A busy array of Irish cinema professionals has been invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the latest hefty influx. The new members, each now entitled to vote at the Oscars, include cinematographer Robbie Ryan, animator Louise Bagnall, actor Barry Keoghan, director Vincent Lambe and Gerry Shirren, managing director of Cartoon Saloon. They join starry fellow inductees such as Lady Gaga, Claire Foy, Annie Lennox, Andrea Riseborough and Elisabeth Moss.
The minimum eligibility criteria for membership are laid out on the Academy's website. Mysteries remain, however, as to how the final decisions are made. Academy Award nominees are automatically considered for membership, but not every nominee gets in. Vincent Lambe, director of Detainment, the controversial short about the James Bolger murder, will have been drumming his fingers nervously, despite that film getting a nomination earlier this year. Ms Bagnall, nominated this year for her animated short Late Afternoon, finds herself an Academy member in her early thirties.
The actor Barry Keoghan, just 26, has yet to receive a nomination, but performances in high-profile films such as The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Black 47 and best-picture nominee Dunkirk will have caught the attention of the Academy's Board of Governors. Barry was recently cast in David Lowery's adaptation of the Middle English epic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Robbie Ryan would be a contender even if he had not been nominated this year for his cinematography on The Favourite. The Dubliner has received acclaim for work on such films as Andrea Arnold's American Honey, Stephen Frears's Philomena and Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake. Next week he curates a season of films on the cinematographer Robby Müller at the Galway Film Fleadh, where punters can also savour his work on Paul Duane's new documentary Best Before Death.
In the rush to celebrate new Irish members, Gerry Shirren has been a little overlooked. Part of the Irish animation industry for 30 years, Mr Shirren has helped Cartoon Saloon, based in Kilkenny, become one of the world's most successful animation houses. His executive producer credits include last year's best animated feature nominee The Breadwinner. Ms Bagnall's Late Afternoon is also a Cartoon Saloon production.
The Academy’s membership has been undergoing seismic demographic shifts since 2016 when efforts were made to close the gender gap and increase racial diversity. The move seemed a response to that year’s #OscarsSoWhite campaign, convened after no people of colour were nominated for the season’s acting Oscars.
Of the 842 names announced this year, 50 per cent are female and 29 per cent are people of colour. If all accept (and few refuse) the Academy will have doubled its members of colour in just four years.
Nonetheless, eyebrows will still be raised at some apparent inconsistencies. To qualify for selection by the Board of Governors, an actor must have either three notable theatrically released credits (at least one in the last five years), a nomination in any acting category or be adjudged to have garnered “unique distinction”. Nominees are automatically considered. Other contenders need to be sponsored by two current members.
Marina de Tavira, nominated this year as best supporting actress for Roma, has received an invitation, but Yalitza Aparicio, who was up for best actress in the same film, has not received the call. Ms Aparacio was hitherto a non-professional actor and has no other credits, but this still seems a little harsh.
As ever, there were a few cries of "how has he/she not got in before?" The most conspicuous delayed invitee is surely the English actor Claire Bloom. Now 88, Ms Bloom played against Charlie Chaplin in Limelight, supported Richard Burton in the film version of Look Back in Anger and, way back in 1965, received acclaim opposite the same Welsh actor in The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. As recently as 2010, she played Queen Mary in best picture winner The King's Speech. Her exclusion to this point is inexplicable. The French actor Jean-Louis Trintignant, also 88, who was in 2012 best picture nominee Amour, is another puzzling late inductee.
Some trade papers have been muttering about the number of invitations extended to professionals whose achievements were largely in television. Claire Foy, star of The Crown, is still short of movie hits. Archie Panjabi is best known for The Good Wife and The Good Fight. Other fine actors from Barry Keoghan's generation - notably Jack O'Connell and Will Poulter - have got the call impressively early in their careers. If Ms Bloom had been on the same schedule she would have been inducted in the mid-1950s. Like our policemen, our Academy members look younger and younger.