Perhaps the best part of the 91st Academy Awards was seeing Spike Lee jump up into Samuel L. Jackson’s arms when he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. The Oscar was well deserved and a Spike Lee Oscar win was long overdue. The Do the Right Thing and Chiraq director has developed some of the greatest cinematic gold, reputed for their sheer authenticity. So I wonder if Black Panther would have won if Spike Lee was at the directorial helm.
Black Panther was a phenomenal film and it certainly broke with much of the traditional storytelling that Marvel usually produces. For example, the heroes are black, the villain isn’t a prototypical dunce who talks until his plans are foiled by a banana peel, and the good vs. bad structure plot isn’t as clear as in other Marvel films, it was extremely nuanced. But something in the dialogue is lacking. As great as the characters are they lack authenticity at times. The sort of authenticity Lee develops in his characters when Radio Raheem implores Sal to “And put some extra moozarella on that mofucker.” or when Sal states “The fuck is wrong with you? This ain’t about money, I could give a fuck about money. You see this fucking place? I built this fucking place, with my bare fucking hands! Every light socket, every piece of tile, me, with these fucking hands!” No, I’m not asking for a superhero that drives home points on the current state of race relations for kids to grasp, and I know the foul language of Sal and Radio Raheem wouldn’t fly in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, it’s not only authenticity that almost all the MCU characters are lacking, they lack ethos and personality.
The blockbuster epics have scored hundreds of millions of dollars time and again catering to a demographic they will always win over, kids and young adults. But if Marvel ever wants to get serious about landing the top prize at the Oscars they might have to bring in visionaries like Lee who aren’t afraid of stirring up a little controversy.
I’m ready for Black Panther to ask for extra “moozarella” on his slice.