Earlier this month, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a new Oscar category: Best Popular Film. Film critics and journalists responded with fury, listing out the myriad reasons the new category is, simply put, a bad idea. Many believed that the move was in response to the Oscar buzz that’s been building for Black Panther since February, interpreted as an effort by the Academy to help the Marvel movie get attention at an awards show that often overlooks superhero movies. But the thing is, the new category will only hurt films like Black Panther. Marvel isn’t too worried though; they’ve still got their sights set on getting T’Challa a Best Picture nod.

A new piece from the Los Angeles Times reveals that this whole Best Popular Oscar news hasn’t changed a thing for Marvel. The studio plans to launch an awards season campaign to get Black Panther a Best Picture nomination, regardless of what happens with the new category. Disney has hired Oscar strategist Cynthia Swartz to spearhead the campaign, which will be backed by Kevin Feige and a “significant awards season budget.” That’s nothing unusual for most movies gunning for gold, but it’s notable since Marvel has never made such a commitment before.

The Times notes that Marvel will likely focus its campaign on how Black Panther isn’t just a great superhero movie, but a great movie period, and one that’s had an enormous cultural impact and important message. Feige told the paper:

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. […] And that he did it so unbelievably well and with so much impact … seeing that potentially being recognized is what excites me the most.

The thing is, there’s the concern that Black Panther could get snubbed for Best Picture and only nominated (and likely win) in the Popular category. You might be thinking, “Well at least it’ll get an Oscar, right?” Not exactly. Black Panther deserves Best Picture recognition, but if it only gets this new, made-up Oscar it sends the message that it’s not worthy of the more prestigious award. As ScreenCrush’s Britt Hayes has written, winning Best Popular Film would suggest Coogler’s movie “is more of a product than a piece of art; that it’s the most-watched and tweeted-about and liked, but not necessarily of the highest quality.”

And it’s not just us critics and journalists who are worried. The Academy itself is freaking out. One anonymous Oscar consultant told the LA Times that Academy CEO Dawn Hudson “would crawl in a hole if Black Panther gets snubbed for best picture and winds up landing in the popular film category,” adding that “Dawn would be way more disappointed than anyone at Marvel.” (It’s worth mentioning that an Academy governor told the paper their intentions behind the new category have been “radically misunderstood,” though they failed to say more.)

But we may have nothing to worry about. A handful of unnamed Oscar voters told the LA Times that the Academy might end up delaying the new award for the 2020 Oscars, or possibly even scrap the whole thing. With the amount of backlash they’ve already received, that latter option is probably the best choice. Why not take our advice and actually introduce a category of value, like Best Stunt or Best Action Sequences? Awards like those would solve the problem: it’d get mainstream movies get a seat at the awards show, which would help boost ratings (reportedly the reason for the new category), and it would finally recognize a group of talented folks overlooked for their literally life-threatening work. We’ll likely learn more as awards season approaches.

Gallery – Great Movies That Got Zero Oscar Nominations:


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