Academy Invites Tyler Perry, Michael Cera, Seth Rogen to Join Oscar Ranks
What does the new membership mean for comedy at the Oscars?
Among the 134 actors, directors, producers, technicians, and executives invited to join the ranks of Hollywood's elite Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences today were actors Viola Davis, Melissa Leo, Emile Hirsch, Michelle Williams, and Casey Affleck, directors Rod Lurie and Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, and Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black -- filmmakers known largely for their dramatic contributions who had earned awards season kudos, nominations, or Oscar wins last year. (See the full list below.) So is it surprising that the Academy extended invites to comedy performers like Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Michael Cera, and Madea Goes to Jail actor/director Tyler Perry?
Considering the Academy's recent decision to expand the Best Picture category from five nominees to ten (ostensibly opening the race up to include not only drama but comedy and other genres), the list of invitees isn't wholly surprising. Although Cera, Rogen, and Rudd are best known for comedy films -- especially comedy films made by Judd Apatow, who joined the Academy in 2008 after being rejected the year prior -- they've all been in Oscar-nominated films (Cera in 2007's Juno, Rogen in 2008's Kung Fu Panda, Rudd in 1999's The Cider House Rules). What's more, all three have become, in the age of the schlubby/awkward/geeky protagonist, leading men.
That Apatow magic cannot be denied, at least if the Academy wants to broaden their gaze and lose its perceived reputation as a stuffy bunch who only honor serious dramatic films. As for Tyler Perry...there's no denying Perry has created a niche for himself, mostly with comedy films starring his stage-to-screen character, Madea. But without a single Fresh film in his career filmography (save his cameo in JJ Abrams' Star Trek), even we admit, we're stumped.
But I digress. In the very first year of the Academy Awards, there were two Best Director categories: one for drama, and one for comedy. Since then the division was scrapped, but comedy pictures could still vie for consideration; It Happened One Night won five Oscars including Best Picture in 1934. Woody Allen's Annie Hall won the top honor (along with Best Director, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay) in 1977. Apatow's upcoming comedy Funny People has earned the beginnings of pre-release Oscar buzz; could 2009 be the year the Hollywood comedy returns triumphantly to the Academy Awards?
Below, peruse the full list of Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences membership invitees.
Taraji P. Henson
Matthew D. Loeb
Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Daniel D.A. Battsek
Graham W. Burke
Donald P. Harris
Live Action Short Films
Jochen Alexander Freydank
F. Carter Pilcher
Makeup and Hairstylists
Donald Graham Burt
Jane Ann Stewart
Michael D. Camp
James C. Gallagher
Peter F. Kurland
Karen Baker Landers
[Which invitees were you most surprised to see, happy to see, or confused by? Create your own list in our Community beta section and link to it in a comment below.]