Are The Oscars Scared Of Disrespecting Black Panther?

The Academy’s announcement of a Best Popular Film Oscar hints at wider fears of shutting out blockbusters and superhero films: Is Black Panther the reason for the change?

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, best known as the home of the Oscars, have been struggling to find their place in the world for the past decade. For many years, it was common practice for the Academy to reward mainstream blockbuster movies like Star Wars and Jaws alongside the expected critical favorites like Annie Hall.

Related: Screen Rant's Thoughts On The Oscars & The New "Popular Film" Category

As Hollywood’s priorities changed and the Oscars became a means for indie films to get good publicity, the Academy focused less on populist movies, and so the gap between critical and commercial hits seemed to grow only wider. Audiences weren’t happy.

The Problem With the Oscars and The New Best Popular Film Category

Oscars 89th Warren Beatty

After facing criticisms that they were shutting out more populist fare, the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to ten nominees (later changed again to be up to ten nominees based on voting) in hopes of allowing for more general audience friendly movies. That move came after a backlash from the lack of love for The Dark Knight, easily one of the best-reviewed films of 2008 yet nowhere to be seen in Best Picture.

While that worked for a while, the Academy fell back into their old ways and faced a new issue over the lack of diversity in both their nominated films and the voters awarding them. The grassroots movement of #OscarsSoWhite gained steam in the industry and became a problem the Academy simply couldn’t ignore. That led to a much-needed diversification of their membership, which has already made an impact through the Oscars, as seen by winners like Get Out and Moonlight.

Yet the Oscars ceremony itself has been losing viewers year after year, with the 2018 ceremony being the lowest-rated yet. Generally speaking, the average movie-goer who sees five or six films a year may not care all that much about the sort of films that win Oscars. Such movies may not even be available to view in their location thanks to the increasingly archaic limited screening model.

Related: Hollywood's Awards Season Elitism is Slowly Killing the Oscars

Crucially, the Academy still remains highly allergic to acknowledging blockbuster and high-concept genre movies. Superhero films are typically ignored, relegated to special effects categories and not much else, regardless of how critically beloved they are. This seems to have weighed heavily on the Academy’s mind, and their solution has been to announce the creation of a Best Popular Film category.

It has not yet been revealed how a movie will be eligible for a Best Popular Film nomination, but the general expectation has been that this category will exist for blockbusters, franchise movies, and otherwise commercially successful movies that don’t fit the typical Oscars mold. This would have been a bad idea in any year, but it feels notable that this has been introduced in 2018 when there is real and growing Oscar talk around a major superhero movie: Black Panther.

Page 2 of 2: The Academy Needs to Acknowledge Black Panther

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Key Release Dates
  • Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
  • The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019
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