Academy Awards nominations don’t always get it right, but on Tuesday, the Oscars killed it: The first superhero movie to really deserve an Oscar nod for best picture got one.
Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther” roared to seven nominations as Hollywood heads into the 91st annual Academy Awards on Feb. 24. It scored mostly in technical categories, but it landed the one that matters the most and everyone wants.
Of the history being made this Oscars year – thank goodness Spike Lee is finally getting best-picture and best-director accolades for “BlacKkKlansman,” and hats off to “Taxi Driver” writer Paul Schrader earning his first screenplay nod for “First Reformed” – “Black Panther” means more to those outside Hollywood and especially to us superhero junkies who’ve been yearning for one of our own to be a major part of Oscar night. Audiences made it the highest-grossing movie of 2018, and the motion picture academy also apparently considers it quite a standout.
Superhero films for the longest time have missed out on the honor for any number of reasons, like the academy snootily not seeing them as “quality” films, perhaps. With a voting contingent becoming younger and more diverse and superhero projects taking up more breathing room in pop culture, it was only a matter of time.
“Superman” scored four Oscar nominations but no best picture in 1979 – which was fine because I was 3 and couldn’t stay up that late. “Batman” was nominated (and won) for production design but no best picture in 1990 – more of a bummer, yet there was more competition that year, with “Driving Miss Daisy” running everybody off the road. “The Dark Knight” came along as a critical hit with eight nominations (and an eventual win for Heath Ledger) but, again, no best picture. It was a shortcoming that seemed egregious at the time and undoubtedly led to the Oscars expanding the field from five nominees to at most 10.
“Dark Knight” should have been that first superhero best-picture nominee – that is, until you consider how inclusive and important a cultural achievement “Black Panther” became. One was a really great “Batman” movie; the other’s a populist movement. This is the one we’ve been waiting for, folks.