Released today on HBO Max, Shaka King's Judas and the Black Messiah is a triumph, living up to every bit of hype surrounding the project.
What started as a quiet, indie-dominated awards landscape, has built up to the usual level of shine and prestige in the past months. Major releases like Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Trial of the Chicago 7, and Mank have come through to raise the stakes. Judas and the Black Messiah joins the ranks of heavy-hitting contenders, its name circling prediction pools for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The movie lives up to the hype, but how will our leads, LaKeith Stanfield and Daniel Kaluuya, fall amongst this year's nominations?
While a project like Judas could have easily be pitched as a dual lead-actor contender, it seems the studio is pushing in a different direction. Official category submissions show that Daniel Kaluuya may snag a Supporting Actor nom, leaving LaKeith Stanfield to enter the race as a Lead Actor contender. Of course, it is likely that a Lead Actor nomination is as far as Stanfield will get, with many industry leaders predicting this the year of Chadwick Boseman, to be posthumously awarded for his stirring work in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and an overall celebration of a career and a life cut too short. Kaluuya's chances, however, are much more in reach. Kaluuya's performance in Judas rises above his competitors, some of which include Sacha Baron Cohen for The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Leslie Odom, Jr. for One Night in Miami.
Award winning or not, LaKeith Stanfield's performance is being universally considered the actor's greatest work yet, signaling a continued pattern of success for one of this generation's greatest talents. Through unmatched range and versatility, the actor has drawn fans from across the industry between his work as the romantic heartthrob in Netflix's Someone Great, or the comedic relief in FX's Atlanta, one of the network's strongest series. The duo of Stanfield and Kaluuya first graced our screens in Get Out, playing out the now famous, titular scene. In Judas and the Black Messiah, the actors play off of each other's strengths masterfully, moving in synchronized stride and side stepping tired 'villain' and 'victim' tropes.
What has been considered as a 'late contender,' Judas and the Black Messiah will likely close the book on nominations, giving us the official green light to say, awards season is here.