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Better Late than Never: The Academy Invites 928 Recruits to Its New, Improved Membership

From rapper Kendrick Lamar to German-American actress Diane Kruger, we'd like to thank the Academy.

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Diversity may be the intent of the Academy’s push to include 928 new members in Hollywood’s most elite club but, along with some key newcomers, it’s the names of folks who should have been invited to the dance a long time ago that shows how radical this year’s inclusion is.

Guy Maddin

He’s white. He’s male. He’s over sixty. And … he’s a Canadian! Writer, director and author Maddin aka the wizard of Winnipeg has been making freaky experimental films like The Saddest Music in the World and Keyhole starring Isabella Rossellini for decades. He’s voted the least likely to direct a Star Wars spin-off in the future – although that’s a movie we’d love to see!

Rossy de Palma

The 53-year-old show-stopping Spanish actress with the prominent nose and passionate heart has been a staple of the Pedro Almodovar ensemble, starting with her film debut in his ecstatic 1988 comedy Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. She’s been in seven of Pedro’s films as well as those of Robert Altman and Lina Wertmuller. She also modeled for Jean-Paul Gautier and Thierry Mugler. Also joining the Academy is veteran Almodovar leading lady Carmen Maura.

B. Ruby Rich

The influential author of the classic New Queer Cinema and Chick Flicks, the American scholar has recently infused new life into Film Quarterly as its editor-in-chief, bringing the prestigious journal into the digital age. The UC Santa Cruz Professor of Film and Digital Media and activist has been a leading light in the movie idea wars. Melding a sense of humor and scholarship, she’s mentored multiple generations of documentary filmmakers – landing her in the Documentary branch of the Academy.

Hannibal Buress

The hilarious, Emmy-nominated 35-year old African American stand-up comedian, actor (Blockers, Spider-Man Homecoming) producer and activist is cycling upward in his career. He’s outspoken and opinionated – and ideally will contribute to the expansion of people of color in the Academy in the future. This year, 38 percent of new invitees were people of color, making the organization’s overall percentage 16 percent, up from 8 percent in 2015. I include him here because he makes me laugh. Period.

Diane Kruger

Spit take: Kruger, 41, wasn’t in the Academy yet? The Inglorious Basterds star and Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award Winner for In the Fade specializes in playing beauties that don’t take any crap. Flipping to the small screen, she nailed Sonya Cross in The Bridge. Now that she’s included in the Academy, she doesn’t have to take any.

Andy Lau

The handsome 56-year-old Hong Kong star (and singer, lyricist and producer) directed himself in the crime classic Infernal Affairs opposite Tony Leung. He starred in Yimou  Zhang’s Oscar-nominated House of Flying Daggers opposite Ziyi Zhang – and Wong Kar-Wai’s As Tears Go By. He’s mega. Lau’s been working nonstop since the 80s – and has an enormous global fan base. Respect.

Michel Gondry

Wait. What? The Oscar-winning out-of-the-box 55-year-old French writer-director behind the blissful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind (pairing jack Black and Mos Def) and countless music videos bumps up his institutional cred. About time! Although, granted, he did direct Seth Rogen’s ill-fated The Green Hornet in 2011. C’est la vie.

Bela Tarr

Including 62-year-old Hungarian filmmaker, a household name at the New York and Berlin Film Festivals, is a definite mind expansion. Known for his glacial takes and heady discourse, Tarr received a Silver Bear in Berlin for The Turin Horse, a rural meditation on mortality. It would be hard to get farther away from the Hollywood machine.

Aisling Walsh

The under-the-radar 60-year-old Irish writer-director has won her BAFTA’s for TV, and made Maudie, the other Sally Hawkins movie in 2017 that didn’t win the actress the statuette Hawkins so richly deserves. Walsh also premiered the 2003 drama Song of a Raggy Boy with Aidan Quinn at the Sundance Film Festival — but didn’t catch the bounce that so many young male directors have experienced at that indie epicenter. But she persisted – and her career has taken off with recent efforts to fast track talented and capable women behind the camera.

Kendrick Lamar

Added to the music branch for his scores for Black Panther and Divergent, the Compton-raised rapper, 31, has the kind of bank and clout that will enable him to imbue new life into an Academy that, until recently, was covered in mothballs. The influential young man has won a dozen Grammys – and he’s just hitting his stride.

While the 928 invitees represent an Academy striving to remain relevant by diversifying,  future change will be exponential. As these talented industry professionals gain access to the inner circle and open doors to creative artists of all stripes, each new class of Academy Members will pay it forward, expanding inclusivity.