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Oscars 2019: Why Black Panther win would be a 'big surprise'

Black Panther still Image copyright Alamy

Black Panther is the first superhero film to get a nomination for best picture (and six other awards) at the Oscars - and it's got people excited.

This proves "blockbusters are worthy of such accolades", one fan tweeted. Another wrote: "In conclusion, superhero films are winning."

But Radio 1 film critic Ali Plumb thinks fans, himself included, shouldn't get too carried away.

"The fact is, superhero movies don't fit the Oscars mould."

Black Panther's impact both on and off screen was hard to miss last year.

It took more than $1bn (£794m) at the global box office within a month of its release in February 2018 and was widely praised as game-changing - including by Michelle Obama - for having a largely black cast and a black director.

Ali suggests this impact made it difficult for the film to be scoffed at.

"There comes a point, much like Titanic (best picture winner in 1998), where the Academy can't ignore a movie that is such a Goliath of popular admiration.

"Black Panther was not just a movie phenomenon, but a social phenomenon."

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Titanic won 11 Academy Awards in 1998

He also explains how "a complicated situation" following campaigns like #OscarsSoWhite - which highlighted how white people dominated previous nominations - has amplified Black Panther's cultural significance.

"In the shadow of that, obviously Black Panther was going to get a bit of a boost but I don't want to take away its success. It earned that in its own way.

"This isn't a pity thing, I don't think the Oscars have gone 'Oh we've got to throw Black Panther a bone'.

"Whilst all its nominations are awesome for people like me who love superhero movies - let's just hold our horses before we say 'Oh this is finally the Oscars saying we admire superhero films and register them as being something worthy of Oscars'."

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Media captionHow #OscarsSoWhite changed my life

Although Ali suggests Black Panther's nominations are pretty significant, he thinks "a lot of time will pass" before any of the so-called big five (best picture, actor, actress, director and screenplay) will be heading to the likes of Wakanda.

"Superhero films are getting better and better but they're not getting too much better in a typically Oscar way... they tend to reward people who make films that aren't designed to make money."

He points out none of Black Panther's other six nominations fall in the big five categories, and that it's up against more "traditionally Oscar-y" films like The Favourite, Green Book and Roma for best picture.

Image copyright 20th Century Fox
Image caption The Favourite has been nominated for 10 Oscars

"Numbers-wise it looks great for superhero movies but, and I hate to say it, it won't win best picture.

"The big thing to take away is... this is a watershed moment and it will become less and less surprising for superhero films to be nominated.

"But what will continue to be a great surprise, for the foreseeable future, is for them to win.

"It will require an indisputable, stand-alone work of art - which happens to be a superhero movie - to win best picture.

"Being nominated is a great honour but it ain't the golden statuette in your toilet."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Superhero films have a tradition of picking up more technical awards like Spiderman 2's best visual effects win in 2005

Ali suggests that while the odds of Black Panther winning best picture "are very slim", fellow film critics won't see it as a snub if it doesn't take the award.

"When everyone says 'The Oscars don't support popular films' - no they don't. When did they ever say they did?

"It might be, to you, a better movie or one you enjoyed more than the other best picture nominees but the Academy doesn't care for the thrill you get of seeing something like Iron Man blasting through the sky.

"Acknowledgement is only going to get better and better but it will take a very, very special film made by a very special director, made about a very special angle - because we're flooded with superhero stories - for there to ever be a best picture winner that is a superhero movie.

"When that happens then we can say 'Yeah they're really coming round'."

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