Many a Batman fan in 2008 was rooting for “The Dark Knight,” Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed second round with the Caped Crusader and the year’s top-grossing movie, to secure a berth in the best-picture race at that year’s Oscars. They weren’t the only ones. The previous year’s edition of Hollywood’s glitziest night drew only 32.9 million viewers – an all-time low. Alas, it was not to be.
The Academy, however, did alter the rules the following year to increase the probability that a well-regarded blockbuster had a chance to make the cut by expanding the Best Picture category to 10 titles – later amended to between five and 10 films. As a result, there has been a boost for sci-fi and action competitors. But since 2002, when the original “Spider-Man” kicked off the ongoing run of Marvel superhero franchises, no comic-book adventure has made the cut.
That could change with “Black Panther.” It currently is the year’s domestic box-office champ with $700 million-plus, a status that hasn’t stopped the likes of “Forrest Gump,” “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” and “Titanic” from getting in, let alone eventually claiming the gold. What sets this origin story apart from is its current-day social relevancy in its depiction of Wakanda, a never-colonized, high-tech utopia that disguises itself as an impoverished African nation.
While its humble new leader T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman as a Martin Luther King, Jr. type) wishes to protect his land’s miraculous national resource vibranium, his revolutionary rival Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), a Malcolm X-like counterpart who was raised amid the racial unrest of Oakland, Calif., calls for black supremacy.
However the Academy just announced a new twist that could hurt its chances. Taking its cues from high-school yearbooks, the Academy just announced on Tuesday that there will be a new category devoted to Best Popular Films. This popularity contest could lessen the possibility that a superior blockbuster like “Black Panther” will grab a perch among the best-pic candidates.
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