Black Panther did something many thought impossible — it actually received a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. For years (since 2008, in fact) fans have been clamouring for The Academy to properly recognise comic book movies. Sure, comic book films have received Oscar nominations in the past but those nominations were almost always exclusively limited to the technical categories (i.e sound mixing, sound editing, visual effects, etc). The exception to the rule was, of course, Heath Ledger’s Best Supporting Actor nomination and posthumous victory for his performance as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
Years went by and comic book movies were once again relegated to the technical categories much to the disappointment of ardent fans and critics alike. When will The Academy broaden their mind we wondered? When will they actually start acknowledging genre films (note that horror movies, regardless of how acclaimed they are, rarely receive major Oscar nominations as well) as more than just spectacle? After all, films like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War are critically acclaimed, not solely because of their VFX, but because of they are emotionally resonant, wonderfully penned and helmed pieces of cinema.
In 2018, fans were confident that either Wonder Woman or Logan would get a Best Director/Best Picture nomination, but both were snubbed. Logan, however, did receive a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, which gave fans some hope for the future. And finally, the wait is over. For the first time in history, a comic book movie received a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Black Panther, directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) is an emotionally moving action-drama that also doubles as a commentary on oppression.
Besides its at times wonky CGI, Black Panther is beautifully written and crafted. The writing by Coogler and Joe Robert Cole is exceptional. It baffles me how they managed to pen 14 characters and make us care about each and every single one of them by the end of the movie, while also commenting on important sociopolitical themes. Even ignoring the significance of this film in terms of diversity, Black Panther simply works as a movie.
This is an epic war film; It is a heartbreaking family drama; At times it is a James Bond-esque espionage. This is a film that will empower women, just as much as Wonder Woman did. And it is another comic book movie, just like Logan and The Dark Knight before that, that prove that ‘comic book’ isn’t a genre, but a form.
But there’s also no denying the film’s importance, especially to the African American community and non-white communities in general. This is the first time, we get to see a comic book movie centred around a black character. It is also DIRECTED by a black man and WRITTEN by black men, which means even the very voice of the film is something unique; something we must pay attention to.
Besides the Best Picture nomination, Black Panther also received six other nominations — Best Production Design, Best Original Song (All the Stars), Best Original Score, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It is a damn shame that neither Ryan Coogler nor Michael B. Jordan received a Best Director and Best Supporting Actor nod, respectively. That said, it truly is a great time to be a comic book fan. Hopefully, this Oscar nomination opens the door for other great comic book movies to receive nods in the non-technical categories in the years to come.