Pop quiz: What do Chris Rock, Claire Denis, Eddie Vedder and Josh Hutcherson all have in common? Answer: They could all be Oscar voters very soon. The annual Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences invitation list always makes for interesting reading, shedding light on just how large and far-reaching the group's membership is -- or could be, depending on who accepts their invitations.
This year, 271 individuals have been asked to join AMPAS, meaning every one of them could contribute to next year's Academy Awards balloting -- and it's as diverse a list as they've ever assembled. Think the Academy consists entirely of fusty retired white dudes? Not if recent Best Original Song nominee Pharrell Williams takes them up on their offer. Think it's all just a Hollywood insiders' game? Not if French arthouse titans Chantal Akerman and Olivier Assayas join the party. It's a list that subverts expectation at every turn.
Well, nearly every turn. Some of these are obvious: of course everybody's favorite new ingenue, Lupita Nyong'o, was going to get the nod after taking home the Best Supporting Actress honor. And her "12 Years a Slave" co-star Michael Fassbender is likewise an obvious pick.
They're among a number of this year's nominees and winners invited to join the fold, including Williams, Barkhad Abdi (after making just one film), Sally Hawkins, June Squibb, Steve Coogan, producer du jour Megan Ellison, animation master Hayao Miyazaki, Best Foreign Language Film winner Paolo Sorrentino and nominees Thomas Vinterberg and Hany Abu-Assad, "Gravity" composer Steven Price, "12 Years a Slave" writer John Ridley, "Frozen" songwriters Robert Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez, and many more. Other notable names: Clark Gregg, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Statham, Denis Villeneuve, Jean-Marc Vallee, Eugene Jarecki... and so on and so forth.
It's important to note that this isn't necessarily the first time everyone on the list has been invited: they're free to turn the Academy down, and the Academy is free to keep asking. (You can bet, for example, that the animators' branch has been wanting Hayao Miyazaki to join their ranks for eons.)
Amid a host of strong picks, I think two branches have particularly excelled. The cinematographers have (slightly) made it up to Sean Bobbitt for that egregious "12 Years a Slave" snub by extending an invitation, and have also included two of the most exciting up-and-comers in the field: Bradford Young and Masanobu Takayanagi. And if you've ever wondered why the writers frequently arrive at the most discerning nomination fields, check out their very smart (and refreshingly international) list of invitees. The idea of Claire Denis (for my money, the greatest filmmaker still working at the top of her game today) being an Oscar voter is mind-melting and heart-warming at the same time.
Check out the full list on the next two pages and share your thoughts in the comments. Who are you thrilled to see make the cut?
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
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