Thursday, February 28, 2019

'Black Panther' and 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' — diverse superhero Oscar winners, a recycled comment

Not only was this a victory for diversity and sexual equality, it was one for Netflix, too.  I'll get to the first topic again when I return with another recycled comment entry about the highest grossing film about politics and government, "Black Panther," and both when I write about "Roma" and the other winners after that.  Stay tuned.
That's how I finished Documentary Oscar winners avoid U.S. politics while scoring wins for diversity, a recycled comment.  I'm going to make good on that promise by being a good environmentalist and recycling the final part of the comment thread I left at Oscar Bytes on Kunstler's blog.
Finally, I wish to address our host's comment that "America is marinated in the juices of Hollywood."  Most of that marination is in fantasy, as nine of the ten highest grossing films of 2018 were  speculative fiction, including the highest grossing film about politics and government, "Black Panther."  Even the one top ten movie that wasn't about superheroes, science fiction, or fantasy, "Mission: Impossible - Fallout," had strong escapist elements.  I'll leave what Americans' taste for escapist fantasy means as an exercise for the reader.
I'll be frank; I meant that last sentence to be ambiguous.  I thought it would serve as bait for a commentariat that thinks America is too immersed in technological fantasy to confront what they see as reality while being written by someone who is a big speculative fiction fan.  In that regard, it failed; no one bit.  That written, I see it as evidence that speculative fiction films have become well-made mainstream entertainment that are also outstanding examples of the movie-making craft, if not great art.

Speaking of which, it's time for a comparison of this year's speculative fiction nominees with the past two.
I think this is a very good showing for speculative fiction films.  "The Shape of Water" earned thirteen nominations, "Blade Runner 2049" earned five, "Get Out" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" each earned four, "Beauty and the Beast" and "Coco" both earned two, and seven other feature films earned one each, eight if one counts "Loving Vincent" as speculative fiction simply because it's animated, for a total of 38 or 39 nominations.  Add in the Animated Short Subjects and the total increases to 41 or 44 nominations for 20 to 23 films (I'm not sure about "Basketball Dreams" or "Negative Space" being speculative fiction simply because they're animated, just as I'm not convinced about "Loving Vincent.").  That's about as many films as last year but half again as many nominations, as the 2017 ceremony had 20 films and 32 nominations for speculative fiction.  It's even better than the 2016 Oscars, which had 15 speculative fiction films nominated with 36 nominations -- and I thought that was a good year for speculative fiction, especially science fiction!
This year, 19 speculative films earned 29 nominations.  On the one hand, that's on the low side of average for the number of speculative fiction movies nominated during this decade so far, which ranges from 15 in 2014 and 2016 to 44 last year.  On the other hand, last year saw the fewest nominations for speculative fiction films this decade, the lowest being 32 nominations in 2012 and 2014.*  I still think Hollywood is in a golden age for fantasy, science fiction, horror, and especially comic-book movies, but now I wonder if this is as good a year as I thought, at least in terms of artistry, if not box office.  I'll get back to that when I evaluate the Saturn Award nominees in April and May.

Just the same, it was a very good year for superhero movies, both in their own right and in terms of recognizing diversity and represenation.  I'll let Comic Book Resources ( tell the story.
The actual results were somewhere between the two extremes, but still reason for fans of Black Panther and of superhero movies in general to be happy. Ryan Coogler's film won three trophies, for Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score. This beats The Dark Knight's two awards for Best Supporting Actor and Best Sound Editing, and The Incredibles' awards for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing to stand as the most successful superhero movie ever at the Oscars. These are also the first Oscars awarded to a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Alongside Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse's well-deserved Best Animated Feature win, it was a pretty great night for superhero movies.

While many predicted the stunning but more traditionally Oscar bait-y work in The Favourite to win for Costume and Production Design, you can't argue that Black Panther's wins in those categories weren't extremely well-deserved. Even those who weren't in love with the film as a whole had to admit that the painstaking research and creativity in designing the costumes and world of Wakanda was an extraordinary accomplishment. These wins made history for both superhero movies and for African-Americans in the film industry; Ruth E. Carter became the first black woman to win Best Costume Design, while Hannah Bleachler (sharing her award with Jay Hart) was the first black person to even be nominated for Best Production Design.
Not only were the winners a victory for recognizing diversity in Hollywood, so were the presenters, including Trevor Noah, who introduced "Black Panther."

Watch Trevor Noah introduce Oscars 2019 nominee for Best Picture BLACK PANTHER.
Diversity in presenters continued with Brian Tyree Henry, who provided one of the voices for "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," standing next to Melissa McCarthy in a ridiculous outfit to present the Oscar for Costume Design.

Watch Ruth Carter accept the Oscar for Costume Design for BLACK PANTHER at Oscars 2019.

Diversity on stage continued as Jennifer Lopez joined Chris Evans, Captain America himself, to present the Oscar for Production Design.

Watch Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart accept the Oscar for Production Design for BLACK PANTHER at Oscars 2019.

For the final award won by "Black Panther," Marvel stars Tessa Thompson from the "Thor" movies and Michael B. Jordan, Killmonger himself from "Black Panther," presented the Oscar for Music (Original Score).

Watch Ludwig Göransson accept the Oscar for Music (Original Score) for BLACK PANTHER at Oscars 2019.
In addition to the presenters being diverse, four of them were also actors in Marvel movies.  Considering the show is on ABC, which is owned by Disney, which also owns Marvel, I should not be surprised at the level of self-promotion.  I'll pass on being cynical, as I think they were good choices in their own right.

Mercifully, the promotion of Marvel movie stars did not continue for Best Animated Feature, but diversity in presenters did, as Michelle Yeoh and Pharrell Williams presented the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

Watch Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller accept the Oscar for Animated Feature Film for SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE at Oscars 2019.
"Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" winning Best Animated Feature is a victory for both superhero films and diversity, as the star is Miles Morales, who is Afro-Latino.  In contrast, the movie I thought would win, "The Incredibles 2," would have only been good for superhero movies, but not even for comic books, as the characters are original to Pixar, not adapted from print.

That's it for speculative fiction winners at the Oscars.  I will write about the rest of the winners about politics and diversity in the next entry, which will be the first post of next month.  Stay tuned.  Until then, Wakanda Forever!

*Here are the number of nominated speculative fiction films and nominations from 2011-2015.

2011: 19 films with 42 nominations.
2012: 21 films with 40 nominations.
2013: 18 films with 34 nominations.
2014: 15 films with 32 nominations.
2015: 21 films with 36 nominations.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. These movies have not been released yet. That means I'm suspicious of the links and that doesn't even include the piracy. Deleted.