And the nominees are…
Black Panther is the first superhero movie to be. It’s already a cultural phenomenon, a critical success, a billion-dollar box office sensation. At the 91st Academy Awards on Feb. 24, will it also usher in a new era of recognition for effects-driven superhero blockbusters? The film captured the Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast on Jan. 27. The SAG Awards often prove to be a leading Oscar indicator.
As announced earlier, Black Panther is up against BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, Vice,and for the best picture of 2018. .
So what are Black Panther’s chances?
Effects-driven, of course. They just tend to be confined to the technical Oscars, for visual effects and sound design and so on. This year, Black Panther joins , , and on the shortlist for best visual effects. Panther is also up for production design, costume design, sound editing, sound mixing, music, and best song.
Without taking away from the achievements of the movie magicians rewarded for their skill and creativity in individual areas, best picture and best director remain the pinnacle of the awards season. And Black Panther deserves to challenge for the big awards.
Genre flicks can win these headline awards. The Oscars are often associated with worthy dramas like Spotlight or 12 Years a Slave, but winners like Avatar and Gravity and last year’sshow sci-fi and fantasy aren’t necessarily an outside bet for the best picture award. Meanwhile box office success didn’t rule out best picture winners like Titanic and Braveheart.
What’s more, Black Panther, for all its adrenaline-fuelled action and CG effects, is more than a superpowered beat-’em-up. Like BlacKkKlansman and Green Book, it tackles timely and relevant questions of race and prejudice. Where those other films examine the subject through a historical lens, Black Panther looks at the here and now. The scene in which African artifacts are reclaimed from a British museum gives a succinct take on the bearing of colonial history on the present. And the wholegives a glimpse at a possible future for the people scarred by that history.
On top of that, Black Panther is written, directed and largely created by black filmmakers. In a year the movie industry has had to take a long hard look at itself, the story of who’s behind the camera is as important as the story unfolding on screen.
So if Academy voters want timely subtext and positive representation as well as a thrilling story and cinematic verve, it’s all there between the punches and one-liners.
Of course, Black Panther doesn’t have to win an Oscar. Director Ryan Coogler and the folks at Marvel are probably pretty happy with theBlack Panther raked in at the box office, the rapturous reception from audiences and the near-universal critical acclaim.
And those who’ve been thrilled and empowered by the film don’t need a stamp of approval from the Academy. An Oscar, at this point, would be merely the icing on the cake.
Besides, awards may actually be the last bastion against Disney and Marvel’s total cultural domination. As much as we love superheroes and blockbuster shared universes, they’re increasingly. So you could argue smaller and riskier original feature films need the boost awards buzz gives them. If the Baftas and the Golden Globes and the Oscars remind jaded viewers that the big screen is made for more than superheroes, it might motivate us to try a wider variety of movies.
And may stop us from staying on the sofa with Netflix, too.
Which brings us to Netflix’s Roma. Now available to stream to your TV or laptop or phone, Alfonso Cuaron’s spellbinding drama isand richly deserves its best picture consideration. Although… comparing Roma to Black Panther shows the strangeness of artistic awards — how do you weigh up two such different films? Regardless, a , as the highest bastion of the movie industry acknowledges a changing industry.
Whichever film wins, Tuesday’s nominations signal some timely changes for movies. It remains to be seen who the winners are — not just on Feb. 24 but in the future of features.
First published, Jan. 22.
Update, Jan. 27 at 10:06 p.m. PT: Adds SAG Award win.
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