Why Black Panther Deserves the Oscar Nomination
Hi! This is Loren. My podcast co-host Rich recently introduced the CLONE'S CANTINA, our new feature discussing the Star Wars universe. Now, its time to introduce CAPES & COWLS, our feature discussing the Marvel Universe. Today, in this very first installment and this being Black History Month, I will give you my argument as to why Black Panther deserves the Oscar nomination.
As you might know, a controversial decision was made to honor a superhero film for the first time. It had originally planned to create a category honoring pop culture films which would encompass the worlds of science fiction, fantasy and super heroics. But, after much backlash from the film going world, the category was put on hold. When nominations were announced, Black Panther was nominated for Best Picture.
Yet, again, there were cries from the film going world decrying the entry of a pop culture film into the coveted category. I, for one, absolutely believe it deserves it and that the decision is really not that far from past decisions the Academy has made.
One of the arguments I've heard is that Marvel has done other films that are more worthy of an Oscar. For example, Captain America: The Winter Soldier had a great story and compelling performances. Yes, I, too, believe that film deserved an Oscar nod. But, the truth is, it didn't. And, we can't go backward in time. The Academy has struggled with trying to get the ratings up for the Oscars. For some reason, it has blamed part of it on the host. So, it is going hostless this year (I have lots of thoughts about this, but not for this time). But, the other reason is that people stopped watching the Oscars because nobody knows who to root for some the average American generally doesn't see most of the nominated films. The Academy knows it has to look at more pop culture films in order for its ceremony to survive. Black Panther is the perfect film to meet that need.
Black Panther is not just an average superhero film. It captures the zeitgeist of today with race relations being so strained. We have young black men being silently killed in the streets while the news struggles to talk about them in the way they do when young white people are killed. We have sports heroes taking the knee during the national anthem at sports events in protest of the way these men have been treated. And we have a public struggling to understand why. Now, enter a film that introduces the fictional country of Wakanda, an Afro-futuristic vision of a world without colonization of an African nation. However, a threat looms that questions why Wakanda has not helped other people of African descent.
Then, you see that Black Panther has more of a meaning for people than just a movie. You have people saluting "Wakanda Forever" because Wakanda is a symbol for what could be in a perfect world and the Black Panther is a hero everyone could look up to. Even celebrities use the salute when celebrating their achievements.
It just really hits home.
But, let's just say you don't buy the zeitgeist argument and think Black Panther is not as weighty as say a Green Book or A Star Is Born.
The Academy, in its history, has been known to honor films that are just popular with the public yet are excellently done. And, I am going to point to the 37th Annual Academy Awards. This was a year in which My Fair Lady won and Mary Poppins was nominated for Best Picture. In fact, like Black Panther, those two films had a series of accolades, including a Best Actress win for Julie Andrews who has since become the Queen of Disney.
One can look at the other films of that year - Becket, a film about the protege of King Henry II, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a statement of nuclear proliferation, and Zorba The Greek, about a young writer who enlist the aid of a Greek peasant on a mining venture - and argue that these films are much more dramatically weighty. Yet, My Fair Lady and Mary Poppins both received more nominations. And, one can also argue that those films deserved the nominations and wins it received.
Do I think Black Panther will win the Academy Award. Why not? The Academy is still trying to figure what it is in this modern age and are probably less likely this year to recognize a pop culture film. But, just being nominated for multiple categories is a major achievement. Hopefully, one day, the Academy will recognize that there are great pop culture films out there. But, for now, Black Panther and Marvel Studios should be very proud.