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The Oscar Potential of ‘Black Panther’

by Javier Reyes

Despite being only three months into 2018, “Black Panther” has already given us a fascinating narrative. Thanks to its incredible financial and critical success, it is a movie to keep an eye on for the 2019 Academy Awards. While it is far too early to suggest the film will end up as one of the year’s best pictures, the Oscars have never been solely based on qualitative value.

For example, just take a look at “Goodfellas” being snubbed for the best picture Academy Award in favor of “Dances with Wolves” in 1991. Instead, Oscar wins should be turned toward examining the litany of signs that the movie will receive the prestigious honor. “Black Panther” could likely be nominated for best picture at the 91st Academy Awards.

Firstly, the film’s resonance has garnered not only praise from the general viewing audience, but also film critics. The movie currently holds a 97 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and even more impressively, has a score of 88 percent on Metacritic. By comparing almost every metric, “Black Panther” has become one of the most beloved superhero films since “The Dark Knight,” which is obviously no ordinary feat.

As of March 10, the film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide. The $370.5 million earned in its opening weekend is the 15th largest of all time. During last week’s Oscars, host Jimmy Kimmel even jokingly commented on the film’s success saying how it “definitely won’t be nominated for anything next year.” It might have just been a joke. However, Kimmel’s comment felt like an astute and timely shot taken at the Academy.

Its penchant for unfairly disregarding not just comic book films, but also popular films as a whole like the “Star Wars” series. Kimmel’s tiny gesture might be more fortuitous than people think. Considering this year’s show had the lowest ratings of any in history, including “Black Panther” among next year’s best picture nominees would certainly help.

Furthermore, the Academy has shown it is becoming increasingly more progressive and inclusive over the past few years. Thanks is in order largely to their voting body adding younger members, more women and more people of color have been added among its ranks. With that in mind, I highly doubt the Academy would want to go through the same backlash it received after their highly scrutinized omission of “The Dark Knight” from 2009.

Then there is another obvious signal: the nomination of “Logan” for best adapted screenplay. While that film did not win the award, the fact it was even nominated consequently made it the first officially prestigious superhero film. Perhaps this signals that future films of the genre will be taken more seriously.

It may not seem like much, but this is how change happens. It is slow, nuanced and can be easily missed by those not paying close enough attention. It is easy to be cynical about the Academy Awards, but there are also plenty of reasons to believe in their ability to evolve. I am hopeful that, after so long, the nomination of “Black Panther” for best picture next year will mark the beginning of the equally populist and artistically merited Oscars I have always been vying for.

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