One of the final shoes to drop on the awards season is Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah.” Starring Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, the official category submissions for the upcoming Oscars have been named. Kaluuya, who portrays Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton, will campaign for best supporting actor while Stanfield, as FBI informant Bill O’Neal, will seek consideration in best actor. The film will also feature an original song titled “Fight for You,” written by Grammy winner H.E.R., Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas.
Following a well-received trailer debut back in August, the film has already begun screening for critics and guild members, with positive reactions being shared. Variety covered the difficult road to the big screen featuring interviews with the cast and crew.
From the prospect of awards, it’s an all-around player. This has the makings of Stanfield’s best performance yet, offering a lived-in, almost terrifying glimpse of a man grappling with his double life. Having already showed his chops with his breakout in 2013’s “Short Term 12” and another acclaimed performance in “Sorry to Bother You,” he’ll be thrust in the middle of a very competitive lead actor race.
For Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (2017’s “Get Out”), his fiery and passionate approach to his role will draw comparisons to Denzel Washington’s work in “Malcolm X,” but Oscar voters may see an underlying sensitivity that brought Terrence Howard’s work in “Hustle & Flow” to a nomination. With a supporting actor category very fluid and without a frontrunner, it could be one of the easiest places for the film to find recognition.
As Deborah Johnson, now known as Akua Njeri, Hampton’s pregnant girlfriend, Dominique Fishback’s performance is the Academy’s favorite type of role — the supportive wife (seen with performances like Marcia Gay Harden in “Pollock”) — and could thrust her into the supporting actress race.
H.E.R. is nominated for three Grammys this year, including song of the year for “I Can’t Breathe,” which she shares with Emile and Thomas. She won two Grammys in 2018 for best R&B performance (“Best Part”) and best R&B album (“H.E.R.”).
In other categories, master craftspeople behind the camera are seeking attention, including cinematographer Sean Bobbitt, snubbed for “12 Years a Slave” and sound mixer Skip Lievsay, who was nominated for 2018’s “Roma” and also worked on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” from Netflix.
“Judas and the Black Messiah,” along with the rest of Warner Bros. slate for the next 12 months, is landing simultaneously on the company’s streaming service HBO Max and in theaters on Feb. 12. The film is produced by Ryan Coogler, Charles King and Shaka King, and stars Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Algee Smith and Lil Rel Howery.
Visit THE AWARDS HUB to see the full list of contenders by category.
2021 Academy Awards Predictions