I love how secretive the Academy is about their members.  Go to the official site, and you’ll get a “sample” of voters.  For the past few years, though, they’ve issued press releases listing the people they invited.  Here are the 134 newbies.  If you’d like to compare, I’ve found linkes to the invitees for 2008, 2007, and 2006.

I have two main comments here.  First, the press release lists two films after each person, and it is pretty entertaining to see their choices.  Among the actors, my favorite may be Jeffrey Wright getting Quantum of Solace and W. But there are some pretty tremendous films namechecked in the other categories.  The casting director of Agent Cody Banks!  Paul Blart Mall Cop‘s cinematographer!  And Failure to Launch‘s!  The woman who designed the costumes for The Hangover and Superman Returns gets the nod.  The dude who edited Step Brothers and Talladega Nights gets to vote.  And no need to check your vision, the Academy really does acknowledge the existence of Santa Clause 3.  My favorite duo is either those attributed to producer Broderick Johnson: One Missed Call and P.S. I Love You or sound designer Hamilton Sterling: Fool’s Gold and Scary Movie 4.

My point here isn’t to disparage the picks.  I know nothing about these people, and I’m sure they are all perfectly qualified voters.  Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were more in tune with my preferences than current voters, and at first glance they seem to represent an interesting mix of movies.  It is just kind of odd to see these sort of movies listed on an AMPAS press release.

Perhaps more importantly, I don’t really know how AMPAS decided on these people, but the timing is pretty odd.  Did it take Madea Goes to Jail to get Tyler Perry into the club?  Not that I’m surprised the Academy is behind the curve, it just would seems that Perry been a legit contender for years, and I’d wager he represents a point of view AMPAS has been trying to add to their roster.

Does the fact that the actors category skews relatively young provide more evidence that the Academy is trying to freshen its image, or is it just that all the older actors are already in?  Still, it is kind of crazy that two members of “Freaks and Geeks” get in, and just odd in general at the Academy’s seemingly implicit acceptance of comedy.

The writers category is fascinating.   I’m absolutely thrilled writer John August got in, because he is awesome (his blog is a must-read).  He wrote, among other things, the excellent Big Fish, the Charlie’s Angels movies, and Go.  Dustin Lance Black was nominated for last year’s Milk, the Academy decided to keep pissing off Adam as much as possible by inviting Courtney Hunt (and Melissa Leo) whose Frozen River is her only produced work.  And finally, Howard Rodman, who has written a few movies no one saw, including Savage Grace and Joe Gould’s Secret.  Before you go yapping your mouth, I realize that isn’t a true statement, in fact I watched one of his movies, August.  I didn’t like it.

What does it all mean?  Frankly, not much.  The Academy says they have about 6000 members, meaning this year’s class will represent about 2% of the population.  Still, it is interesting to put some names and faces to the infamous “Oscar voters” you might see us rant about in the coming months.