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Here's How 'Black Panther' Can Win Best Picture

In an unpredictable year, things are lined up for an upset.

Here's How 'Black Panther' Can Win Best Picture
Art by Rafael Hidalgo | Disney | Marvel

GoldDerby, the champion awards show oddsmakers, currently ranks Black Panther sixth overall, tied for the fourth-best odds of winning Best Picture at the 91st Academy Awards this Sunday. Don't believe them. Black Panther has as good a shot, or better, as any other film in the field. Here are the many reasons why:

1. The "Preferential" Voting System - Oscar voters don't just choose one winner and submit their ballot, they rank the field (from one to eight this year). That means a film ranked near the top can win, even if it's getting second or third place votes. Black Panther doesn't need to be everyone's top choice, just one of the top choices. According to the New York Times, who interviewed 20 Oscar voters at random last week, "...Many of the people I called said they would place this comic-book blockbuster near the top of their ballots — citing its commanding performances, sumptuous production design and overall cultural importance."

2. There's No Real Favorite - Roma is the presumptive front runner among critics, per GoldDerby, followed by Green Book, BlacKkKlansman, The Favourite, A Star Is Born, Black Panther, Vice, and Bohemian Rhapsody. But the odds are pretty close between all the movies. Everyone has a shot. In the old days, the Best Picture Oscar usually went to the film with the most nominations. (Roma and The Favourite lead with 10 apiece this year.) But since the expansion of the category to include more nominees in 2009, the top category has been tough to call. The Shape of Water, Moonlight, Spotlight, Birdman, Argo, and The Hurt Locker were all underdog winners over the past 10 years. It's anyone's game.

3. Roma, the Front Runner, Is a Netflix Movie - Roma made zero dollars at the box office. Zero. It premiered exclusively at festivals and on Netflix. Why does this matter? Because many Oscar voters are old fashioned. There's a feeling Roma will be penalized because the movie industry hasn't fully embraced streaming as a credible distributor. And others see Netflix as a flat-out existential threat to the movie industry itself.

Roma (Netflix)
Roma (Netflix)

4. Roma Is a Foreign Film - A foreign language movie has never won Best Picture. As wonderful as Roma is, the movie will undoubtedly be seen by some voters as simply boring. I'm betting it will be ranked near the bottom of ballots more often than Black Panther. It's a film more admired than loved. 

5. Roma Will Win Other Categories - Multiple nominations used to be something that helped predict Best Picture winners, but not anymore. Instead, voters seem to be moving towards awarding as many films as possible. The Best Picture and Best Director prizes were almost always awarded to the same film through history, but that's only happened in five of the past nine years.

Voters anxious to recognize Roma can vote for it in the Foreign Language category, where it should win in a landslide. (Director Alfonso Cuarón is also expected to win his category.) Handing Best Picture to Roma, along with these other awards, may be too much for some voters.

6. Green Book Has Problems - While everyone agrees Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are deserving acting nominees, many critics disagreed on Green Book overall. The film is a movie about racism made for and by white people. It's simple, awash in cliché, and the kind of movie Hollywood should be moving away from. It won at the Producer's Guild Awards, which bodes well for its hopes, but, again, this is an unpredictable year.

Black Panther (Marvel | Disney)
Black Panther (Marvel | Disney)

7. A Star Is Born Has Problems - Back in October, everyone thought A Star Is Born would sweep the Oscars and every other awards show. But then reality struck. Bradley Cooper kept getting nominated, but he kept losing also. Other contenders emerged. Lady Gaga got lost in a strong group of Best Actress nominees. It seems everyone's decided the film will win Best Song and that'll be enough. There may also be an unfair bias against a remake winning Best Pic.

8. BlacKkKlansman Has ProblemsBlacKkKlansman is one underdog that should not be ignored. It's nominated in all the sweet spot categories: acting, writing, directing, and film editing. However, it hasn't been winning at awards shows. The Best Picture winner always takes the top award at another ceremony. 

9. The Favourite Has Problems - See above.

10. Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice Have Problems Also - Golden Globe acting wins have been the highlight of awards season for these two films. Neither have much of a shot at Best Picture. Bohemian's credited director (Bryan Singer, who left the film before shooting wrapped) is an accused pedophile (!), and Vice is a movie about Satan's Hellspawn, er, Dick Cheney. 

11. Black Panther Won the SAG Awards - Huge. The SAGs aren't always a great indicator of what will win Best Picture, but it's almost always a great window into voter tendencies. There's a big crossover between the SAG and Oscar voting bodies. Black Panther beat out A Star Is Born, BlacKkKlansman, and Bohemian Rhapsody for the SAG honor. 

The costumes of Black Panther. (Marvel | Disney)
The costumes of Black Panther. (Marvel | Disney)

12. Black Panther Is Primed to Win Other Categories - Best Picture winners typically win multiple categories and there are several this year the film seems locked into. Black Panther is nominated for seven Oscars in total, the third most. It probably won't win Best Score or Best Song. It could win either or both of the sound categories. But there are two major awards it seems poised to win. Hannah Beachler is up for Best Production Design and Ruth E. Carter is nominated for the third time in her career for Best Costume Design. Each would be the first black woman to win her respective category. Watch for it to happen.

13. Black Panther Is the Movie of 2018 - Don't think the box office means nothing at the Oscars, or that the show isn't a popularity contest. Some years are better than others, but the movies that make billions usually get some recognition. Black Panther led the domestic box office in 2018 and finished second worldwide (to Avengers: Infinity War, which also has Black Panther in it). Everyone saw this movie and everyone embraced it. It will be remembered for a long time.

14. The Oscars Are Trying to Make Things Right Since #OscarsSoWhite - The Oscars had an about face in 2016 when zero minority actors were given acting nominations. Historically, the Academy was run by white men who ignored minority films, artists, and performers. Things aren't much different now, but the Oscars seem to be doing something about it. The voting pool is bigger than ever with more than 8,000 members and it's becoming more diverse. After years of percentages in the single digits, minority voters made up 13 percent of the total last year and the number is up to 16 percent in 2019. (Female membership is also up to 31 percent from 28 percent last year.) The Academy is finally moving towards the here and now and giving Best Picture to a movie called Black Panther is another step in the right direction.

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