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Academy Invites New Members + Rule Changes

Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

The biggest surprise in the list of 2007 membership invitations sent out by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the presence of Christopher Plummer (above). I’d have thought that Plummer had been an Academy member since – at least – 1966. Perhaps the veteran Canadian actor – the (male) star of The Sound of Music, for Zeus’ sake! – keeps refusing (or ignoring) the invitations. If so, the Academy is not one to give up.

This year, the Academy has invited a total of 115 artists and executives who, as per its press release, “have distinguished themselves by their contributions to theatrical motion pictures.”

Something else I noticed in the list is the presence of numerous international cinema names, e.g., Spanish actress Maribel Verdú (right, in El laberinto del fauno / Pan’s Labyrinth), British actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Craig, and Michael Sheen, Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, Mexican cinematographer Xavier Pérez Grobet, Mexican production designer Eugenio Caballero, German screenwriter-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, Spanish producer Agustín Almodóvar, French composer Alexandre Desplat, Argentinian composer Gustavo Santaolalla, and Spanish short film director Borja Cobeaga.

The Academy and its voting procedures suffer from countless flaws, but in all justice, the Hollywood-based (or Beverly Hills-based if you want to be literal) organization has one aspect that is superior to all other film academies that I’m aware of. Perhaps because it’s not called “the American Academy of …” talent from foreign film industries are not only allowed but encouraged to become members – unlike what usually happens at film academies elsewhere.

Even though the Academy undeniably suffers from a nativist bent in its voting choices – U.S. productions clearly have an edge over films made in other countries, especially those in a language other than English – it’s the only Academy I know that allows talent from foreign film industries to be nominated and (every once in a while) to win in regular categories.

A maximum of nearly 150 new members were to be allowed into the organization in 2007, “but as in the previous three years, the various branch committees endorsed far fewer candidates than were proposed to them.” In the past four years, the Academy’s voting membership has held steady at almost 6,000 members.

New members will be welcomed into the Academy at an invitation-only reception at the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study in Beverly Hills in September.

The 2007 invitees are:

Jennifer Aniston
Adriana Barraza
Steve Carell
Daniel Craig
Aaron Eckhart
Chiwetel Ejiofor
William Fichtner
Ryan Gosling
Jackie Earle Haley
Jennifer Hudson
Danny Huston
Eddie Murphy
Christopher Plummer
James Rebhorn
Michael Sheen
Maribel Verdú

Sharon Calahan
George Griffin
John Kahrs
Torill Kove
Marcy Page
Troy Saliba

Art Directors
Hugh Bateup

Sam Mercer
Lia Vollack

Casting Directors
Lisa Beach
Leslee Feldman

Javier Aguirresarobe
Steve Gainer
Michael Goi
Michael Grady
Adam Kimmel
Alar Kivilo
M. David Mullen
Xavier Perez Grobet

Carter Burwell
Alexandre Desplat
Javier Navarrete
Gustavo Santaolalla

Agustin Almodovar
Bonnie Arnold
Julia Chasman
Jonathan Glickman
Daniel Goldberg
Jack Rapke
Jane Rosenthal

Production Designers
Eugenio Caballero
Nathan Crowley
Nigel Phelps

Public Relations
Kevin Campbell
Jason Cassidy
Frank J. Chiocchi
Sarah Greenberg
Ileen Reich
Jeff Smith
Valerie Van Galder

Costume Designers
Consolata Boyle
Nancy Steiner

Peter Berg
D.J. Caruso
Antoine Fuqua
Paul Greengrass
Monte Hellman
Simon West

Steve James
Nathaniel Kahn
James Longley
Brett Morgen
Laura Poitras
Eric Simonson

Greg Foster
Judd Funk
Adam Goodman
Andrew W. Gumpert
Michael J. Lambert
Yair Landau
David Weil

Film Editors
Sandra Adair
Virginia Katz
Saar Klein
Richard Pearson
Alex Rodriguez
Christopher Rouse

Live Action Short Films
Borja Cobeaga
Javier Fesser
Ari Sandel

John E. Jackson
David Marti
Montse Ribe
Kazuhiro Tsuji

Michael J. Benavente
Linda Folk
Jessica Gallavan
Tim Gomillion
Howard London
Steven D. Williams
Jim Wright

Visual Effects
John Andrew Berton Jr.
Al DiSarro
Bryan Hirota
Alan E. Lorimer
Christopher Nibley
Douglas H. Smith
Ben Snow
Eric Swenson
Jon Thum

J.J. Abrams
Michael Arndt
Guillermo Arriaga
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Patrick Marber
William Monahan
Peter Morgan
Billy Ray
Erin Cressida Wilson

New Academy rules

Last week, the governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences changed a few rules for the 80th Academy Awards.

The most notable adjustment pertains to the best film category. Although one of the rules still states that only “three or fewer producers who have performed the major portion of the producing functions,” will be eligible to receive Oscar nominations, added wording now allows for possible exceptions to that limit.

It should be noted that several recent best picture winners and nominees, e.g., Million Dollar BabyCrash, and Little Miss Sunshine, had more than three credited producers. The issue surrounding Little Miss Sunshine proved particularly thorny as all five credited producers were found to have done substantial work on the film.

Additionally, as per the Academy’s press release:

“The definition of an animated feature film was altered to further clarify the requirements for that category, in light of the emerging technologies now being used in the production of some movies. An animated feature film is now defined as a motion picture of at least 70 minutes in running time, in which movement and characters performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the pictures running time.

“In the Art Direction category, an adjustment now allows for the possibility, again only in unusual circumstances, of two production designers or two set decorators receiving nominations for their work on a given film, but not both. In the past, the rule allowed for only one production designer, though two set decorators could be nominated in rare cases.

“New language concerning digital cinema qualification standards, necessary to accommodate evolving equipment and formats, was approved earlier this year. Also approved at that time were the rules for the Documentary and Short Film categories. Documentary theatrical rollout requirement deadlines were moved up, and all documentary and short films may now qualify via the digital cinema requirements as defined for either the 80th or the 79th Academy Awards.”

Next, perhaps a sane Academy member will help to fully revamp the foreign-language film category, allowing for multiple films per country while taking away the power from a few dozen (if that many) Academy members who bother to vote in that category.

Complete rules for all categories can be viewed online at

The 80th Academy Awards presentation will held on Sunday, February 24, 2008.

Best Foreign Language Film Oscar invitations out

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has mailed Foreign Language Film award entry forms to a record 95 countries, thus, as per the Academy’s press release, “facilitating their submissions” for the 80th Academy Awards.

To qualify for the 2007 Oscars, a foreign-language film must obey the following criteria:

  • Be released in the submitting country between Oct. 1, 2006, and Sept. 30, 2007
  • Be publicly screened in 35mm or 70mm film, or in a qualifying digital cinema format for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theater
  • The dialogue track must be predominantly in a language or languages other than English. Accurate English subtitles are required for the submitted film
  • Entry forms and film prints must be received at the Academy by Monday, Oct. 1, 2007

Since only one picture will be accepted from each country, that means that no matter how good the 2007 output of, say, France, only one French film will be considered for the foreign-language Oscar. Unfair? Absolutely. Imagine if they had similar rules for the best picture award, i.e., only one film per U.S. distributor could be submitted in that category.

No wonder countries with diverse “quality” output opt to submit films under the guise of another nationality, as was the case with last years Indigènes / Days of Glory, a mostly French production, directed and co-written by Paris-born Rachid Bouchareb, but that was submitted and eventually nominated as an Algerian film. (Some of the funds and the directors ancestors hailed from Algeria.)

Obviously, the “seven consecutive days” don’t have to be all in the same calendar year.

Here’s an example of an Oscar-nominated latecomer: Jim Sheridan’s In the Name of the Father opened on Dec. 29, 1993, and went on to receive seven nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), and Best Supporting Actress (Emma Thompson).

Countries that have not received entry packets but are interested in submitting a film for consideration should contact Awards Coordinator Torene Svitil at (310) 247-3000, ext. 116, or via e-mail at

The next Academy Awards ceremony will be held at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center on Sunday, February 24, 2008.

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