The past few years have seen more cultural diversity creep into the Oscars’ top categories thanks to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign – and the 2019 race is a landmark contest.
More and more films, and their directors, are endeavouring to make a cultural statement in the wake of the campaign – a push on social media for Hollywood to acknowledge the unrepresented cultures in the industry – putting this year’s Best Picture nominees further under the microscope.
And the two films most in the spotlight: Black Panther and BlacKkKlansman.
Black Panther left a lasting impression when it was released last February, and since then the hype surrounding it has only grown.
#BlackPanther is a masterpiece. A movie about black excellence, not oppression
The cultural impact of its black representation & the film’s $ success is paradigm shifting
T’challa’s growth was great & Killmonger was a relatable personification of Black American plight
— Ahmed Baba (@AhmedBaba_) February 18, 2018
I finally saw Black Panther, and as a young African I have never felt so proud, and after seeing the movie I realized how important it is to have cultural representation like that, it made me feel at home and even made black people who have no connection to Africa feel at home
— Takuuuu🦁🇿🇼 (@_takudzwa_) February 20, 2018
The Academy has recognised the film as a cultural phenomenon, awarding Black Panther a Best Picture nomination, making it the first ever superhero movie to be recognised in the category. Black Panther was also acknowledged in the categories of Best Original Music Score, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Mixing, Best Production Design and Best Sound Editing.
Still, there are many who don’t agree with the film being nominated for Best Picture, claiming it is a “token nomination” undeserving of such high acclaim. This includes Bret Easton Ellis, the author behind cult movie American Psycho, who used his podcast as a platform to blast the film – declaring nobody thinks it’s “that good”. Ellis said the only reason Black Panther had been nominated for so many awards was due to the Academy’s desire to be more inclusive, rather than it being a genuinely good film.
Some on Twitter reflected Ellis’s thoughts.
Let’s give “Black Panther” a nomination for best picture because it has black people in it and stuff.
— Jeffrey Barker (@Johnny_Nil) February 6, 2019
#blackpanther you know that everyone on the planet thinks and knows how insane bad your movie sucks. Best picture? Hahahahahaha
— David Lasch (@Laschmanstandin) February 1, 2019
I feel like it’s a token nomination. It is a very good movie and and made a significant cultural impact. In terms of representing peak filmmaking as an art it doesn’t do that. And when it comes to representation there is Blackkklansman while Beale Street wasn’t even nominated.
— | Harris/O’Rourke 2020 | (@skuytercliffe) January 31, 2019
In response to the conflict, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige said Academy voters were reacting to “the message of Black Panther”.
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is a key competitor in the Best Picture race, with its dark-comedic story based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir, Black Klansman. It’s the story of how Stallworth infiltrated the Klu Klux Klan as a black police officer during the 1970s.
The film has earned director Lee his first Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, and he credits that to the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. “It made the Academy understand that they had to diversify their membership … the diversity of the voting members makes a difference,” he said of the induction of new Academy members following Moonlight‘s 2017 Best Picture win.
BlacKkKlansman has gained a lot of traction on social media.
Wow if you havent seen BlacKkKlansman and you live in America you should do yourself a favor and watch it. I honestly cried at the ending. Crazy to think how alive racism is today.
— Nitti Gritti (@DJNittiGritti) January 7, 2019
Y’all need to see #BlacKkKlansman if you haven’t. Powerful and shockingly relevant.
— Cooper Barnes (@cooperbarnes) January 25, 2019
Finally had a chance to watch #BlackkKlansman on the flight home yesterday. What an amazing, powerful, moving, funny, dramatic, heartbreaking and oh so relevant film. If you haven’t seen it, don’t waste anymore time. #SpikeLee’s voice is as strong & clear as ever.
— Ed Fowler (@edfowler) February 2, 2019
Yet, as always, there were those who contested the film’s worthiness.
This is how I feel about The BlackKklansman. I legit HATED that movie. Everyone was like “This is Spike’s BEST!” And I was like, his best what? Attempt at imitating a white neoliberal approach to race and filmmaking? https://t.co/JOUxSFUHKQ
— Son of Baldwin (@SonofBaldwin) January 14, 2019
Spike is not any good.
— JC (@spacemancruiser) February 8, 2019
BlacKKKlansman was not a very good film. In my humble opinion.
— Mark “🦍” O’Halloran (@markohalloran) January 24, 2019
It’s understandable why some don’t see the glory in BlacKkKlansman, because it can be viewed as just another white/black cop duo film, but the main issue enveloping it is that the film is just another routine biopic.
While audiences often empathise with true stories such as BlacKkKlansman, some grow tired of the history and prefer to see something fresh and new, one reason it’s hard to compare its impact to that of Black Panther.
The superhero flick ultimately reigns supreme, not only due to it celebrating the value of black culture, but also because it represents strong women fighting alongside men as equals and urges those who bask in their white privilege to do better.
Read: Oscars: Hollywood’s big night of nights