Oscar 2015: More Diverse Academy of Voters

The board of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) meets on June 23 for some crucial decisions.

A very vocal group has been campaigning for a return to five best-picture contenders, to replace the current plan (5-to-10 films). That change seems unlikely and counterproductive, but the bigger piece of news will undoubtedly be the new membership.

After very loud criticism of the Academy for the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations, the membership committee will recommend a more diverse organization. There were 271 invitations sent last year, and 276 in 2013 — more than double the 133 average between 2004 and 2012.

CEO Dawn Hudson and president Cheryl Boone Isaacs have been pushing for a bigger mix. The Academy does not track demographics, but this year’s list of new members should include more women, foreign-born artists and people of various races and ethnic backgrounds.

And while the new members will represent only a fraction of the Academy’s 6,124 total, a few votes can make a big difference in Oscar voting.

Oscar nominations recently have included some “new” kinds of films (“The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Her”) while short-changing traditional Oscar fodder like “Unbroken” and “Saving Mr. Banks.”

Hudson and Boone Isaacs always stress that the outreach does not means a change in standards. Each branch has strict requirements on eligibility based on industry tenure and credits.

While some AMPAS members think that having only five best-picture nominees helps the prestige, that argument probably won’t get much traction this year. The group has consistently raised the issue since the category expanded in 2009, but every year it’s been voted down.

More significant, some 2014 contenders provided reasons to stick with the current plan. This year’s roster of eight films included “American Sniper,” “Selma” and “Whiplash” — none of which saw their director nominated, meaning the films might not have made the cut if there were only five contenders.