Marvel Studios’ Black Panther earned seven Oscar nominations from the 2019 Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture, a rebuke on the unspoken-but-established idea that the populist cinema didn’t have place among end-of-year prestige.
While a win in the top category would be a major (and welcome) surprise to prognosticators, Ryan Coogler’s billion-dollar blockbuster was bound to take something in the end — and that’s just what it did, making history for the company.
Announced by Melissa McCarthy and Brian Tyree Henry, Black Panther picked up Marvel’s first Oscar for Best Costume Design in a Motion Picture for the work of designer Ruth Carter (Selma, Malcolm X, Love & Basketball). Along with making Marvel history, Carter is the first black woman to ever win in the Costume Design category.
“Marvel may have created the first black superhero, but through costume design we turned him into an African king,” Carter said in her speech. “It’s been my life’s honor to create costumes. Thank you to the Academy. Thank you for honoring African royalty and the empowered way women can look and lead on screen.” She added, “Adding vibrainaum to costumes is very expensive!”
Black Panther also picked up the Oscar for Best Production Design in a Motion Picture. Production Designer Hannah Beachler (Creed, Beyoncé’s Lemonade) and Set Decorator Jay Hart (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,L.A. Confidential) accepted the award. Along with making history for Marvel, Beachler is the first black artist to ever win the Production Design award. (She is also the first black artist nominated in the category’s 90-year existence.) In a powerful speech, Beachler laid out the support she felt behind the scenes on the film:
I stand here stronger than I was yesterday, I stand here with agency and self-worth because of Ryan Coogler. You’re not only made me a better designer, a different storyteller, a better person; I stand here because of this man who offered me a better perspective of life, who offered me a safe space, who is patient, and gave me air, humanity and brotherhood, thank you Ryan, I love you.
I am stronger because of Marvel, who gave me the opportunity to do my best, who supported the vision of this film and lifted us up every day. Victoria Alonso, Kevin Feige, Louis Esposito and … Nate Moore, thank you.
I am stronger because of the art department crew, who lead with their hearts and brought their experiences, talent, courage, humility, and hard work to the table. Supervising art director Alan Hook and set decorator Jane Hard, thank you.
I am stronger today because of this wonderful cast, who every day stepped into this world and breathed life into it. Because of Ruth Carter and Rachel Morrison and everything they did behind the camera with me. I am stronger because of a woman who supported me every day, when I wanted to give up, this is for you my friend Carol Travino, rest in power.
I’m stronger because of my family who supported me through the rest of time. I give this strength to all those who come next to keep going to never give up and when you think it’s impossible just remember to say this piece of advice I got from a very wise woman, ‘I did my best and my best is good enough.
Though a success in the eyes of critics and supremely bankable by box office standards, Marvel’s 10-year run never snagged the approval of Academy Award voters until now. That’s not for a lack of attempts: All three entries in the Iron Man trilogy, both Guardians movies, as well as The Avengers,Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Doctor Strange all earned Oscar nominations for Best Visual Effects, only to lose out in the end. In 2009, the original Iron Man snagged a Sound Editing nomination, ultimately losing out to The Dark Knight. For its array of space aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy also picked up a Makeup and Hairstyling nomination. (We should note: DC’s Super Squad WON that award two years later, much to the chagrin of hardcore Marvel fans.)
Along with the Oscar gold, Black Panther stands out as one of the gems of the MCU, both in terms of pure entertainment and success. The movie earned $700 million in the United States, and over $1.3 billion worldwide, making the film the fourth biggest superhero movie of all time, just under the Avengers trilogy. Last October, word broke that Ryan Coogler would return to direct Black Panther 2 — can the franchise pull aGodfather: Part 2 and return to the Oscars? As fans, we can only hope.