A genuine achievement that is gripping, smart and woke, this superhero movie with a mainly black cast will never win the big one, but it deserves to

Afun little game I play, in a spare minute or so, is to look up who won the best film Oscar the year, say, The Empire Strikes Back was released, or Back to the Future, or Trading Places. And the answers are always illuminating, given that these three remain among the most watched and beloved movies of all time. But were they recognised as such by the Academy? Were they billy-o. Instead, the winners those years were, respectively, Ordinary People (the ultimate downer movie no one would watch today by choice), Terms of Endearment (ditto) and Out of Africa (the definition of a movie that was very much of its time), while the movies that people still actually watch today were fobbed off with technical and sound nominations.

Which brings me to Black Panther. There was something of a furore a few months ago when the Academy suggested bringing in an extra category, outstanding achievement in popular film, a clear acknowledgment that Black Panther should win best film, but won’t because, well, it’s no Ordinary People. (Although it could have been called Out of Africa, albeit this time focusing on actual black Africans instead of just white Europeans.) But people got very cross about this, and said the category was an insult to the Oscars, which are – and I quote one film commentator – “a celebration of excellence”. This person was presumably in a coma when Argo won. Anyway, the proposed new category was binned and, with it, Black Panther’s chances of going home with much more than best production design.

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