the film’s legacy, Coogler previously told EW he always saw Black Panther as something deeper than just an action-adventure. “The characters in Wakanda are kind of like Generation Y, these older millennials are inheriting our country,” he said. “The conversation is ‘What kind of country are we going to make this? Is it going to be the same place it was when we got here, or are we going to do something new?’ And if it’s something new, then what?”
In addition to being the first superhero movie to get a Best Picture nomination (no, Richard Donner’s Superman from 1978 didn’t get one, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight from 2008 didn’t either), Black Panther is also the first comic book movie to get a nod in that category.
The Academy issued a statement Tuesday noting that the 1931 comedy Skippy, starring Jackie Coogan as a rich little boy who ventures into Shantytown, was based on a comic strip and received a nomination at the 4th Academy Awards for Outstanding Production, which was that era’s version of Best Picture.
Still, a comic strip isn’t the same as a comic book, and for 91 years the Oscars have consistently overlooked modern comics and superhero stories.
The Best Picture nod goes to the producer of the film, in this case Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who previously told EW that he was proud Black Panther had significance both onscreen and off.
“Female empowerment is very important to Ryan [Coogler]. It’s important in front of — and behind — the camera on this movie,” he said. “Our [first] assistant director, our director of photography, our production designer, and costume designer are all women, most women of color. This was not because we set out saying, ‘We need to do this.’ We wanted the best people, and this is what happened.”
Although not all got individual nominations, the Best Picture recognition is a testament to the strength of this whole filmmaking royal family.
• Costume Design — Ruth Carter’s dazzling pan-African costume creations help set apart the various Wakandan tribes and provided grandeur to the Dora Milaje secret service and a warrior’s grace to T’Challa, his mother (played by Angela Bassett), and his genius little sister (Letitia Wright.) Carter previously had nominations for Steven Spielberg’s Amistad in 1997, and Spike Lee’s Malcolm X in 1992. Her other credits include Ava Duvernay’s Selma, Joss Whedon’s Serenity, and many of Spike Lee’s films, from School Daze to Do the Right Thing to Clockers.
• Production Design — This nomination goes to production designer Hannah Beachler and set decorator Jay Hart. It’s Beachler’s first Oscar nomination, and the first ever for an African-American woman. She’s also Marvel’s first-ever female production designer. Her nod comes after 15 years in the business, crafting the rooms and realms we see in the Best Picture Oscar-winner Moonlight, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and Coogler’s Fruitvale Station and Creed. Hart has two previous nominations, for 1997’s L.A. Confidential and 1998’s Pleasantville, and his other credits include Wayne’s World, Wonder Boys, Spider-Man 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
• Original Score — This nomination went to Ludwig Göransson, who is a songwriting and producing collaborator of Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino album Awaken, My Love! Göransson as worked with Coogler since 2013’s Fruitvale Station, and is currently up for three Grammy nominations for his work with Glover, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “This Is America” and best R&B Song for “Feels Like Summer.” His score for Black Panther earned him a fourth Grammy nomination for best movie soundtrack. His next project is the Star Wars series The Mandalorian.
• Original Song — Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars” will likely be performing it on the show, but the nomination goes to the songwriters: music is by by Mark Spears, Lamar and Anthony Tiffith, and lyrics by Lamar Anthony Tiffith and Solana Rowe.
Surprisingly, Black Panther did not pick up any visual effects nods, an area that is traditionally more open to big budget blockbusters and comic book movies, but it did fare well in another superhero-friendly area of sound.
• Sound Editing and Sound Mixing — These nods go to Steve Boeddeker (a previous nominee for 2013’s All Is Lost), who is named in both categories and shares the editing mention with Benjamin A. Burtt (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and the mixing nod with Brandon Proctor (Creed,The Raid 2) and Peter Devlin (Thor, Iron Man 3.)