There isn’t a Best Picture award at the annual Screen Actors’ Guild awards. Instead, the organization recognizes Best Ensemble, and places its emphasis on a total cast. It’s the equivalent of a Best Picture win, and last night, the award went to Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther – a massive victory on the superhero thriller’s ambitious quest to win the top Oscar. We’ll get to the history of the moment later, but first, enjoy this spectacular speech from King T’Challa himself, Chadwick Boseman:
I laughed hard at Lupita Nyong’o reminding Chadwick Boseman to thank Marvel President Kevin Feige while at the mic, and Boseman stating, “I gotta save the best for last! I’m not going to forget Kevin Feige.” But from that moment on, Boseman did a fantastic job of reminding people of the importance of Black Panther, especially outside of the awards race.
As Boseman notes, everyone in the cast – including Andy Serkis, who gets a comical shoutout – knows what it’s like to be told by studio executives that because of the color of their skin, there isn’t a place in a major motion picture to be “featured.” Or, as the actor succinctly put it, “We know what it’s like to be the tail, and not the head.”
Ryan Coogler’s origin story for Black Panther has been a juggernaut. It sailed past a billion dollars at the box (earning $1.34B, to be specific). It made history by becoming the first Marvel Studios superhero film to earn a Best Picture nomination – cracking through a genre-based glass ceiling that many believed would be tough to penetrate. And it feels like it’s warming up.
Let’s talk about the impact of this SAG win on the Oscar race. The SAGs are given out by actors, and the actors make up the largest voting branch of the Academy when it comes to the Oscars and Best Picture. Success at the SAG awards in the Best Ensemble category CAN spell Best Picture success at the Academy Awards… but it’s no guarantee. Yes, films like Spotlight, Birdman and Argo took home both distinctions. But one need only to look at last year, where Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won at SAG, but it lost to The Shape of Water (which wasn’t even nominated at SAG).
Basically, this morning, Disney and Marvel have a narrative they can push. Black Panther topped some powerful films at the SAGs, and hopes to continue its momentum. Do you think Black Panther has a legitimate shot at a Best Picture win? Vote in our poll below!
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.