The pressure for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to nominate “Black Panther” for a Best Picture Oscar has gotten that much greater in light of the film’s Golden Globe nomination for Outstanding Drama announced on Thursday.
Even though Marvel’s “Black Panther” is a good-not-great film (see my overwhelmingly positive review here), since being released last February, the campaign to propel it to Oscar-worthy status has been entirely political; proponents say the film’s novel predominantly black cast is reason enough for a gold statue.
The Academy, fearing that the movie would not have enough votes to make the Best Picture cut, went as far as to propose a condescending “Best Popular Film” category as an obvious attempt to add the phrase “Oscar Winner” to every piece of “Black Panther” promotional material for generations to come. When the backlash became too hot, the Academy made the wise decision to scrap the category entirely.
The move to propel more commercial films into the Best Picture category has been ongoing for nearly a decade now, starting with the apparent snub of “The Dark Knight” in 2009. In an effort to give such films a chance at a Best Picture nomination, the Academy made the (wholly misguided) decision to expand the list of potential winners from five to as many ten films, depending on the given year. The result backfired immensely. Now, the exclusivity of the award has been completely lost, because instead of five great films every year for the Academy to choose from, what exists now is a hodgepodge of mediocrities and art-house films that nobody wants to see. One needs to look no further than the show’s continued decline in ratings to see the fruits of that.
Granted, the nomination of “Black Panther” could change that dynamic a bit, but its inclusion in the Best Picture category does not automatically mean it can stand toe-to-toe with the likes of other past nominees. Once upon a time in Hollywood, a movie could win the Oscar for Best Picture and be culturally popular at the same time. Movies like “Titanic,” “Braveheart,” “Ben-Hur,” “Forest Gump,” and “The Godfather” come to mind.
And those are just the winners. Beyond that, there exists a whole archive of popular films that have enjoyed the privilege of simply being nominated for Best Picture, some of which have surpassed the legacies of the victors. “Star Wars” lost to “Annie Hall.” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” lost to “Chariots of Fire.” “E.T.” lost to “Gandhi.” “Pulp Fiction” lost to “Forest Gump.” The list goes on.
“Black Panther,” a good superhero movie with some important themes regarding nationalism and race relations, does not match the qualities of any of those mentioned above. But, according to the Left, the movie must be nominated for Best Picture, lest the Academy be accused of committing a grave injustice. Since the Golden Globes announced the nominations, some articles have said as much.
“For an industry still grappling with issues pertaining to inclusion, and an award-show apparatus wrestling with a movie business increasingly reliant on superheroes and science fiction, an Oscar nod to ‘Black Panther’ would, indeed, represent a noteworthy gesture, in more ways than one, toward Hollywood’s new realities,” said CNN.
Of course, since intersectionality does not move in a straight line and often bends toward incoherence, “Black Panther” will have to compete with another social justice favorite for the grand prize, “The Favourite,” a predominantly female-driven film about a lesbian love triangle in 18th century England; 2019 may indeed be the year that #OscarsSoWhite and #MeToo battle for supremacy.
Make your bets and get your popcorn out.