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Marvel Focuses on a ‘Black Panther’ Best Picture Oscar Nod, Despite New Popular Film Category

Disney hires veteran Oscar strategist Cynthia Swartz to oversee the campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times

Looking to nab a Best Picture nomination for “Black Panther,” Disney has hired veteran Oscar strategist Cynthia Swartz to oversee the campaign, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

Disney and its superhero phenomenon “Black Panther” have been at the heart of much of the conversation surrounding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ addition of a “popular film” category.

Views on the film’s awards potential went from: maybe it could be a best picture nominee, to concern it would be shoehorned into a popular film category created to boost the telecast’s sagging ratings by including more commercial hits.

But Marvel Studios still has its eyes set on best picture.

“Black Panther,” which opened in February and has since grossed $1.3 billion worldwide, won plaudits from audiences and film critics alike, and has sparked academic conversations about race, the lasting ripple effects of slavery and border politics.

In an attempt to boost sagging ratings for the Oscars, the Academy has taken dramatic and likely controversial steps to overhaul the annual awards ceremony. Among the steps, the creation of a category designed to salute “outstanding achievement in popular film.”

The new category comes with a risk. If it is seen as a second Best Picture category for movies that people have actually seen, it could dilute the prestige of the real Best Picture category, and hurt the credibility of the Academy.

Before the academy decided to shake up the awards ceremony and add the popular film category, many people in Hollywood thought “Black Panther” stood a good chance to become the first superhero film nominated for best picture.

Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” earned eight nominations back in 2009, and ended up winning two Oscars. But the film’s omission in the best picture category caused an uproar among fans, and is widely considered the reason the academy expanded the best picture category to as many 10 films from the traditional five nominees.

The idea was that this could open the door for more blockbuster movies, though, that hasn’t really been the case.

One Oscar consultant told The Times: “Right now, I think [academy Chief Executive] Dawn Hudson would crawl in a hole if ‘Black Panther’ gets snubbed for best picture and winds up landing in the popular film category. The funny thing is that Dawn would be way more disappointed than anyone at Marvel.”