A decade after the injustice of The Dark Knight’s Best Picture snub, a superhero movie was finally nominated for the Academy Awards’ highest honor. That film was Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, a box office behemoth and cultural phenomenon that went on to collect three golden statues, but missed out on Best Picture. That was a disappointment to many, including Avi Arad, the former Marvel Studios CEO and Chairman and longtime Marvel producer. Speaking about Black Panther’s Oscar loss, Avi Arad said:
I was heartbroken that Black Panther didn’t get the Academy. It could have, but you know, [the voters] they always looked at superheroes like it was a ‘Yabba dabba doo’ kind of a thing versus something that mattered or something that was going to last.
Despite no longer being with Marvel Studios, Avi Arad was still rooting for Black Panther to get the win for Best Picture at the 2019 Academy Awards, so much so that he was heartbroken when the statue went to Green Book instead. Avi Arad clearly believed that Black Panther was deserving of the award, but as he told Deadline, he thinks that Academy voters still look at superheroes as some Fred Flintstone silliness that is beneath more traditional Oscar films.
That Academy bias against from superhero movies is well established, but the tide has slowly begun to turn, especially after The Dark Knight, with movies like Logan earning an Oscar nomination and Black Panther’s 7 nominations. Nevertheless, Avi Arad still seems to believe that some voters feel that superhero movies don’t matter and won’t stand the test of time.
You can certainly understand Avi Arad’s investment in comic book movies and desire to see them not only succeed, but also be recognized as art with value that is deserving of the kind of recognition that films considered more highbrow receive. Avi Arad has been working on Marvel projects for decades and believes in the brand.
Avi Arad was an executive producer on the beloved 90s X-Men animated series, and the 2000 X-Men film that began the comic book movie age. He’s had his hands in the genre’s highs like Spider-Man 2 and its lows like Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It must mean a lot to him to see the genre come so far, and it makes sense that he would want it to finally attain the respect and legitimacy that a Best Picture win rightfully or wrongly confers.
Alas, Black Panther did not win Best Picture, but it did win three other Oscars: Best Costume Design, Best Original Score and Best Production Design. Avi Arad wanted it to win more, but Best Picture was always a long shot and it is certainly a trend in the right direction. And he is far from the only one who is disappointed with how Best Picture turned out.