Tonight is the Oscars, and as of this writing, I don’t know who’s going to be crowned “Best Picture” by the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences (UPDATE: we do, it was **sigh** Green Book). But I do know that Black Panther is one of the nominees, a fact that still sends shockwaves of disbelief through my body. Not because I didn’t enjoy the film, far from it, but because this is the first (and possibly only) comic book film to be given the esteemed descriptor of “Academy Award Nominee”.
A year ago, when Black Panther premiered, there were early rumblings of the Ryan Coogler directed film being “Oscar-caliber”, but many people, myself included, scoffed at the notion. There was no way, even after the Academy overlooked The Dark Knight ten years prior, that they’d give Marvel Studios and Black Panther the honor. Even with Black Panther being a relatively standalone film in the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was still part of the franchise machine, and it was unheard of for the Academy to give a film like that any attention outside of special effects or costume design.
And yet, here we are, a year later, and Black Panther not only has a Best Picture nomination, but there’s even a strong (and growing) belief that it could take home the big award, thanks largely in part to the voters potentially splitting over the other films nominated, which could let T’Challa and Shuri welcome the shiny gold statue into their kingdom. But if it doesn’t win, the fact that that Black Panther has the nomination is a win in and of itself. It not only legitimizes us comic book nerds’ love of this film, but it also acknowledges the MASSIVE impact this film had on pop culture, especially for African Americans, who were starving for a film like this.
Honestly, that’s more touching and important than Black Panther winning. This film was a cultural milestone, akin to Star Wars and Jaws. “Wakanda Forever” is shouted in everything, from commercials to school hallways. While I wished that the Academy extended their nominations for the the film to the acting categories (tell me you wouldn’t swap out Sam Rockwell’s minor role in Vice for Michael B Jordan), it’s nice to see the Academy give the spotlight to the MCU, and it’s especially nice that it went towards something as awesome and impactful as Black Panther.