Biased Academy Will Never Give Black Panther The Recognition It Deserves
It seems like every year the debate around what the Oscars stand for gets more intense. Should the Academy be pilloried for being out of touch when they fail to acknowledge commercially successful movies? Or should they be lauded for keeping the soul of the film industry pure by ensuring awards go to projects that prioritise art over finance?
Caught squarely in the middle of this years debate is Marvel’s Black Panther - at $1.35b it was one of highest grossing movies of 2018 - it is also a work of protest art. To be fair to The Academy it has been given an nomination for the Best Picture Oscar, but this seems more a patronising pat on the head than a real opportunity for victory.
There has been a noticeable increase in the representation of BAME art since the course correction at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002 which does mean it’s possible for a black movie to win the major accolades (though more often than not any treatment of minority issues has focused on the white experience, think Driving Miss Daisy or Dances with Wolves).
It is this combination of the Academy’s ingrained bigotry and the bias against box office success that will mean the Marvel franchise goes criminally overlooked. Viewing figures aside, Black Panther is one of the most important movies in the last 20 years if not in the entire history of cinema.
No doubt there will be sniggers from those who find superhero movies too far fetched to take seriously but let’s compare it to another darling of film critics - Citizen Kane. On one hand we have a film charting the rise and fall of a white newspaper baron, born to wealth who reaches career heights that a black man of the time couldn’t even dream. On the other a moving parable of the exploitation of Africa and it’s resources by westerners. A movie that had to wait in line until all the other white Marvel adaptations had been made. A film of spectacular scale with an all black cast and a black director. A black commercial success in an otherwise white landscape.
Which of these seems like a piece of art that subverts the current norms? Which feels like a film with a moral imperative and a cogent message for the world in which we find ourselves? If these aren’t the criteria used for judging great art then what are?
All that being said Black Panther won’t win. It’s too successful and maybe too black.
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