No matter how much debating, speculating or just flat-out guessing we do, the Oscar Nominations always come with some surprise. Whether it be one category or multiple, there is always a pick that throws us for a bit of a loop, good or bad. 2006, Crash wins Best Picture. 1977, Rocky shocks the world by beating Taxi Driver. Or how about the countless times Leonardo DiCaprio has put in a career-performance that is seemingly topped every single year? The Oscars are the most prestigious film awards on the year, yet the topic that always guides the conversation this time of year is a shocking nomination (or non-nomination for that matter), winner or loser. While I’d love to dive deep into every category and nomination that was revealed early last week, I’m here to talk about one and one only, Black Panther.
You may be shaking your head, wondering why another oaf like me is going to talk about Black Panther, a major blockbuster movie, instead of all the other films nominated this year. Why you might ask? Too many, it has the lowest chance of winning its category, quite possibly the lowest of the entire show. In reality, it actually has the best shot of the bunch, which is why it’s completely worth talking about.
Let’s start off with this, the odds this film has, according to actual numbers, it’s the widest margin of all the Best Picture nominees at 30/1. Why? First of all, it’s a high-budget comic book driven movie. While the film had so much more of an impact than just being another monumental addition to the already incredible slate the Marvel Cinematic Universe has, the voters continue to overlook the power a film like this has. One reason is because, as I have mentioned and will continue to mention, it’s a comic book / superhero movie. Second and most importantly, the voters have been voters for years, some even decades. And to them, a comic book / superhero movie doesn’t belong in this type of race, even if they give it a nomination. Don’t get me wrong, having Black Panther nominated for a Best Picture at the Academy Awards is a massive deal, massive. Not just because it’s a superhero film, but because it’s Black Panther. It’s a film with a well over the majority of a black cast with a black director and a budget that ten years ago, probably would’ve never been given to this type of film. That’s the kind of strides this industry is slowly beginning to make, but the Academy needs to make the biggest change of all and give this film the Best Picture award next month, and I’ll tell you why.
To follow up the question I put in my headline, would it be a surprise if Black Panther won Best Picture? No, it wouldn’t. Before I get to the film itself, let’s look at its current track record at fellow award shows. It’s already racked up a very impressive trophy shelf, with wins at the Critics Choice Awards, SAG (Screen Actor Guild) Awards, which included Outstanding Performance by a Cast. Those were only joined by receiving seven Academy Award nominations and being included on AFI’s Top 10 Films of the Year list. You’re telling me you’d be surprised if this film won Best Picture? I know I wouldn’t.
What are the reasons behind my argument? Let’s start with director Ryan Coogler. Not only is he a fellow Sacramento State Hornet (for football before transferring for film), but his films up to this point scream Oscar Filiberto’s content. Fruitvale Station is one of the most haunting and powerful films over the last decade. A tragic story that had to be told through a certain point of view and he absolutely crushed it. Creed, a film that had a huge task at hand, bringing back the love of Rocky, while giving us a modern day flavor with a new underdog to follow. Black Panther, the biggest of the bunch so far. Not only did Coogler have to slightly operate inside the MCU and set up what comes next for the universe, but he knew that as a filmmaker, he had the chance to to really dive into certain themes that could have a huge impact on film going forward. From my perspective, I’d say he accomplished that and then some.
When it comes to Oscar films, it’s all about how they impact us as viewers. What kind of thoughts do we have during and after? Why wouldn’t that conversation include Black Panther? No matter what you think of the film, I would have a hard time believing anyone who says the film didn’t successfully tell the story behind its culture. We can talk about the action, characters or visuals all we want, but when it comes down to it, the reason this film is as popular as it is, it’s because it was given the freedom to have the ability to tell the real story it needed to be told. When was the last time we saw a film like this in the forefront for so long? It’s one of the highest rated (97% on Rotten Tomatoes) and highest grossing ($700+ domestic and $1.3 billion worldwide) comic book movies of all-time. When have we ever seen a superhero movie win this many awards during the award season? Never. And might I add that they aren’t just visual or score awards, it’s winning full blown awards and competing against the best films, not comic book movies, films of the year. If that isn’t an impact on film, then I’m throwing my hands up because I don’t know what is.
When it comes down to it, I’m just one of many who cover this on a daily basis. I’m a small piece of a very large puzzle and unfortunately, my voice isn’t heard at the moment. While I’m saying I would vote for Black Panther, because hot damn it’s included in a great class. All I’m saying is that it deserves its nomination and to be in the conversation with the best films of the year, and there are plenty (more than I brought up) of reasons as to why. Am I expecting it to win? No, but would I be surprised if it did? No, I wouldn’t. It’s a remarkably beautiful film with plenty of attributes that plenty of voters could be attracted to. And while a sequel could Best it in the future, especially if Coogler returns, we will never see the kind of impact and response audiences have Black Panther last February. Why shouldn’t it be rewarded for that?