For the past few years my New Year’s Eve routine has included seeing a double feature. Going into 2019 I went to see Creed II and Green Book. I had a GREAT night at the movies. My overwhelmingly emotional response to Adonis Creed’s journey mirrored my admiration for the 2015 original. Both films are phenomenal. Ryan Coogler and Steven Caple Jr.’s vision for the films took me places I was, at times, unable to handle. Having watched Adonis painfully beaten to a pulp by Viktor Drago, I covered my eyes, in the final scenes of the sequel, every time Adonis received a punch to his ribs. In the audience of both films the viewers cried, laughed and cheered. “That’s right Adonis!” “You got this!” We were watching a fictional story about a fictional boxing match. But, we were all rooting for Adonis to succeed, as if he were our own child, brother or friend. We wanted him to succeed in life, in love, in fatherhood and in that ring. There was no other movie I saw in 2018 that tugged on my heart in this way, not even the beloved Black Panther.
Black Panther was the most anticipated movie of 2018, for my friends and family at least. Movie theaters were booked and scrambled to meet the demands of the film, it seemed, EVERYONE wanted to see. My sister found seats at a theater an hour away from home. She bought everyone tickets and we carpooled to the theater. I was Wakanda ready, wearing a beautiful green and yellow head wrap. In the theater, I sat next to my daughter - then almost four - and was happy she was experiencing this historic moment. A blockbuster Black comic book movie. African superheroes. It was amazing.
Black Panther was moving, on so many levels, and ignited great discussions about points of historical context and Black culture. Again, Ryan Coogler’s vision was epic and beautiful. Ruth Carter’s costumes surpassed anything I could’ve imagined. The richness of the colors and the intricate designs were stellar. But, I believe the inclusion of the film in Best Picture categories has less to do with the merit of the film - the quality of the story, the structure and pacing - and more to do with how much money it made, and the significant impact on Black culture.
Recently, I was reading my daughter a story about slavery and decided to give her some background on how the slaves came to America. The mention of Africa made her ask me if the people came from Wakanda. Fantastic! As a child, my references to Africa were all pretty sad and negative. The images presented to me in commercials were of hungry, uncivilized people, desperate for just ten cents a day. Then, in school, we were shown Roots during Black History Month, I assume, in an attempt to attach some historical pride to our ancestry. But, I think the miniseries just made me angry. Now, I am not a Black person who shies away from slavery films; I see every single one. But, every single one of them makes me angry. I am jealous of my daughter’s green perception of Africa, as this vast, wealthy, technologically advanced mecca; a great mecca where we are fashionable, sharp and strong. Where her generation will go, mentally, simply with Wakanda being their entrée into Black culture, is a hopeful dream. But, do all of those profound accomplishments make Black Panther worthy of Best Picture nominations? Is a film the BEST Picture because society deems it so, or because its artistic merit deems it so?
As sports movies Creed & Creed II are phenomenal. As emotional dramas Creed & Creed II are phenomenal. The love story, the tragic family dynamics, and the triumphant journey of a hero have, in my opinion, been slept on by the awards shows.
I wish Black Panther much success, and I believe it will, deservedly, sweep all of the technical, costume and make-up categories. Well, except for Cinematography. That award will go to Alfonso Cuaŕon for Roma. Sorry. But, I will be watching on Oscar night, biting my nails in anticipation of whatever wrench the Academy will throw into the game. Because there’s always a wrench, right?