My Problem with the Black Panther Oscar Nomination

(I’m hitting you guys with the good ol’ fashioned quadruple uploads today!)

First thing’s first: I love Marvel movies. If you’ve read more than a single post on this entire blog, you’re most likely well aware of that fact. There is no franchise that has consistently satisfied my moviegoing desires as well as the MCU, and there is no other franchise that can compare to its impact on me as a cinephile.

I’ve seen nearly all of the films in theaters (excluding the first Captain America and Thor films), and I usually go multiple times to see each one. Every single day is full of moments of speculation and many are spent rewatching the films, trying to find details that promote a new order to watch them in. Needless to say, I’m a big fan and I want these films to be loved by people who wouldn’t normally give them a shot.

BUT.

Black Panther should not have been nominated for Best Picture. It’s not because it’s not one of the best films of the year, it’s because it feels like a dishonest award for this movie, and here’s why.

Late last summer, the Academy announced that they would create a Best Popular Film category to pander to the younger audience members and get their viewership. Immediately, everybody lashed against the idea as it, well, panders to the audience. Just because the huge blockbusters don’t get nominated for Best Picture doesn’t mean that an entirely new category need be made to finally give these films some Oscar buzz. That’s ridiculous, and the internet let the Academy know.

So, when Black Panther was nominated amongst seven other 2018 films for the Best Picture award, I raised an eyebrow. It’s a great movie, but it wasn’t even the best comic-book film of the year. Most people would say Avengers: Infinity War and I would say Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but few would say Black Panther. This feels like they’re trying to not only pander to younger audiences, but black audiences as well in order to increase their (lowering) numbers. I don’t have a problem with this movie getting attention because I think it’s about damn time that superhero movies be taken seriously… but not like this.

It feels too much like a disingenuous overcorrection and, frankly, I want the pompous Academy to stay out of my precious subgenre of sci-fi films. Sci-fi, action, and horror are the least favorite genres of the voting members of the Academy yet whenever a film is ridiculously popular like Avatar or Get Out, they decide to nominate it in order to be “…cool.” They didn’t do it with The Dark Knight and people still haven’t forgiven them, but it feels too little too late, and nominated Black Panther just feels like a wasted effort.

Aside from Visual Effects, superhero movies are often overlooked by the Academy. Last year was really the first time in history that a superhero movie was taken seriously by being nominated for Best Screenplay. However, you still get people like Ethan Hawke who has notoriously said in an interview with The Film Stage:

Now we have the problem that they tell us Logan is a great movie. Well, it’s a great superhero movie. It still involves people in tights with metal coming out of their hands. It’s not [Robert] Bresson. It’s not [Ingmar] Bergman. But they talk about it like it is. I went to see Logan because everyone was like, “This is a great movie” and I was like, “Really? No, this is a fine superhero movie.” There’s a difference, but Big Business doesn’t think there’s a difference. Big Business wants you to think that this is a great film because they wanna make money off of it.

Not that I care what Ethan Hawke has to say but it’s what his word represent that I have a problem with: people not giving these movies the attention that they give, say, Boyhood. You have a movie about people with abilities greater than our own and they’re automatically discounted as “real movies” even before they’re released. Black Panther might change this ignorant mindset but I also fear that it will only make them more concrete. This is why many comic-book movie fans are clamoring for a film like Spider-Verse to get nominated as well, or even Infinity War, as they’re the best that we’ve seen this year (mostly).

More recently, professional asshat Bill Maher took his foot out of his incompetent mouth to spew some disrespectful garbage, and I don’t mean disrespectful to a large majority of moviegoers and Americans alike, but disrespectful to Stan Lee who had died not a day before Maher wrote this:

The guy who created Spider-Man and the Hulk has died, and America is in mourning. Deep, deep mourning for a man who inspired millions to, I don’t know, watch a movie, I guess. Someone on Reddit posted, “I’m so incredibly grateful I lived in a world that included Stan Lee.” Personally, I’m grateful I lived in a world that included oxygen and trees, but to each his own. Now, I have nothing against comic books – I read them now and then when I was a kid and I was all out of Hardy Boys. But the assumption everyone had back then, both the adults and the kids, was that comics were for kids, and when you grew up you moved on to big-boy books without the pictures.

But then twenty years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature. And because America has over 4,500 colleges – which means we need more professors than we have smart people – some dumb people got to be professors by writing theses with titles like Otherness and Heterodoxy in the Silver Surfer. And now when adults are forced to do grown-up things like buy auto insurance, they call it “adulting,” and act like it’s some giant struggle.

I’m not saying we’ve necessarily gotten stupider. The average Joe is smarter in a lot of ways than he was in, say, the 1940s, when a big night out was a Three Stooges short and a Carmen Miranda musical. The problem is, we’re using our smarts on stupid stuff. I don’t think it’s a huge stretch to suggest that Donald Trump could only get elected in a country that thinks comic books are important.

And, yes, that’s his entire post. Basically nothing more than an unfiltered sneeze, yet it garnered an immense amount of (just) hatred and backlash. What does he do after this? Doubles down and reiterates his point. My point: dumpster f*cks like Bill Maher are only going to take Black Panther‘s nomination as a joke, while other people will try to give it serious consideration. The problem with that is that the negative group is always the louder one.

As mentioned earlier, I want people who wouldn’t normally watch these films to give them a try, and having it nominated for Best Picture is certainly a way to do that. It just feels to me that nobody who loves the film is as excited as they should be about its nomination. Spider-Verse being nominated for best picture would be more of a thing that comic-book movie lovers would happily get behind as that is an underdog story we’d love to see.

Anyways, I feel as though I’m dragging on and to avoid repeating myself too often, I’m going to sign off.

As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!

Published by Blake Carson Schwarz

Indiana University graduate in Media and Creative Writing. I love to write my own stories as well as experience the work of others. On this site, I post reviews, essays, and other fun posts that I hope you have as much fun reading and I have writing. Please share any comments you have, I'd be happy to hear what you think! *Never a critic, always a fan*

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