Black Panther‘s ascension to Oscar-nominated status encapsulates why the proposed “Popular Film” category seemed silly.
The film, directed by Ryan Coogler with a predominantly black cast in a mainstream blockbuster, was already “popular” by box office standards. (Black Panther earned $1.3 billion worldwide.) It’s also not the first mainstream successful film to have awards potential. The distinction between what is considered “popular” and what is considered “awards worthy” seems to be a relatively recent development, and it’s one that Entertainment Weekly and The Take explore in the latest video diving deeper into this year’s Oscar nominees.
Forrest Gump was a six-time Oscar winner with $677.9 million in the bank. Titanic became a $2.2 billion theatrical money-maker before garnering 11 Academy Awards. There are also releases like Gladiator ($460.6 million, five Oscars) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1.1 billion, 11 Oscars) to think about.
What did the Academy board mean when they called for a “Popular Film” category? What do pundits mean when they say something is “award worthy”?
These questions linger in the conversation around Black Panther, which some critics feel only received its Oscar nominations (including one for Best Picture) due to its popularity. But why does one have to disqualify the other, especially when the work made such an impact culturally and financially?