Don’t call “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” just another comic book movie.
Helmed by Ryan Coogler, the sequel to the 2019 best picture nominee delivers a wrenching story of grief and reclamation, as the family of T’Challa — played by the late Chadwick Boseman — adjusts to a world coping with his death. At the center of the saga is Angela Bassett as Ramonda, the queen mother of Wakanda, who carries the devastating loss of her child with stunning resolve. Bassett’s ferocious work will undoubtedly descend upon a wide-open Oscar race for best supporting actress.
An Oscar-size crater was created in the category when Michelle Williams’ camp announced her lead actress campaign for her role in “The Fabelmans.” As it stands, multiple performers from the same films (see “Women Talking”) are vying for attention. Meanwhile, Bassett, a staple of cinema for more than 30 years, enjoys deep respect from her peers, and the role of the grieving mother has worked wonders for nominees such as Nicole Kidman (“Rabbit Hole”) and Sally Field (“Lincoln”) and winners like Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”).
Bassett’s sole previous Oscar nod was for her turn as Tina Turner in 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” Her pathway to a nom this time around will be contingent on how strongly “Wakanda Forever” resonates with Academy members. With a multitude of populist flicks and hit sequels — “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and “Top Gun: Maverick” among them — angling for contention, it’s unclear how many consumer-friendly titles the Oscars will embrace.
Noteworthy, no actor from the MCU has been nominated for acting despite the DCEU landing noms and wins with the likes of Heath Ledger (“The Dark Knight”) and Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”). There have been a few seeming “close calls” like Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger from “Black Panther” (2018).
To see the ranked predictions for each individual category, visit Variety’s Oscars Hub.
What bodes well for the Marvel Studios blockbuster is its slam-dunk shot in many artisan categories, including cinematography by Autumn Durald Arkapaw, who would be the first Black and Filipina woman, and third overall, recognized in the category. You can check off the boxes for returning artisans Hannah Beachler and Ruth E. Carter, who were the first Black women to win production design and costumes, respectively, for the franchise’s inaugural entry.
And of course, there’s Grammy winner Rihanna, who co-wrote and sings the film’s emotional number “Lift Me Up,” which will surely tug at the heartstrings of the music branch. Composer Ludwig Göransson, who won for the first “Black Panther,” co-wrote the track. Additionally, the makeup and hairstyling, sound, and visual effects teams should, at minimum, make the shortlist for those races when they’re announced in December.
With more than 60% of the Academy in the tech branches, the key to best picture recognition lies with the craftspeople. That was the formula that brought 2021’s “Dune” its 10 noms and six statuettes. When you pencil in the potential for acting attention for Bassett, the chances for major recognition increase significantly.
At the core of “Wakanda Forever” is the legacy of Boseman, and Coogler’s creation will allow his colleagues, and fans, to mourn him on-screen — an experience that may yield Oscar accolades for Bassett and the production teams. That makes it hard to forget.
2023 Academy Awards Predictions
BEST PICTURE | DIRECTOR | ACTOR | ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE | PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING | SOUND | VISUAL EFFECTS | ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE | INTERNATIONAL FEATURE | ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT | LIVE ACTION SHORT
From Variety US