When my family was last at Disney World, my oldest, Jack (8-years-old), was wearing a Black Panther t-shirt when he went to visit Mickey Mouse (I want to say it was in Disney’s Animal Kingdom). In a fun moment, Mickey pointed at Jack’s shirt and did the “Wakanda Forever” crossed-arms salute.
Such is the nature of the now ubiquitous salutation.
So, when I saw the below tweet this morning, I was immediately brought back to that moment, and my first overawed viewing of the film:
It’s not often that so-called “comic book” films receive “Oscar buzz” (and I want to say that Logan was the most recent to get that kind of attention), but, according to Variety’s Rebecca Keegan, audiences, The Walt Disney Company, and the Academy Academy taking the award-worthiness of this particular superhero film very seriously.
Black Panther has clearly already done a great deal for the culture. And audiences have moved on to other adventurers for the summer, from its Marvel brethren in Avengers: Infinity War to the animated superheroes of Incredibles 2 to Tom Cruise hanging off a helicopter in Mission: Impossible–Fallout. But T’Challa may need to slide on his sleek suit for one more important rescue: Black Panther may have to save the Oscars. In an era when the awards show has lost audience, relevance, and its place as a communal cultural moment, Coogler’s comic-book movie delivered on all three, and did so with a level of style and craft that rose above its peers in the genre. Black Panther doesn’t need the Oscars to have its place in history cemented, but the Oscars may need Black Panther.
Of course, Disney would like Black Panther to be in the Oscar race for all the usual reasons—the burnishing of egos being a primary one. But the studio has an extra incentive to push a movie that could bring eyeballs to the Oscars: Disney owns ABC, the channel that has been the home of the Oscars since 1976, and retains the broadcast rights to the telecast through 2028. In addition to best picture, Black Panther could be expected to contend in all the major technical categories, as well as in writing for [Ryan] Coogler and his co-writer, Joe Robert Cole; directing; supporting actor for Jordan; and original song for Kendrick Lamar.
But there’s depth to Black Panther that might be missing form previous comic book contenders.
“A lot of our films, I think very rightfully and hopefully successfully, just feel like pieces of pure escapism,” said Nate Moore, Marvel Studios vice president of development and production to Variety. “This movie attempts to do more. It attempts to make people think about the world that’s around them and celebrate, frankly, a continent, in Africa, that’s often overlooked.
I don’t think that at any point in the process did we feel like this could be an awards movie. But we did feel like this could have depth in a way that our movies don’t always do.”
My favorite part of the piece speaks to the reception the film received from children, as Keegan described the scene on a beach in France.
“The movie and its stars, including Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, and Danai Gurira, satisfied a hunger many had to see themselves represented on- screen, and obliterated a pernicious Hollywood myth that international audiences won’t buy tickets to movies with predominantly black casts,” she wrote. “In May, as Black Panther’s writer-director, Ryan Coogler, introduced an outdoor screening of his film at the hallowed Cannes Film Festival, French children in beach chairs began to shout “L’auteur! L’auteur!” in a charmingly Gallic salute to Coogler and his cinematic vision.”
It’s a fascinating piece and a fascinating idea: Black Panther. Best picture? Wakanda forever… indeed!