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Can Black Panther nab gold? Oscars' Popular Film category won’t deter Marvel from aiming for Best Picture: Report

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Aug 23, 2018, 5:31 PM EDT

Wakanda forever! Could a superhero movie win the Best Picture Oscar for the first time in history?

It's not as far-fetched as you might think, writes The Los Angeles Times, which reports that Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has approved a sizeable awards-season campaign budget for Ryan Coogler's Black Panther. If so, this would be the first time that Marvel has actively launched an Academy Awards "For your consideration" initiative for one of its films. Seasoned Oscar lobbyist Cynthia Swartz has been hired for the long campaign trail ahead. 

And no — supposedly, Marvel isn't interested in the recently announced Best Popular Film category, which Panther could easily win; they reportedly want the top prize of the night, Best Picture, an accolade that just a few months ago was nabbed by a fantasy feature, Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water

“Right now, I think [academy Chief Executive] Dawn Hudson would crawl in a hole if Black Panther gets snubbed for Best Picture and winds up landing in the Popular Film category,” one Oscar consultant told the L.A. Times.

When the Academy first announced the new prize, it specified that films that get nominated in the Popular category can also be nominated for Best Picture. While explaining why he thinks that Black Panther deserves to be recognized by the Academy, Feige touched upon Coogler's vision for exploring his own African heritage, while also telling a story that would be relevant to the modern day world and make a cultural impact. 

“I would like to see the hard work and the effort and the vision and the belief of the talented filmmaker Ryan Coogler, who sat across the table from us a few years ago and said, ‘I have been wrestling with questions about my past and my heritage and I think I really want to tell a story within this movie,’ ” Feige reportedly said. “And that he did it so unbelievably well and with so much impact... seeing that potentially being recognized is what excites me the most.”

In that regard, Coogler knocked it out of the ballpark. He didn't just make a comic book movie, he created a nuanced rumination of race, identity, and responsibility. The villain of Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) isn't your one-dimensional bad guy with aspirations of taking over the world. While misguided in his approach, he wanted to right the wrongs of the world within the context of history. As such, he ends up changing the mind of our main protagonist, King T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who decides to open the nation of Wakanda to the rest of the world and start righting some of those wrongs.

Released in theaters this past February, Black Panther received critical acclaim from critics and fans alike, going on to surpass more than $1 billion at the global box office, smashing a number of records along the way.