Black Panther

Just weeks ago, the Academy Awards announced that it was adding a new category, Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film, a play at both honoring more mainstream blockbuster flicks and hopefully drawing more viewers to the annual televised awards ceremony.  But even before this announcement, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige had already made the decision to throw Marvel’s support behind the record- and groundbreaking smash ‘Black Panther’ in the major categories including Best Picture.  And that is still the plan, regardless of the new category.  In other words, Feige and Marvel don’t think ‘Black Panther’ is just a good popcorn flick, but a solid picture that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with past winners like ‘La La Land’ and ‘The Shape of Water’.

While Fox pushed ‘Logan’ in the major categories last year and Warner Brothers did the same for ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Logan’ only got a nod in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.  Even though ‘Logan’ lost to ‘Call Me By Your Name’, the fact that it was even recognized was a victory of sorts.  But largely, popular genre films tend to be exiled to the technical categories like visual effects, sound editing and makeup and wardrobe.

In order to even secure a nomination requires a large financial investment from a studio.  They have to take out ads, provide screenings for voters and DVDs and Blu-Rays for voters who don’t attend screenings.  Marvel has never dipped into its coffers for this, because… well, let’s face it, none of their other movies have ever stood a chance.  But Feige has ponied up for ‘Black Panther’ because he feels it is just that good.  Disney hired experienced Oscar strategist Cynthia Swartz to put together a campaign to get ‘Black Panther’ recognized.

As Feige said:

“I would like to see the hard work and the effort and the vision and the belief of the talented filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who sat across the table from us a few years ago and said, ‘I have been wrestling with questions about my past and my heritage and I think I really want to tell a story within this movie.  And that he did it so unbelievably well and with so much impact … seeing that potentially being recognized is what excites me the most.”

Feige went on to stress how important he felt it was to acknowledge “the work of a young filmmaker whose third film has had this kind of impact around the world.”  Indeed, ‘Black Panther’ raked in $1.35 billion worldwide.  And it appears that Disney and Marvel are pushing this action movie as the vision of a young auteur whose work has only shown the tip of the iceberg of what he will go on to accomplish in Hollywood.

One Oscar consultant stated:

“You want to remind voters that this wasn’t just a movie, it was a phenomenon.  The depth of that impact, what it meant to people, what it stood for — if Academy members didn’t get it then, they need to understand it now.”

Another consultant added:

“People in the Academy want to reward good movies, and they also want to reward movies that say something significant and make the industry look good. ‘Black Panther’ ticks off those boxes.”

The new Popular category could complicate matters because it may split the vote.  Some may feel it better fits the Popular category and ONLY vote for it in that listing, while others could feel that it’s strong enough to compete in the regular Best Picture race.  After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2016, the Academy has invited a record number of women and people of color into its ranks in hopes of moving past its stuffy, old fashioned image.  It’s those voters who may help swing things in ‘Black Panther”s favor.

But the Oscars are still many months away.  One star of ‘Black Panther’, Michael B. Jordan who played villain Killmonger is taking a wait and see attitude.

“The response to the movie, the energy, the level of thought in the reactions … that was intense, just on another level than anything I’ve ever experienced.  Do I think it merits a best picture nomination? That’s not for me to say. But I’m OK listening to others saying it.”

Source: LA Times