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The recent, much-maligned decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to add a Best Popular Film category to the Oscars was seemingly done in an effort to recognize more popcorn fare, like the superhero movies that dominate the box office. Although blockbusters often get nominated in the technical categories, Best Picture is almost always out of reach, so the Achievement in Popular Film award would give such films a chance at taking home another statue. Yet it turns out that the most acclaimed superhero movie of the year may not need that help. Black Panther might end up getting Oscar nominations beyond the new category, including Best Picture, all on its own.
Ever since it was released, there has been talk about the awards potential of Black Panther. Ryan Coogler's film seems like it has the best shot at a Best Picture nomination that a superhero movie has had since The Dark Knight was infamously snubbed. There is reason to think it has a solid chance too. Marvel actually has a significant budget for an awards season push to get Black Panther nominated for Best Picture. As noted by the Los Angeles Times, that campaign will focus on the cultural impact of the film and the personal nature of the material for director Ryan Coogler.
Avengers: Infinity War may have made more money overall, but as far as cultural impact is concerned, Black Panther wins in a landslide. The film was a phenomenon that celebrated black culture and resonated with audiences unaccustomed to seeing themselves portrayed onscreen in such a way or in this type of film. Black Panther was everywhere and 'Wakanda Forever' has permeated the culture. The film meant a lot to many people and rewarding a film that is critically acclaimed, wildly successful and had this kind of significance is a no brainer for an industry that likes to pat itself on the back and reward what makes it look good. The Oscar campaign for Black Panther will also stress that this was an auteur-driven movie and that director Ryan Coogler had a personal connection to the material. The personal nature of the film and how much it really was Ryan Coogler's vision is another compelling reason that Black Panther deserves to be nominated for Best Picture.
Beyond just the impact of the film and Ryan Coogler's achievement in only his third film, Black Panther could also see its Oscar fortunes rise in other categories. Black Panther has a strong case for awards in Cinematography, Production Design, Costume Design, and Hair and Makeup. As noted in the LA Times article, nominations in those kinds of categories could bolster Black Panther's chances of taking home the top prize at the end of the night.