You know at first I thought these nominations were worse than ever, being someone who gave up on The Oscars after Crash won best picture in 2007, but the only one that doesn’t make immediate Oscar Sense to me is Black Panther. Vice, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Green Book are the requisite “biopic with strong leads” nominees; BlacKkKlansman is the “nominee for heretofore snubbed director who made a good movie this year and this is our opportunity to recognize them”; Roma and A Star Is Born are the “actually good” movies; with The Favourite getting in on “actually good” and “period piece” qualifiers. The widely-agreed-upon outlier here is Black Panther, which, it turns out, makes modern Oscar Sense in the most naked, transparent way.
Last year, the Academy announced a new category for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film, which it readily acknowledged was a response to dwindling viewership. It has since cancelled this category. That said, Black Panther was one of the most successful films of all-time, is actually pretty good, and is made by and about black people - a demographic the Oscars have only recently started giving earnest attention to. Nominating Black Panther instead of any other “Oscar-worthy” movie feels like a clear nod to those who have criticized the Academy for having a favorite “”“kind of person”"’, with a film that it knows millions of people are already invested in learning the fate of.
There were other movies about black culture or made by black people which were inarguably stronger Oscar contenders (Blindspotting would have been SUCH AN EASY AND GOOD CHOICE THE DUDE WAS IN HAMILTON EVEN!!!), but people didn’t SEE those movies like they saw Black Panther. And this is to say nothing of the “kiss the ring” game that moviemakers are supposed to play during awards season, and whether or not certain filmmakers even bothered with it.
With Black Panther, I believe the Academy is trying to draw in people who aren’t like them to watch their telecast, since the people who are like them are literally dying from old age and they’ve given no reason yet to make the new generations care about them. It just feels so hollow and weak and dishonest specifically because literally every other film fits every stale prerequisite they have had for the last fifty years.