We’ve put some money down on Black Panther winning the Best Picture at this weekend’s Oscars. Are we crazy? Nope.
So, full disclosure. We love “Black Panther”. Our kids love “Black Panther”. Pretty much everyone loves “Black Panther” (apart from those trolls who want to be controversial). You might say that it fully deserves its place on the list of nominations for this year’s Oscars – so why is it only third favourite, despite its massive mainstream success? Well, if you know anything about the Academy Awards, you’ll probably know that they very rarely select the best film of the year to win Best Picture. I mean, these are the same jokers who gave the statuette to “Dances With Wolves” ahead of “Goodfellas”. “Driving Miss Daisy” ahead of “Do The Right Thing”. I could go on.
That being said, the films that are ahead of “Black Panther” in the race for the Oscars are very very good. “Roma”, the semi-autobiographical effort from Alfonso Cuaron is an incredible , heartbreaking piece of cinema that definitely stays with you, and as for “The Favourite” (a period drama that normally I would have ignored if it weren’t for the three leads and director..AND the fact that everyone who’d seen it had raved about it) it’s a unconventional, genre defying film that is confident in its execution.
So why are we batting so hard for “Black Panther”? Why have we, in fact, broke a habit of a lifetime and put actual money on it winning the big prize? There’s three reasons – let me take you through them.
“Roma” is great. But it’s made by Netflix.
The first point doesn’t come down to the quality of “Roma”, very much the front runner for the Oscar, but it’s more about who produced and distributed it. That’s right – Netflix. Unless you were one of the lucky people who got to see Roma in a cinema, the chances are you watched this in the comfort of your own home. Now, massive debate is currently taking place about whether Roma constitutes a film or a “home movie” because it is consumed in this way. In fact, the Cannes Film Festival rejected the film’s request to be included in the competition on the basis that, at the time, Netflix refused to explain how the film would be shown in cinemas. Therefore, the producers upped sticks, went to the Venice Film Festival and duly won best film there in the summer. No doubt about it, a lot of people see Netflix as a disruptor, an unwanted nuisance that signals the end of cinema.
I’d warrant a guess that a lot of those people are Academy voters, and although there has been some concession to Netflix, reflected in 10 Oscar nominations for “Roma”, whether they are prepared to let them sashay into the sunset with a Best Picture Oscar, I’m really not sure.
“The Favourite” is great. But will it broaden Oscar’s appeal?
I thought “The Favourite” was brilliant. Well acted. Impeccably directed and did not lag, even for a second. But will enough people out of the core audience care about it? It’s kind of my job to watch all types of films, but for the casual cinema goer, the film is positioned in such a way that they may think it might not be for them. And as the Academy face dwindling TV ratings and a general shrug of indifference when it comes to Best Picture winners of yesteryear (when was the last time you watched “Crash”? Exactly), I think they are under a lot of pressure to appeal to a younger, newer audience who need to be convinced of the relevance of Oscar. Which brings us to….
Black Panther – Best Picture Winner?
If the Academy want to increase their appeal, then there’s only one film they should be handing out the Best Picture Oscar to, and that’s Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther”. Fully rounded, relevant and hugely successful, it’s exactly the kind of film that the Academy need to reward in order to restore some popularity, especially among younger voters. But why’s that so important? A quick look at how the ratings for the ceremony are declining year on year should give you an answer here:
If people aren’t watching, then advertisers perhaps don’t advertise during the show, which means less money for the network.
Another point is that the Academy hardly ever get behind blockbusters like Black Panther. You’d need to go all the way back to 2004, when the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “The Return of the King” swept the board.
Simply put, if Oscar wants to be more mainstream, at some point it needs to go one better than simply acknowledging films like Black Panther, but start giving out major awards, rather than the technical ones .
So based on these three reasons, I feel that Black Panther has a great chance of winning Best Picture, despite what the odds say. Then again, Oscars are gonna Oscar, and he Academy might vote in the same traditional way they always have. But I live in the hope that the times are changing, and that a film as groundbreaking as Black Panther can truly change the game this Sunday.