With an A+ Cinemascore, a culture quake in the making, a healing film for black men and women whose representation in the genre has been minimal, and on its way to becoming a massive blockbuster, isn’t it time for the Academy to think in terms of Best Picture of the Year instead of Best Picture among the handful of films preordained and filtered down for voters to like because they fit with what their taste has been for 90 years?
Directed by Ryan Coogler and starring Chadwick Boseman, Black Panther is, by all accounts, beyond what could be expected from any Marvel movie. Wonder Woman broke similar ground for women last year and was shut out by the Academy. It was one of several movies by female directors mostly ignored by critics and by voters. But I don’t know how Hollywood can look away from what’s happening out there in the real world when it comes to the impact Black Panther is going to have on a generation of kids flooding theaters to see something that they could not have seen even ten years ago.
It looks like Black Panther will be an easy call across the board in the crafts categories, and by the looks of it, I’m gonna bet that there is a good chance this will end the year as a number one choice for many voters. Sure, we haven’t seen any of the Big Oscar Movies coming at us this year but the one thing we do know about Hollywood: it’s going to get bigger, most extravagant, more franchise heavy, more visual effects driven. At the same time, many of the prestige dramas that Oscar voters always like are going to find refuge in streaming platforms like Amazon and Netflix because it will make less and less sense to have movies with limited box-office appeal occupy screens at theaters that can make so much more money with movies like Black Panther, Wonder Woman, and the upcoming Wrinkle in Time. Event movies will be the movies of the future, as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas once said.
The bias and phobia against superhero movies is deeply embedded in the mindset of veterans of the film industry. Birdman’s popularity was fueled in large part by fear of and hatred of those kinds of films. But it really only takes one superlative achievement that people don’t feel silly voting for — and I suspect they won’t feel silly voting for Black Panther.
We have a whole year ahead of us and many movies, event movies and more, coming soon. Keep an eye on this one to maybe make history, in more ways than one.