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Oscar Week: Black Panther up for Best Picture
February 19, 2019
The best picture nomination for Black Panther (2018) has left me in a very ambivalent spot. It is a film I feel both does and does not deserve the nomination. The craze and attention around the film and the nomination also have my brain going in two directions. Even as I sit to write this article, I am not sure my mind is made up about the film. For background, Black Panther is one of my favorite superheroes, next to Daredevil, The Falcon, Luke Cage and Captain America. Black Panther getting his own big budget film sent joy throughout my mind. I saw the movie, and, well, I was a tad disappointed.
The majority of the film is excellent, but it falters toward the last act and has some abysmal special effects. It is, however, one of the better superhero films Marvel/Disney has produced. The social implications of the film cannot be understated. The film is a milestone accomplishment for black representation in AAA film. The cast and creative force behind the film are almost entirely black, which is a first for the Marvel films. That right there is my issue. The film is pretty average, but what the film stands for is fantastic.
Black Panther is nominated for more than just best picture. Best original score, costume design, best original song, best production design, best sound editing and best sound mixing are the films other six nominations. Seven nominations is an outstanding honor for a movie, regardless if any of the awards are taken home. Personally, I think best production and costume design awards should go home to the film. The design of the film makes Wakanda feel real. I do not believe it should go home with the best picture award, and I feel that anyone that says it will are fooling themselves. Its nomination for best picture is not a serious one. I feel it was more of a way for the academy to avoid backlash for not nominating black filmmakers. The backlash they know all too well. That bothers me to no end. The film, while I do not feel it deserves the award, deserves the nomination. It does not hold up to the quality of many of its fellow nominees, but it shares a social message that many of the films share with it. Even if the academy does not take the movie seriously, the nomination shows that black-led blockbuster is not dead on arrival. Much like how Wonder Woman (2017) proved that a female-led superhero film can perform well.
The nominations for best picture should not be reserved for just the most critically acclaimed films. Films that break social norms and improve the world of cinema should be nominated even if they are not critical darlings. The film that should win should perform well in both camps. I do not feel Black Panther fits into that self-created box.
That brings me to one of the most significant issues I have with the nomination of the film. More specifically, I have an issue with the way the nomination is being handled by the public and film writers. Black Panther’s candidacy has overshadowed many of the other nominated films. It has been talked about to no end. I realize that I am adding to the issue by even writing this article. The nominations for best picture this year are groundbreaking. Five of the nine are films that help film progress in diversity. Green Book (2018) and The BlacKkKlansman (2018) are both films that directly fight against racism with their messages. Roma (2018) is a film that humanizes Hispanic people, which is something that is direly needed in this day and age. The Favourite (2018) is a woman-led film that is a fantastic feat in feminist cinema. Of course, Black Panther fits in with these films.
A few years ago, there was a practically white and male dominate Oscars, and there was an extreme backlash. That backlash seems to have worked when looking at these nominations. We cannot let Black Panther overshadow these other films. If it loses, we cannot cry out racism and other extreme accusations. The film is not separate from the other movies above but a part of a great movement of diversity in the film industry. The other big issue I have is with the way people write about the film. Not enjoying the film does not automatically make someone racist, and white people can understand the sheer impact the film has had. We cannot let such talk surrounding the film divide us. I feel such talk is directly against the message of the film itself.
I do not think Black Panther has a chance to get the coveted award, though, there is nothing wrong with that. The nomination of the film is an astounding feat. I may even be a little sad if it does win, though that is more due to my intense love for Roma. I feel we need to focus on the bigger picture here. The fact that five films that are not the typical Hollywood white and male washed affairs are nominated is beyond amazing. It gives me hope for the future of cinema.