Marvel’s Black Panther released last year in February around the massive hype the film caused due to its predominantly black cast, afro-futuristic setting, and the fact that it was another Marvel film. It remained at the top of the box office for 5 consecutive weeks, grossed over a billion dollars, and won over the hearts of millions of Marvel fans and black people alike. Now Black Panther is being nominated for the “Best Picture” award at the 91st Academy Awards and is the very first superhero film to be nominated in this category. With all of that being said, I have to state that Black Panther is not the right film for this nomination.
Black Panther was an enjoyable film and gave us a movie to be remembered for a long time for its cultural impact and for its representation of people of color. However, Black Panther is an average superhero film at best and is not even the best superhero film of 2018. It suffers from a lot of issues such as bad pacing, an under-developed villain, and some really bad special effects. The film is far too flawed to be considered for something as big as this. So, for it to be nominated for an award like this seems really odd. If the Academy wanted to nominate more films of diversity, there were so many better options to choose from.
One film with a predominantly black cast that would have been better suited for this would have been If Beale Street Could Talk. It was adapted from James Baldwin’s novel of the same name and it was written and directed by Barry Jenkins who also wrote and directed Best Picture winner in 2017 Moonlight.
Another film that would have been more fitting for this would have been Blindspotting. It is a criminally underrated film that delves into themes of police brutality, gentrification, and racism in America, but it handles it in a more realistic way than most films today.
If the academy wanted to nominate a superhero film while trying to recognize minority performances, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse would have been a better option. It may not have had the hype of Black Panther, but it is an amazing film that more than deserves to be recognized by major Hollywood organizations like the Academy. It was a visually stunning film with a great story and minority lead with Shameik Moore playing Miles Morales. Black Panther is not nearly as good as any of the movies I just named, yet it is the one that is getting all of this recognition.
The Academy could be trying to make up for some of the snubs they have had in the past. Superhero films are rarely recognized at the award show. The Dark Knight and Logan were both more than qualified for a Best Picture nomination, but they did not get much recognition from the Academy despite the praise from the public and critics alike. They even expanded the number of films to be nominated for Best Picture because of The Dark Knight.
Along with the lack of comic book films, the Academy has gotten major flack over the lack of diversity for their nominations. In 2016, this really became apparent with the #Oscarssowhite protest, which called out the Academy on their lack of diverse nominations. Many great films made by people of color, the LGBT community, and women have released in recent memory proving that diversity can make for quality filmmaking. The Academy has not recognized the talents of these people for far too long. This could also be a factor in the Academy Awards sinking ratings as they were down in viewership by 20% from the previous year.
It could be that this is showing the Academy may just be out of touch with popular films today. With that in mind though, why would the Academy care about public opinion or popular films when that hasn’t influenced their decision before? Other than obvious financial reasons and viewership, I do not see any valid reason as to why Black Panther should be considered for Best Picture at the Oscars. It comes off as the Academy pandering to the public even if that is not the case.
The bright side of this nomination is that there is a promising future for blockbuster films led by minority casts. I just hope that it is a future where people can see all of the great films out there rather than focusing on what’s mainstream.