It's Time to Give 'Judas and the Black Messiah' Every Award


Fred Hampton preaches to his congregation of Black Panthers, photo via BBC

Judas and the Black Messiah is about a revolution, and the film itself is a revelation of ideologies, philosophies, people, stories, and tension. The timing of the movie is impeccable; it's as if Warner Brothers and HBO Max — where you can stream the film now — were holding onto this movie until a confederate insurrection took place at the nation's Capitol. The Hollywood award system is traditionally dominated by white people — much like the rest of our country — so there's no time more appropriate than right now to acknowledge the brilliance of the Black people both behind and front-and-center in Judas and the Black Messiah.



Shaka King's return to filmmaking has been hailed as one of the most triumphant, moving and overwhelmingly enticing reintroductions in cinematic history. His new film, Judas and the Black Messiah, should be the leading contender for Best Picture at this year's Oscars. His gritty cinematography could've easily been dulled down, but it is instead full of color and technical achievements equivalent to a Michael Mann picture. I believe that King should be the favorite for Best Director — but with that being said, I've yet to watch Chloe Zhao's critically-adored Nomadland.


Daniel Kaluuya's Fred Hampton, the Chairman of the Black Panther Party, is the most stimulating performance I've seen since Adam Sandler's portrayal of Howard Ratner in Uncut Gems, in a totally unique way. The number of times that my body was overwhelmed with chills wasn't necessarily surprising, but it was a thrill that I hadn't received from a new movie in ages.


Kaluuya's co-star, LaKeith Stanfield, stars as William O'Neal: a despicable and condemnable FBI informant, but Stanfield's innocence and sincerity is impossible to root against. He's instinctually lovable — as he has demonstrated in his past roles in Atlanta and Knives Out — but it also felt like he was always holding something back in those performances. In Judas, there's no such thing as restraint. Both Stanfield and Kaluuya deliver Hall of Fame performances that will put even the closeted racist, intolerable Academy members on the edge of their seats. They are forces to be reckoned with now, and they will be for years to come. But they shouldn't just be reckoned with; they deserve to be acknowledged.