‘Black Panther’ Breaks the Oscars’ Superhero Ceiling

History was made this morning when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its list of honorees celebrating the films of 2018 and named Black Panther as one of the nominees for Best Picture. While plenty of comic book films have received nominations over the decades, no superhero film had ever been nominated for the most prestigious prize of the night. The Dark Knight came closest in 2009 — winning a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award for Heath Ledger and prompting the Academy to expand its nomination list from five to ten the following year.

The cast of Black Panther attending the 2018 Oscars ceremony.

In addition to a Best Picture nod, Black Panther also received recognition in the categories of Costume Design, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Production Design. Unfortunately, the movie was shut out in the acting categories and also did not receive Directing or Cinematography nominations for Ryan Coogler or Rachel Morrison. Despite that, this is the best Oscars showing for a comic book film since The Dark Knight received eight nominations. The only other comic-based film with five or more nominations was 2002’s Road to Perdition, based on the Max Allan Collins graphic novel.

In addition to Black Panther’s seven nominations, other superhero movies were honored as well. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Incredibles 2 are both nominated for Best Animated Feature. Considering that Spider-Verse was my favorite superhero film of the year, it’s definitely my favorite here. If it wins, it will be the second animated film based on a Marvel property to be awarded since Big Hero 6 won in 2015.

This shot alone deserves every single Oscar in every single category.

The fact that’s it’s been sweeping awards season in this category should help as well. Speaking of Incredibles 2, the Pixar short film that preceded it in theaters, Bao, received a Best Animated Short nomination for Domee Shi! Avengers: Infinity War received a Visual Effects nomination, which has been the sole domain of most superhero cinema over the years. Nerd-relevant flicks Solo, Christopher Robin, and Ready Player One also made the cut in this category.

Other notable nominations from this morning:

  • Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma led the way with ten total nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for the film’s breakout star, Yalitza Aparicio. It’s also the first Netflix Original Film to receive Oscar recognition.
  • BlacKkKlansman garnered six nominations, including a Best Director for Spike Lee, which is, amazingly, the first time he’s ever been nominated!
  • If Beale Street Could Talk was shut out of every category except Best Supporting Actress for Regina King, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
  • Bing Liu’s skateboarding documentary, Minding the Gap, was recognized in the Best Documentary category.
  • Of the 20 acting nominees, only five are people of color: the aforementioned King and Aparicio, as well as Mahershala Ali for Green Book, Marina de Tavira for Roma, and Rami Malek for Bohemian Rhapsody.

Biggest snubs:

So much for the Academy making up for snubbing Yeoh for Crouching Tiger.
  • Despite its groundbreaking box office and critical acclaim, Crazy Rich Asians didn’t receive a single nomination. I always thought a Best Picture was a longshot, but I have no idea how it lost out on a Best Supporting Actress for Michelle Yeoh! It was also deserving in Production Design, Adapted Screenplay, and Costume Design as well.
  • Though I already knew Aquaman wasn’t going to be nominated for Visual Effects — it was left off the “shortlist” that was announced in December, something James Wan was not happy about btw — it was still surprising when its named didn’t get called. I figured after grossing $1 billion, the Academy might make an exception.
  • Between his lead role on Atlanta, memorable moments in White Boy Rick and Hotel Artemis, and amazing turns in Beale Street, Spider-Verse, and Widows, Brian Tyree Henry deserved… well, something. There needs to be a “Best Overall Performance” category, like a league MVP trophy in the NBA, so they can just give it to Henry.
  • I thought Burning would be a lock for a Foreign Language Feature nomination and that Steven Yeun had an outside shot at an acting nod. I was wrong on both counts.
  • Snubbing Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Mister Rogers documentary, was probably my biggest head-scratcher of the day. Not only was it a brilliant documentary, it made many critics’ best films list. Not sure how they missed the boat on that one.
  • Finally, 2018 was defined by a slate of incredibly diverse films told by voices that have been underrepresented for too long. While it’s great that Black Panther and Roma are receiving recognition, I wish there was space for films like Beale Street and Crazy Rich Asians, but also Sorry to Bother You, Blindspotting, The Hate U Give, Searching, Widows, A Quiet Place, and I don’t know, any women directors. While the Academy has taken strides in recent years, there’s still a ways to go.

If you want to see my reactions in real time, I livetweeted as actors Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross announced the nominees on YouTube. I also updated my compilation of superhero cast alumni and their Oscars here. Now, we’ll just wait till February 24 to see if I need to make any adjustments to my lists. Happy Oscar Season!

3 thoughts on “‘Black Panther’ Breaks the Oscars’ Superhero Ceiling

  1. I got so excited when I heard the news about “Black Panther,” and I was really disappointed by how “Crazy Rich Asians” was snubbed. I guess at the end of the day, this year’s Academy Awards will be interesting to say the least.

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