The film nerds are on full red alert that the Academy might be actually considering putting in the popular, or “general release” movie category at the Oscars. This is, to almost everyone who cares about the Oscars, five car alarm catastrophe. I mean, there was more outrage over this than the famine in Yemen. Now, John Bailey is quoted saying that they’re going to use this year as a test and if Black Panther is nominated, there will be no need for such a category.
Not to worry. I’m sure Academy members will secure its spot, at least for Best Picture. Pundits are considering it among the top contenders as we speak. I think the Academy fears massive backlash if it’s left out. No one is considering what might happen if a different movie is left out, like, say, Roma. The filmerati want change and they want change now. Change means that the industry embrace a superhero movie that is considered better than the rest. Black Panther beat Avengers: Infinity War, which is quite a feat. Avengers is the worldwide champ, earning over $300 million in China. Does that mean the Academy should consider Avengers: Infinity War? Um, probably not.
This would be a great year for a popular film category – which could include Crazy Rich Asians, Avengers: Infinity War, A Quiet Place, Incredibles 2, Mission Impossible Fallout. But of course, it would sully the purity and sanctity that is the deep and abiding appreciation of cinema, Academy Awards.
So why is Black Panther different? Why does it deserve to be plucked from the pile and entered into the Best Picture race as one of the best films of the year? After all, didn’t Crazy Rich Asians also make history with box office? Well, it’s that 97% Rotten Tomatoes rating, for one thing. But Mission Impossible: Fallout also has a 97% rating. Avengers only gets an 84%, Crazy Rich Asians, a 92%. A Quiet Place has 95%.
Black Panther is written and directed by Ryan Coogler, who should have been nominated for Fruitvale Station. Mission Impossible written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, most famous for having won the Oscar for writing the Usual Suspects. One presumes that Black Panther has the edge because it’s the first superhero movie with an all black cast – a big risk that paid off and changed the way Hollywood thinks about superhero movies.
Bailey said that, depending on whether Black Panther gets in, or how many popular films get in this year (we know A Star is Born is getting in) it will give them “a strong perspective on how to move forward.”
Black Panther was also used as leverage by those who objected to the category in the first place. “They’re just doing this to punish Black Panther” was the common refrain. The idea being, they are squeezing it out of the Best Picture race by giving it a separate category.
Black Panther will most definitely get a PGA nomination, and possibly a SAG ensemble nomination (which it absolutely deserves). But beyond that, it remains a mystery. Although I do have to say that this much pressure on the Academy means they’ll probably follow through with a nod. Or many nods.