Marvel has had a banner year to be sure. They had their two highest-grossing films in BLACK PANTHER and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, and a new animated classic with SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE; all three highly deserving of their high praise and high grosses. So maybe not all three of these originated from the Mouse House, but I don't need to know who slaughtered the cattle to enjoy the steak.
Speaking of BLACK PANTHER, specifically, it is a film that makes getting out of your house and seeing it on the biggest screen a necessity. Ryan Coogler built a wondrous world for the fictional Wakanda. It is narratively tight, yet at times experimental. Ruth Carter's costume design, as it has been for the past few decades, is meticulous. There is not only not a bad performance in the film, but stand out performances in a group of both the recently discovered and seasoned vets are in abundance. Well deserving of its place on the BEST PICTURE list. A cultural landmark for American cinema for more reasons than the mostly black cast and crew. This is the FIRST COMIC BOOK FILM EVER TO BE NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE!
Think about that. THE DARK KNIGHT! Nope. RICHARD DONNER'S SUPERMAN! Nope. TIM BURTON'S BATMAN! Of course not. Why?
The Academy has an annoying way of not really choosing BEST PICTURE candidates, but rather the BEST POLITICALLY EXPEDIENT PICTURE candidates. Not to say that all the pictures that were nominated should not have been nominated, with maybe the exception of one (it rhymes with BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY), it is the fact that the Academy enacted new rules in 2009 (rumor has it because of "The Dark Knight" snub) that allows 10 movies to be nominated and all I see listed are EIGHT. That leaves two open slots for very deserving films; even if they are not the films I listed above… and there are WAY more than 10 deserving films: "Eighth Grade", "You Were Never Really Here", "First Reformed", "Hereditary", "UPGRADE", "A Simple Favor", "If Beale Street Could Talk", "The Wife", "Won't You Be My Neighbor", "Three Identical Strangers", and the list goes on and on (yes, I realize two of those were documentaries but they are just as deserving as animated films and I'm still kinda bitter about the "Hoop Dreams" snub).
Tirade aside, my point is The Academy seems to have decided they had to make a choice between which superhero genre movie should be nominated rather than just throw in the best films. They have intentionally or unintentionally made comic book film adaptations feel like a zero-sum game when that was not the case. BLACK PANTHER and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR was just as deserving to be the BEST PICTURE NOMINEE so political expediency shouldn't have been an issue. We SHOULD be living in a world right now where BLACK PANTHER and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR are on the BEST PICTURE NOMINEE list. It seems that the Academy refuses to put forth a list where superhero and other genre films (horror, sci-fi and the like), which make up an enormous part of the movie-going habits of the general public, are not to be honored like the films of the "indie" variety. They are currently being treated like token films on the nominee roster. This is despite the fact that high grossing genre films have proven again and again that they can push the medium of film forward like any indie out there. Grosses, high or low, should not be the measure of a film in the BEST PICTURE category.
Over the years the Academy has been totally out of touch with the movie-going public, and it has nothing to do with presenters; although @Massawyrms Twitter suggestion for the Muppets to host would've been pretty epic. The problem is the respect paid to filmmakers. This year they actually even tried to do away with televising the Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Live Action Short, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling categories. I think Guillermo Del Toro put it best: "Cinematography and Editing are at the very heart of our craft. They are not inherited from a theatrical tradition or a literary tradition: they are cinema itself." How myopic is The Academy to even think of eliminating these categories, much less taking measures to do it (which were eventually backpedaled, so thank your deity of choice)?
This could've been the year that the Oscars really broke the mold for the first time in a long time. Nominating not one comic book adaptation, but two... or even three to really make it stick. All well deserving movies. Instead, we now have a sea of geekdom that supports the industry every opening day arguing amongst each other about which should've been nominated, BLACK PANTHER or AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. The truth is, they both could've been. Again, this was not a zero-sum game, The Academy just played it like one. In a manner befitting Thanos, it should've been a snap of the fingers…. ***SNAP!!!***
art by Zach Spivey