How will the Academy's decision to introduce an Oscar for "outstanding achievement in popular film" at next February's 91st Academy Awards impact Black Panther? Although the Academy hasn't yet explained how exactly "popular film" will be defined, some are already concerned that the critically acclaimed blockbuster's prospects for the most prestigious Oscar of all, best picture, could be affected. Among those troubled about the situation is the film's A-list star, Chadwick Boseman.
"We don't know what it [the new prize] is, so I don't know whether to be happy about it or not," Boseman told The Hollywood Reporter's 'Awards Chatter' podcast in an episode that went live on Wednesday. "What I can say is that there's no campaign [that we are mounting] for popular film; like, if there's a campaign, it's for best picture, and that's all there is to it." In other words, Team Black Panther — which has retained veteran awards strategist Cynthia Swartz's Strategy PR to orchestrate its Oscar campaign — does not seem to be interested in pursuing the popular Oscar; if it gets it, it gets it (and it may well get it, since it is the year's highest-grossing movie domestically and second-highest-grossing internationally to date). It is much more interested in landing a best picture nomination.
Boseman feels that the introduction of the popular Oscar category should not deter Academy members from nominating a popular film in the best picture Oscar category. (The Academy has confirmed that films can be nominated in both categories.) "A good movie is a good movie," he says, "and clearly it doesn't matter how much money a movie makes in order for it to be 'a good movie' [in the minds of Academy members] because if [it did], the movies that get nominated and win [which have tended in recent years to not be blockbusters] wouldn't get nominated; and if it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter on both sides." The actor adds, "For my money, the only thing that matters is the level of difficulty."
To that end, Boseman continues: "What we did was very difficult. We created a world, we created a culture ... we had to create a religion, a spirituality, a politics; we had to create an accent; we had to pull from different cultures to create clothing styles and hair styles. It's very much like a period piece. ... So, as far as that's concerned, I dare any movie to try to compare to the [level of] difficulty of this one. And the fact that so many people liked it — if you just say it's [merely] popular, that's elitist."
You can listen to THR's full podcast episode with Boseman here: