Actor Chadwick Boseman says he wants Black Panther to win the Best Picture Oscar, not the Popular Film award. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences added the “outstanding achievement in popular film” category this year, but have yet to announce the criteria. Nobody knows how nominees will be decided, or whether or not it’s an insult to be recognized in this new category. Still, Boseman has made it clear that he has a certain preference when it comes to his film Black Panther.
Many would argue that Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is the most popular film of 2018 and perhaps even the most popular film in the MCU, breaking box office records throughout its theatrical run. The film inspired a huge cultural movement around Wakanda and all that the hero Black Panther represents, not only in the United States, but around the world. It would make sense, then, that many would think of Black Panther when the Academy announced its plans for its newest popular film category this summer. And for the first time, Marvel Studios is putting together a serious awards campaign in an attempt to get Black Panther the accolades it deserves.
But according to Black Panther’s lead actor Chadwick Boseman in an interview with THR, the film is Best Picture material only. The actor explained, “We don’t know what it [the new prize] is, so I don’t know whether to be happy about it or not. What I can say is that there’s no campaign [that we are mounting] for popular film; like, if there’s a campaign, it’s for best picture, and that’s all there is to it.” Later on in the interview, Boseman further spoke to why in his mind, Black Panther should only be considered for the Best Picture category.
“What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture … we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It’s very much like a period piece. … So, as far as that’s concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the [level of] difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it’s [merely] popular, that’s elitist.”
The film industry reacted violently to the Academy’s plans for the new category. Many think negatively of the popular film award, arguing that it is an insult to audiences and filmmakers alike and that the move reflects the Academy’s attempts to cater to popular audiences and drive viewership to its televised awards ceremony, which has seen a marked decline in viewers over the years. Others, such as Mark Wahlberg or Jason Blum, have made efforts to openly support the category and urge others not to judge it too quickly. The conversation has grown so heated within the industry that the Academy is already considering scrapping the plans for the new category completely.
Ever since plans for the popular film award was announced, everybody’s attention turned to Black Panther, a movie that many believe would be a shoo-in for a nomination and win in the category. But as Boseman’s comments point out, a lot went into this film that some Academy voters might push aside as a “simple” popular comic book flick. The issue also raises the question – even if Black Panther was the most popular film of the year, does that mean it is undeserving of the Best Picture award?
Black Panther sparked important cultural and political discussions after its release due to its illumination of certain social issues. Now, it is at the center of an entirely new debate: the politics of Hollywood’s awards season. If the Academy decides to keep its new category in “outstanding achievement in popular film”, there’s no doubt that it will be very interesting watching what films get nominated for which categories and who the winner of this brand new category will end up being – and perhaps most importantly, what exactly that win will mean for the film industry as a whole moving into the future.