The 271 new Academy member invites are revealing. For the second year in a row there are more of them than usual. Twenty-two leaders of the field are now members of the new Casting Directors branch, long overdue. Of course we expect recent Oscar nominees like June Squib ("Nebraska"), production designer K.K. Barrett ("Her"), Hany Abu-Assad (“Omar,” “Paradise Now”) and "12 Years a Slave" participants Adam Stockhausen, John Ridley, Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o to join this elite club.
Clearly, the Academy is still chasing diversity, trying to address its white male senior skew, from 38-year-old Cillian Murphy (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Inception”) to director Gina Prince-Bythewaite ("The Secret Life of Bees," "Love and Basketball").
I am always amazed at who wasn't already a member of long standing. Japanese animator and Studio Ghibli chief Hayao Miyazaki? You've got to be kidding me. Also long overdue are Cinetic Media's John Sloss, Mads Mikkelsen, star of two Danish foreign nominees in a row ("The Hunt," "A Royal Affair"), and character stalwart David Straithairn (“Lincoln,” “Good Night, and Good Luck"), who's followed on the actor's list by global action star Jason Statham (“Parker,” “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”). Screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere wrote “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and “The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," for Christ's sake. And Larry Gross delivered “We Don’t Live Here Anymore” and “48 Hrs.”
New indie members include Jay and Mark Duplass ("Cyrus"). Younger Academy voters include Annapurna Pictures' 28-year-old Megan Ellison, who has skyrocketed to the top of go-to A-list producers of quality films, and Paul Dano ("12 Years a Slave"), who is 30.