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The Academy Awards are less than three weeks away, and while it may not go home with the biggest trophy of the night, Black Panther has cause to celebrate. After a year that brought the film critical acclaim, a massive box office haul, and universal pop culture visibility, the film is now getting a showcase on the Awards Season's biggest stage, adding validation to its phenomenal run and breaking new ground for superhero films in the shared universe age.
Not everyone is celebrating Black Panther's Oscar glory, though.
On the most recent episode of his podcast, novelist Bret Easton Ellis (American Psycho) discussed the then-recent awarding of the Golden Globes ahead of the Oscar nominations (the episode was recorded on January 17), and addressed a question many pundits, critics, and fans have asked of Black Panther ever since Disney began pushing for its Oscar consideration: Is the film really Oscar-worthy?
“No superhero movie has ever gotten a Best Picture nomination. But believe me, Disney is doing everything in its power to make sure this happens," Ellis said. "Even though there is no one out here in La La Land I’ve met who thinks Black Panther is that good as a movie. Yet, as a piece of representation, they are supporting it.”
Ellis went on to muse about the narrative of "inclusivity vs. aesthetics" — while Black Panther has been widely praised as a major studio release with a nearly all-black cast, it has also been critically acclaimed as a piece of filmmaking — and the kind of film the Academy likes to champion during awards season. In his eyes, Black Panther's journey to the Oscars stage is all part of this narrative being pushed by the Hollywood press, and we're just along for the ride.
“The entertainment press and the studio is selling the notion that Black Panther is a grand piece of cinematic art that cannot be ignored. And this notion is being shoved down our throats and we can only smile in disbelief. Or perhaps understand that this is just the moment we’re trapped in. A joke, a hoax. It’s all fake news, folks,” Ellis said.
Everyone will draw their own conclusions about Black Panther's presence on Oscar night, whether you loved the film, simply liked it, or also thought it got outsized attention because of its diversity (which some would argue does mean it deserves some extra attention in 2018 and 2019). It is, at the moment, very unlikely that the film actually will take Best Picture over frontrunners like Roma, The Favourite, and Green Book, but there could be a surprise.
Even if it doesn't win there, though, the film has a very solid chance in various technical categories, so we may be saying "Oscar-winner Black Panther" by the end of the month. At a certain point, the film's achievements speak for themselves.