Oscars: Black Panther vs BlacKkKlansman

Black Panther is nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. (Photo: Marvel)

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.

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.

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.

Yet, as always, there were those who contested the film’s worthiness.

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

Read: Oscars: Two Aussies in the race

About Indi Brummelen 7 Articles
A journalism student at Macleay College in Melbourne. Film buff. Music lover.