Black Panther’s fate hangs in the balance
It’s impossible to discuss this month’s Best Picture predictions without first addressing the hugely controversial decision by the Academy’s Board of Governors last week to vote on and approve a new category that will take effect this year – Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film.
Concerned about low ratings, ABC/Disney (which owns the rights to air the Oscars until 2028) seemed to force the Academy’s hand, making demands in the program, its length and its content. So vague was the August 8th announcement it simply said “Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.” This was a clear shot at Black Panther, the highest grossing film of the year (it just crossed $700M domestic), in a transparent assumption that the film was not in the running for a Best Picture nomination. This showed just how out of touch with the pulse the Academy still is; a cursory search would have discovered that Black Panther is in the top 10 of many top Oscar prognosticators (including mine).
Oscar Podcast #67: Academy Drops Bombshell New Category; Shortens Telecast, Moves Some Awards to Commercial Breaks with guest Daniel Joyaux
The mere idea that the Oscars don’t already reward popular films with wins and nominations is demonstrably untrue. Plus, what does that say of Best Picture itself? That recent winners are unpopular because they didn’t crack the $100M mark (or whatever goal post that is now)? It defies the very tenets of the Oscars and the Academy to do this. The purpose of the Oscars is, ostensibly, to showcase the ‘best’ in film, not the most ‘popular.’ Now, I know that even saying that will illicit snarky giggles when the Oscar have routinely snubbed greatness to reward mediocrity. For every Moonlight and Spotlight there is a Crash and Around the World in 80 Days. I don’t mean to romanticize what the Oscars are ‘supposed’ to be about. But I certainly don’t think this is a smart move, nor will it get Disney what they want. If the Academy decides to stick with this (and by all accounts they will and seem unfazed by the storm of criticism) then Black Panther should win this inaugural award rather easily. The question is does this decision cut the film’s chances at Best Picture when there’s an easy, foolproof way to reward it?
So with that, let’s get onto August predictions. I think it’s going to be a revolutionary year.
I’m still keeping BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features) at #1. It defies history, I know. But, we just saw two long-standing stats fall in order for The Shape of Water to win (no SAG Cast nom, December release). The one major stat left is showing at Telluride. Obviously BlacKkKlansman can’t do that as it’s already opened. But right now I think it’s the most timely film that will be in contention in the midst of the most tumultuous administration in most of our lifetimes, and one so closely tied to the rise in racism in the US and directly to this film.
The other huge change we could see is Netflix not only getting a Best Picture nomination after its breakthrough year last year but possibly winning. They’re going to pull out all the stops for Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA, which just dropped the most stunning teaser trailer of the year. With securing the best awards publicist in the biz, Lisa Taback, Netflix has never been more set or more ready to take over the Oscars.
A major move up for Fox Searchlight’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? this month (just as Marielle Heller made in director) and If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna) and A Star Is Born (Warner Bros) also inch up.
Disney’s Black Panther holds on to the #9 spot. I still feel that it will stick it out through this upcoming awards season but I’m also cautiously aware that the new Oscar category could seriously damage its chances here. It all depends on how the Academy members, especially the new ones of the last three years, regard it. A fierce backlash against the new category by, say, not nominating in the new one but securing it in Best Picture would be an incredible mandate on this vapid new category’s existence.
Just as in Best Director, Fox Searchlight’s The Favourite and Annapurna’s Backseat drop one notch each. Not a big deal, really. I see Universal’s First Man‘s drop (again, as in director) as a bit more worrisome, or should be. I could be really wrong on this. Widows falls all the way out of the top 10 even though it might be a good example of a film that, if successful, could find itself in Best Picture and Popular Film.
Netflix’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is the month’s sole debut.
Here are my 2019 Oscar predictions in Best Picture for August 17, 2018.
Green – moves up; Red – moves down; Blue – chart debut
1. BlacKkKlansman (Focus Features – 8/10)
2. ROMA (Netflix – December)
3. The Favourite (Fox Searchlight – 11/23)
4. Backseat (Annapurna – 12/14)
5. Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Fox Searchlight – 10/19)
6. A Star is Born (Warner Bros – 10/5)
7. If Beale Street Could Talk (Annapurna – 11/30)
8. First Man (Universal – 10/12)
9. Black Panther (Disney – 2/16)
10. Boy Erased (Focus Features – 11/2)
Ad Astra (20th Century Fox – 12/25)
Beautiful Boy (Amazon – 10/12)
The Front Runner (Sony Pictures – 11/7)
Green Book (Universal – 11/21)
Mary Queen of Scots (Focus Features – 12/7)
On the Basis of Sex (Focus Features – 12/25)
Widows (20th Century Fox – 11/16)
22 July (Netflix – 10/16)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Netflix)
Bird Box (Netflix – 12/21)
Bohemian Rhapsody (20th Century Fox – 11/2)
Capharnaüm (Sony Pictures Classics)
Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros – 8/17)
Hereditary (A24 – 6/8)
The Little Stranger (Focus Features – 8/31)
Loro (Focus Features)
Mary Poppins Returns (Disney – 12/19)
Mid90s (A24 – 10/19)
Old Man and the Gun (Fox Searchlight – 9/28)
The Other Side of the Wind (Netflix – 11/2)
Outlaw King (Netflix – 11/9)
Peterloo (Amazon – 11/9)
The Sisters Brothers (Annapurna)
Untitled Pippa Bianco aka Share (A24)
Wendy (Fox Searchlight)
The Wife (Sony Pictures Classics – 8/17)
Velvet Buzzsaw (Netflix)
Welcome to Marwen (Universal – 12/21)
Where Hands Touch