‘Black Panther’s’ best picture strength? Look to the craft categories


Oscar-winning best pictures don’t always vacuum up nominations. “Spotlight,” for example, earned just six. And movies that pull down a bevy of noms don’t always make the cut for best picture. “Dreamgirls” earned a leading eight nods in 2007 without punching through the picture and director categories. “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”? Same thing. Eight nominations, but shut out of best picture. (Damn you, “Goodbye Girl”!)

That said, the clearest indication of a movie’s strength with Oscar voters is its popularity within the film academy’s various branches. And on that count, the forecast is excellent for “Black Panther” to become the first superhero movie to earn a nomination for best picture.

To learn why, let’s look at the likely nominees in the craft categories. Check off how many times you see “Black Panther” among them while you’re reading.



Hannah Beachler and Jay R. Hart, “Black Panther”

Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton, “The Favourite”

Eugenio Caballero and Bárbara Enrı́quez, “Roma”

John Myhre and Gordon Sim, “Mary Poppins Returns”

Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas, “First Man”

On the cusp: Mark Friedberg and Kris Moran, “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Stuart Craig and Anna Pinnock, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”; Karen Murphy and Ryan Watson, “A Star Is Born”; James Merifield and Gina Cromwell, “Mary Queen of Scots”; Nelson Coates and Andrew Baseman, “Crazy Rich Asians”

Analysis: Period films and the fantasy movies always dominate this category, which could put “Beasts” among the nominees. (Voters went for the series’ first entry.) There’s no shortage of worthy possibilities, but given the meticulous care and effort the “Roma” team made in recreating Alfonso Cuarón’s childhood home and early ’70s Mexico City, it’d be a travesty if it wasn’t recognized.


Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”

James Laxton, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Linus Sandgren, “First Man”

Rachel Morrison, “Black Panther”

Robbie Ryan, “The Favourite”

On the cusp: Matthew Libatique, “A Star Is Born”; Lukasz Zal, “Cold War”

Analysis: I wrote about this category in detail in November, noting that Cuarón would become the first filmmaker who doubled as director of photography to be nominated. He’s a lock, as are Laxton and Sandgren. The remaining two spots are up for grabs among the four cinematographers I’ve listed. Each one is deserving but, for now, I’ll stick with my original set.


Tom Cross, “First Man”

Alfonso Cuarón and Adam Gough, “Roma”

Jay Cassidy, “A Star Is Born”

Yorgos Mavropsaridis, “The Favourite”

Hank Corwin, “Vice”

On the cusp: Debbie Berman and Michael P. Shawver, “Black Panther”; Joe Walker, “Widows”; Barry Alexander Brown, “BlacKkKlansman”; Wyatt Smith, “Mary Poppins Returns”; Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders, “If Beale Street Could Talk”

Analysis: Oscar obsessives know the correlation between this category and best picture, with only 10 movies winning the academy’s top prize without also netting an editing nomination. (“Birdman” was the most recent exception, and it was indeed an exception, since it was designed to look like it was shot in a single take.) On that note, I’m putting three of the year’s leading contenders here, along with Corwin’s showy work in “Vice” (he earned a nomination for 2016’s “The Big Short”) and Oscar-winner Cross’ elaborate editing of “First Man.”


Ruth E. Carter, “Black Panther”

Sandy Powell, “The Favourite”

Sandy Powell, “Mary Poppins Returns”

Alexandra Byrne, “Mary Queen of Scots”

Colleen Atwood, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”

On the cusp: Andrea Flesch, “Colette”; Julian Day, “Bohemian Rhapsody”; Erin Benach, “A Star Is Born”; Mary E. Vogt, “Crazy Rich Asians”; Caroline Eselin-Schaefer, “If Beale Street Could Talk”; Jenny Beavan, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”

Analysis: Powell owns 12 nominations and three Oscars (“The Young Victoria,” “The Aviator,” “Shakespeare in Love”). She’ll probably add a pair of nods to her haul for the eye-popping “Poppins” costumes and her monochromatic creations for “The Favourite.” But Powell might have to cede the Oscar to two-time nominee Carter for the way she wove fantastical Afrofuturism into Wakanda’s world.

Christian Bale portrays Dick Cheney in “Vice.”
(Matt Kennedy / Annapurna Pictures)



“Black Panther”

“Mary Queen of Scots”

On the cusp: “Border,” “Suspiria,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Stan & Ollie”

Analysis: Last year, this Oscar went to the team who transformed Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill. Christian Bale’s metamorphosis is no less striking in “Vice,” but to go that route again would feel repetitive. Besides, all of the braids, locs and twists in “Black Panther” were central to its storytelling and its celebration of black culture.


“First Man”

“A Star Is Born”

“A Quiet Place”


“Black Panther”

On the cusp: “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Ready Player One,” “Incredibles 2,” “Mission Impossible: Fallout”


“A Star Is Born”

“First Man”

“A Quiet Place”

“Black Panther”


On the cusp: “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Ready Player One,” “Incredibles 2,” “Mission Impossible: Fallout”

Analysis: These two categories don’t always overlap, with music-heavy movies sometimes figuring more prominently in the mixing category. (The editor collects the film’s sounds, including dialogue and effects; the mixer determines how the audience hears those sounds.) There’s some remarkable, immersive work this year including the sparse, narrative-driving soundscapes in “A Quiet Place” and the intricate and detailed environments in “Roma.” Last year, the categories matched. Let’s do it again.


“Black Panther”

“Avengers: Infinity War”

“Mary Poppins Returns”

“First Man”

“Ready Player One”

On the cusp: “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” “Christopher Robin,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Welcome to Marwen”

Analysis: Probably a battle between the two Marvel movies — “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Black Panther.” Look for T'Challa to get the best of Thanos in this contest.

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Twitter: @glennwhipp