10. GREIG FRASER (cinematography branch)
Infinitely gifted director of photography whose been on the rise since lensing Jane Campion's Bright Star (2009.) 2012 proved a banner year with expert, frame-worthy work on films as varied as Zero Dark Thirty, Snow White & the Huntsman and Killing Them Softly. Next up is Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. Fraser has never been nominated for an Oscar but hopefully as a member that might help his chances.
9. JAFAR PANAHI (documentary branch)
This Is Not a Film, Panahi's impassioned protest documentary was an avid indictment for the importance of the art form. The film, shot in Panahi's native Iran, was done in secret and made illegally capturing the filmmakers house arrest after being persecuted for his art by the Iranian government. Shot partly on an iPhone and smuggled out the country in a cake, the fact that exists at all is worthy enough to affirm AMPAS membership; that the film was eventually shortlisted for an Oscar nomination was something short of miraculous.
Whatever becomes of the Beasts of the Southern Wild filmmaker, his legend is certainly already cemented with the glorious Cinderella story of his breakout film and what it stand for. In the ever harsh movie-making climate of contemporary cinema, Zeitlin went out in the trenches and made a film with a shoestring budget and it turned into one of the most magical, original and epic splices of filmmaking in years. Beasts is a totem for the modern independent film movement and Zeitlin deserves a free pass at his stab, as well as an Academy membership-- I'd be curious to see his picks for sure.
7. RIAN JOHNSON (directors branch)
Brick and The Brothers Bloom introduced a quirky new filmmaker to the modern indie landscape, one who showcased an expert sleight of hand in meshing and mashing genres. Last years Looper established Johnson as a filmmaker capable of upping the ante on terms of budget and scale without losing any wit, insight or ambition-- in truth this a filmmaker who should be at the top of every studios list for directing their tentpoles. Or really directing anything for that matter. He deserved at the very least a writers nod for Looper just last year.
6. JULIE DELPY (actors branch)
Nominated in 2004 for co-writing the screenplay of Before Sunset (with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke), Delpy might find herself an Oscar contender this year for her performance in Before Midnight, but aside from the wondrous trilogy for which she has been a part of for the better part of the last twenty years, she's proven herself and delectable talent on and off screen as an director, writer and actor.
5. STEVE McQUEEN (directors branch)
Hunger and Shame were both inexplicably shut out from the Academy-- in truth it was expected, but still...not cool. However McQueen has proven to be on the most interesting and provocative filmmakers in recent years-- his films may be tough, but they are also incredibly artful and substantial. If nothing else, this fall's 12 Years a Slave will prove his highest profile release to date, as well as this richly deserved invitation to the Academy.
4. AGNÉS VARDA (documentary branch)
The iconoclast French New Wave member is one of the "how the hell is she not a member yet" invitees this year. However, it's better late than never-- which may also explain why she's never received an Oscar nomination either despite beautiful work with recent films like The Gleaners & I and The Beaches of Agnés and old classics like Cleo From 5 to 7.
3. SARAH POLLEY (writers branch)
The multi-talented Polley, whose most recent work Stories We Tell is currently a must see in specialized theaters around the country, is a most splendid choice, even if the invitation is years overdue-- this talented actress, writer, director made her breakout in 1997's The Sweet Hereafter, a hit with the Academy, even if Polley herself was snubbed. She wasn't snubbed for her writing effort for her debut feature film Away From Her, and is a strong possibility for a nomination for Stories We Tell. Well done and finally, she is freaking awesome!
Just because...plus he's an Oscar winner for Purple Rain.
1. MATT GROENING (animation branch)
Best. Invitee. Ever.