You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Oscars: Disney Makes Up for Lost Time With ‘Black Panther’

Engaging moviegoers was the easy part; now the studio must take the film to Academy voters

The Oscar circuit is roaring to life with soirees and cocktail gatherings booked throughout New York and Los Angeles until the end of the year and beyond. Campaigns are looking for the usual footholds, shipping in talent to hold court with members of the Hollywood Foreign Press and Broadcast Film Critics associations, angling for representation on the groups’ televised awards shows in the thick of Oscar voting. And a little face time with Academy members along the way doesn’t hurt.

Usually the goal is setting the table for an upcoming release. But in some cases, the task is much more difficult: bringing a contender from earlier in the year back into the fray. That’s what Disney is attempting with the billion-dollar blockbuster “Black Panther,” which hit theaters in February and instantly became not just a pop-cultural event but a meta-cultural happening.

Director Ryan Coogler took most of the year off in the wake of the movie’s landmark success, and really, who can blame him? But he resurfaced last month at a Los Angeles event, easing back into the awards season flow for the first time since “Creed” three years ago. Star Chadwick Boseman has made the latter-year rounds in support of “Panther’s” prospects, while Michael B. Jordan — perhaps the film’s best shot at an acting nomination — has been busy shooting “Just Mercy” in Atlanta.

Before heading to Georgia in August, Jordan told me nothing could have prepared him for the response “Black Panther” received. “One of my highlights was just watching kids react to it and seeing themselves on-screen,” he said. “Having people watch the movie four or five times, taking church members, taking boys’ and girls’ clubs — kids that didn’t have the opportunity to actually go to the movie theater, they were busing them in to see this film. To be a part of something that big and impactful is really important.”

His character in the movie, Erik Killmonger, is ostensibly the villain, but there’s a rich complexity to him as well, one that even inspired a #KillmongerWasRight hashtag on Twitter. An Oakland-raised, MIT- and Special Forces-trained mercenary who is out to equip black communities the world over with the tools — i.e.,“vibranium” and advanced weaponry from the fictional African nation of Wakanda — to advance themselves in a society that systemically oppresses them, Killmonger is in many ways the yin to the yang of Boseman’s King T’Challa. But though he’s a murderous threat, he also scores undeniable points.

“Even for a film with the box office take of ‘Black Panther,’ many voters have yet to give it a shot.”

“I feel like Killmonger has the point of view and perspective of his upbringing; he’s a product of his environment,” Jordan said. “That conversation between him and T’Challa is extremely important, one that’s never been had before on-screen: growing up with systemic oppression versus growing up with culture and history and an environment, a tribe, around you that’s grooming you for positivity in an impactful way. You can see what happens if you don’t have those things early in your life.”

That complexity could appeal to voters. It could also help elevate “Black Panther” above the superhero fray, like last year’s adapted screenplay nominee “Logan.”

Disney isn’t planning a rerelease. Moviegoers flocked to the film. The hurdle, believe it or not, is making sure Oscar voters see it. At a New York post-screening Q&A session in August, I asked who in the modest crowd of guild and Academy members had just witnessed it for the first time. Roughly 75% raised hands. “Now you see what my challenge is with this movie,” a consultant later whispered in my ear.

Indeed, even for a film with the box office take of “Black Panther,” many voters have yet to give it a shot. That will be a major prong in Disney’s efforts: convincing them that this is a contender they should see before they cast their ballots.

Will the Academy catch up with the rest of the world?

More Film

  • Zachary LeviMTV Movie & TV Awards,

    MTV Movie & TV Awards Winners: The Complete List

    The MTV Movie & TV Awards are returning to television Monday, with host Zachary Levi and a number of pop culture favorites. Dominating this year’s nominations are front runners “Avengers: Endgame” and “Game of Thrones” with four nominations apiece, as well as the Oscar-nominated documentary “RBG,” which scored another four nods. This year’s show also [...]

  • Olivia Wilde Jon Ham Richard Jewell

    Olivia Wilde, Jon Hamm Join Clint Eastwood's 'Richard Jewell' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Olivia Wilde and Jon Hamm have joined the cast of Clint Eastwood’s already star-studded drama “Richard Jewell.” Paul Walter Hauser is set to star as the titular Jewell in Warner Bros.’ pic alongside Sam Rockwell as Jewell’s attorney and Kathy Bates as Jewell’s mother. The drama is based on Marie Brenner’s article in Vanity Fair [...]

  • Where the Wind Blows

    Hong Kong's 'Where the Wind Blows' Sidesteps Protests For China Promo

    Hong Kong film director Philip Yung and his cast were in Shanghai on Monday to promote their upcoming film “Where the Wind Blows.” They revealed new details while cautiously sidestepping — for the most part — the awkward issue of last week’s massive civil protests in Hong Kong against a controversial bill that would have [...]

  • Awkwafina Oscars 2019

    Awkwafina, Paul Rudd, Olivia Wilde Among Maui Film Festival Honorees

    Held in beautiful Wailea, Hawaii, the 2019 Maui Film Festival honored Awkwafina, Paul Rudd, Olivia Wilde, Gina Rodriguez, Maya Erskine and Joe Manganiello with awards at this year’s festival running June 12-16. In addition to screening films and hosting several food and culture events, the film fest gave out awards to the actors for their [...]

  • Dee Rees

    Dee Rees Directing 'Kyd's Exquisite Follies' Movie Musical

    “Mudbound” director Dee Rees will direct independent movie musical fantasy “The Kyd’s Exquisite Follies” from her own script. “The Kyd’s Exquisite Follies” will be produced by Cassian Elwes, one of the “Mudbound” producers. Santigold is set to compose the music, with Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic creating the film’s visual effects. Endeavor Content is repping the [...]

  • The Paradise

    Shanghai Film Review: 'The Paradise'

    Although gritty dramas about the hell of drug addiction are seldom in short supply in the low-budget independent sphere, it’s hard to imagine even the most uncompromising U.S. film committing quite as tenaciously to the idea of the bleak futility and probable failure of rehabilitation as Shih Han Liao’s compelling downer “The Paradise” (title ironic). [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content