The Academy invites new members, changes Music Branch rules

86th Oscars

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Thursday announced their annual crop of newly invited Academy members, a grand total of 271 industry individuals, many of whom were major nominees or players in 2013’s Oscar race.

The list includes notables like Barkhad Abdi, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael Fassbender, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, former Oscar host Chris Rock, the Duplass Brothers Jay and Mark in the Directing Branch, Eddie Vedder and Pharrell Williams in the Music Branch and Annapurna hotshot Megan Ellison in the Producers Branch. The full list is available on oscars.com.

But The Academy also made a major change to the voting rules in the Music Branch Wednesday following this year’s controversy of the nomination and subsequent revocation of a nomination for the song “Alone Yet Not Alone” from the film of the same title.

“Music Branch members may not contact other Music Branch members to promote the nomination of their own song in any way, including via mail, email, telephone or social media,” The Academy stated in a press release.

This is a firm stance, especially when you consider that this tends to go on anyway and other branches and producers have done much worse than Former Academy Governor and Music Branch head Bruce Broughton and not even gotten a slap on the wrist.

But there was one more wrinkle. “Additionally, Music Branch members may not attend any special live performances of eligible songs unless attached to a screening.”

Disney had a special concert for Frozen last year and CBS Films threw another in support of the not-nominated Inside Llewyn Davis, but what exactly does that ruling mean for seeing a rock or pop star who could be a potential nominee? Would Academy members really not be able to go see biggest-rock-band-in-the-world U2 (if they ever actually tour  or put out a new album finally) for fear they might add “Ordinary Love” to the setlist? Can newly added Academy member Pharrell really not perform Song-of-the-Summer “Happy” for fear a Music Branch member might be in the audience?

It could simply mean that rock and pop songs of the like might just not be eligible in the future, which would be a shame, because last year’s crop of Original Song nominees was the best they’ve been in an awful long time, good enough that they were actually worth hearing at this year’s Oscar ceremony. This branch more than any (except perhaps the Documentary Branch) needs some new regulation, but time will tell if it’s actually a strong change.

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