The Oscar nominations are in, and some have beef with Black Panther's Best Picture nomination. Those who do find the recognition hard to swallow, especially when the immensely popular and much-anticipated Avengers: Infinity War was a possibility as well. As fine of an adventure Infinity War was, Black Panther absolutely deserved its Best Picture nomination over the ensemble film, and those who disagree should consider the following to understand why.
It's A Self-Contained Movie
Black Panther may have made his debut in Captain America: Civil War, but there's little to his presence in that film that is necessary to know prior to watching Black Panther. Sure, someone who hadn't seen Civil War may not know T'Chaka is dead going in, but things are explained in Black Panther expeditiously enough that an audience can be brought up to speed without having to remember several key events from past MCU adventures.
Now, take Avengers: Infinity War, which requires a fair bit of MCU lore to accurately understand and care about. For example, someone who only caught the first Thor movie would be lost as to why he and Loki are in space and on good terms. That's really just the tip of the iceberg, as very few character introductions or situations in the movie aren't a callback to events that happened in previous Marvel films.
This isn't a huge deal to the current generation of moviegoers, but I can imagine there would've been future generations who questioned how a film that required knowledge on several other superhero movies prior to viewing managed to find its way into the conversation for Best Picture. Black Panther, on the other hand, can be enjoyed and absorbed by even the most casual of audiences without a ton of research, which makes it the better candidate.
It Has Enormous Cultural Impact
Avengers: Infinity War may outshine Black Panther in the all-time worldwide box office gross category, but one thing it can't outshine the Marvel adventure in is the cultural impact it had. Its massive box office success showed African-American centered stories can connect with a mainstream audience and bring in big bucks. That wasn't something necessarily known prior to, as Black Panther is currently the only top 10 highest grossing film with a predominantly black cast.
That's a big deal, and it's fair to say Black Panther's success and achievements have shaped and will further convince Hollywood to cast minorities in major roles and tell more non-Euro-centric tales in the future. That's quite a feat and game-changer folks may not have expected to come from a superhero film about a king who cosplays as a jungle cat when he fights crime.
Avengers: Infinity War certainly impacted the world and has inspired the industry to further explore shared universes, but it's hard to put that impact on the same level as the things Black Panther achieved. When there are people putting its cultural significance right up there with the election of America's first black President, it feels wrong to call it "overrated" and diminish its claim to the title of Best Picture.
It Got Audiences Excited About A Lesser-Known Hero
Who in the world would've imagined before last year that Black Panther masks would be on store shelves right alongside Iron Man helmets and Captain America shields? Better yet, who would've thought that merchandise sales would surpass expectations and put a Marvel character who's relatively obscure to the general public on the same ground as characters who've been on screen for a decade prior?
To lightly touch on cultural significance again, it got the general public excited and passionate about a black superhero. After generations of children growing up to cartoons and films with heroes like Batman and Superman, there is now Black Panther for kids of any ethnicity to look up to. That may not matter to everyone, but it almost certainly matters for the young child in search of a fictional role model who looks like them.
Avengers: Infinity War essentially had six years of hype, so anything less than massive success would've been considered disappointing. It feels wrong to harp on how the movie isn't self-contained again, but it's hard to really view this entry as a "Best Picture" when so much leg work went into filling it out in other films. The feat that Marvel pulled it off is impressive, but Infinity War shouldn't receive a Best Picture nomination solely because the film came together.
Sequels Rarely Win Best Picture
When it comes to sequels winning the Oscar category of Best Picture, the ratio of winners versus standalone features is far from "perfectly balanced." In the history of the category, only two sequels (Return of the King, and The Godfather Part II) have taken home the honor. So even if Avengers: Infinity War did get a nomination, history shows the Academy's voting wouldn't lean in its favor.
Sure, Avengers: Infinity War could've been the film to defy the odds, but with films like Spotlight overtaking Mad Max: Fury Road for the win in years prior, the odds don't even seem that great that Black Panther could get the win. Granted, Black Panther has a lot of relevance outside the world of superhero films that I've touched on before this, which certainly gives it a shot.
The simple truth is, Best Picture does not always go to the "most popular" film, and at the end of the day, that's why some believe Avengers: Infinity War deserved the nod over Black Panther. Perhaps if the Best Popular Movie Oscar ends up getting added to the list, Avengers: Endgame will get the Oscar, but until that day who can fault the Academy for picking the film that has the best shot at winning?
I certainly can't but I can respect the spirit of debate and open the floor to anyone who disagrees or has other points to make down in the comments below. Those looking for a less time-consuming method to express their opinion can simply vote in our poll, and get excited over the fact that all of Marvel's collective Oscar nominations in 2019 are further evidence the world hasn't grown tired of the MCU.