Black Panther has been mentioned in the Oscar mix ever since it came out and not only scored massively at the box office but also created a cultural phenomenon, and Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has reportedly okayed a budget for an Oscar campaign that will focus on much more than the technical awards that genre films usually get nominated for.
But the Oscar scenario itself has been upended by the news that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was introducing a new category — described as "outstanding achievement in popular film" — that has yet to be fully defined in terms of how films will qualify and how it will relate to the more prestigious and traditional Best Picture award.
Boseman, however, is not especially interested in what many in the industry perceive as a consolation prize for box-office hits that aren't considered "serious" cinema. He told the Hollywood Reporter in a new podcast interview that Black Panther is going for the big prize:
"We don't know what it [the new prize] is, so I don't know whether to be happy about it or not. What I can say is that there's no campaign [that we are mounting] for popular film; like, if there's a campaign, it's for best picture, and that's all there is to it."
Boseman adds that just because a movie is popular (or, in the case of Black Panther, enormously so), that doesn't mean it should not be in the running for Best Picture:
"A good movie is a good movie, and clearly it doesn't matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be 'a good movie' [in the minds of Academy members], because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win wouldn't get nominated; and if it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter on both sides. For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty."
One of the theories about why the Academy has created the "popular film" award is to attract interest in the Oscars from people who might not have seen The Shape of Water or Moonlight or any of the other recent Best Picture nominees and winners that have not earned hundreds of millions at the box office.
But if Black Panther (or any other movie) is nominated for Most Popular and not Best Picture, it could fuel the perception that the film is somehow not good enough to compete in the latter category (the Academy has confirmed that a film can also be cited for both awards).
Boseman says that Black Panther's overall achievement — beyond its success as a groundbreaking and culturally significant superhero movie — needs to be taken into consideration:
"What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture... we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hairstyles. It's very much like a period piece... I dare any movie to try to compare to the [level of] difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it -- if you just say it's [merely] popular, that's elitist."
Is Black Panther Best Picture material, in your view? If films that are vying for Best Picture have to settle for "Most Popular" because of their genre or box-office success, is that less of an award and more of an insult to the film and the people who made it?