Three years into its diversity initiative aimed at doubling the number of women and minorities in its ranks by 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has now added nearly 2,400 members, including this year's record class of 928 invitees announced last week.
It's not a stretch to say that today's motion picture academy — now consisting of more women (31 percent, up modestly since 2015) and people of color (16 percent, double the number three years ago) — has been altered significantly.
However, that change has yet to really manifest itself at the Oscars. It'd be hard to argue that the Academy Award winners of the past couple of years have been appreciably different from those of previous seasons.
Yes, the academy gave its Best Picture honor to a sci-fi movie for the first time this year. But "The Shape of Water" had been in play with a number of other awards groups and already had claimed top prizes from the directors and producers guilds.
And, yes, "Moonlight" prevailing in 2017 felt like a collective epiphany, redefining what a Best Picture winner could be. But its Oscar came just a year into this record membership expansion.
A more inclusive voting body may have influenced the outcome, although one could just as easily see "Moonlight's" triumph as an acknowledgment of its excellence as well as an overdue realization that a movie depicting black lives could win the academy's highest honor without having to focus on slavery. (Or it could have been a reaction to Donald Trump's election and/or a counterbalance to all that "La La Land" love. Take your pick.)
In this dramatic membership expansion, the academy has cast a wide net, inviting hundreds of international filmmakers, actors and craftspeople. ("We realize now how much talent there is out there," academy president John Bailey said.)
Last year, 283 international industry professionals received invitations. Nearly half of this year's class — 460 invitees — came from 59 countries across the globe.
The inclusion of so many celebrated international filmmakers and artists — this year's directors class included the likes of Hong Sang-soo, Lee Chang-dong, Chloe Zhao and Bela Tarr — can't help but alter and expand the landscape. I can't presume to know how "Call Me by Your Name" director Luca Guadagnino will vote next year, but I suspect his Oscar ballot will be interesting and inclusive in every possible fashion.
Many academy members have griped that the group's diversity push has diluted the prestige of the institution. Rather than acknowledge the limitations of a body whose membership was overwhelmingly white and male, they cited the names of invitees they felt unworthy of inclusion — as if the academy didn't have a long history of welcoming members sporting spotty résumés.
"We have settled on numeric answers to the problem of inclusion, barely recognizing that this is the industry's problem far, far more than it is the academy's," Bill Mechanic, a former 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios executive, wrote in a letter to the academy's board in April, resigning from the group's board of governors.
He isn't the only academy member who feels this way, but he was vastly outnumbered on the 54-member board. This year's class of invitees makes it clear that the academy is pushing forward; there's little reason to believe that the momentum will abate in the next few years.
By that time, we may begin to see the kind of profound changes that would change the Academy Awards from an awards season afterthought into something powerful and provocative. If the Oscar nominations become more difficult to forecast, thanks to a deeper, more inclusive membership, maybe the kinds of movies and performances considered "Oscar-worthy" will broaden.
The first test will be upon us soon enough. No superhero movie has ever earned a Best Picture nomination. But then there's never been a superhero movie like "Black Panther." Christopher Nolan is already predicting a Best Picture nomination. We'll soon see if this new academy proves him right.