The Oscars rescind nomination for Alone Yet Not Alone

The Oscars rescind nomination for Alone Yet Not Alone January 29, 2014

Whoa. The organization behind the Oscars has “rescinded” the Best Original Song nomination for the title song to Alone Yet Not Alone. The official reason given is that composer Bruce Broughton, one of the Academy’s former governors and an executive committee member of the Academy’s music branch, went too far when he sent e-mails to members of the music branch to let them know his song was out there and eligible for a nomination. This, it seems, violated the Academy’s rules against excessive campaigning.

It’s pretty rare for the Academy to rescind a nomination outright. Looking at the precedents cited by The Hollywood Reporter and Entertainment Weekly, there may have been as few as six rescindments in the past, depending on how one defines these things. And now Alone Yet Not Alone has joined that list.

Interestingly, the movie had already survived another challenge to its eligibility for this award. The Hollywood Reporter claimed last week that the people behind an unnamed “rival” song had challenged the eligibility of ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ on the basis that the filmmakers had not purchased advertising for the film’s one-week Oscar-qualifying run at a Los Angeles theatre. In that case, the Academy ruled that a showtime listing purchased by the theatre met the advertising requirement.

So the people behind the “rival” song challenged Broughton’s nomination on the basis that the film had not been promoted enough, while Broughton ultimately lost the nomination because it was determined that the song itself had been promoted too much, within a certain group. Make of that what you will.

As it happens, Studio System News posted an interview with Broughton earlier today in which he said he had kept “a definite eye on the Academy rules” and was “respectful of the conditions”. He also said he sent the note to his colleagues mainly because independent films like Alone Yet Not Alone don’t have “the marketing, publicity, or financial ability to get the song forward. . . . I just didn’t want the song to be bypassed.”

He added:

Everybody works the system—certainly the major marketing machines do. I told people there was a song out there but didn’t ask anyone to vote and didn’t make any phone calls or a marketing campaign. It’s sort of taken my breath away to see some of the things that have been written. Nobody can force anyone to vote for their song. Really you just hope for the best.

This raises an interesting question: Would the Academy have rescinded the nomination if the film were better-known or better-connected, and not an obscure Christian independent film (let alone an independent film that openly associates itself with social-conservative, religious-right types)?

There are two key words in that question: “Christian” and “independent”.

My own personal emphasis is on the word “independent”. I have written before about the movie industry and how it often subjects independent films to greater scrutiny than major-studio films, for example when it comes to securing PG-13 ratings rather than R ratings. So when independent Christian films are subjected to that sort of scrutiny, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the industry is prejudiced against Christian films; it could just mean that Christian filmmakers face the same uphill struggle that most other independent filmmakers do.

But some people will prefer to emphasize the word “Christian”. For them, the fact that Alone Yet Not Alone has been “robbed” of its nomination will be taken as evidence that Hollywood was determined to keep a right-wing religious flick out of the awards ceremony. (It certainly didn’t have a chance of actually winning the award, not with Disney’s Frozen in the mix.)

So I expect to hear a lot of grousing about this in the next few days. The Academy may or may not have ruled correctly when it comes to Broughton’s e-mails. But it probably, however unintentionally, just gave certain Christians a little more fodder for their persecution narrative, and thereby threw just a little more fuel on the culture-wars fire. Sigh.

Update: The second paragraph, about previous rescindments, has been revised a couple times to reflect new information as it comes up in other stories.

Upperdate: Bruce Broughton has responded to the rescindment in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “I’m devastated. I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it.”

The Reporter also notes that the Academy has allowed other films to take the place of films that had their nominations rescinded in the past, however this time the Academy will let the number of Best Original Song nominees drop from five to four.

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  • SDG

    My personal opinion: The “indie” category may be a contributing factor, but it’s not a sufficient one. I think in the last few years we’ve turned a corner in which “right-wing/Christian” has become a far greater social sin than it ever was in the past, and whatever carries that label will be increasingly marginalized and shunned in the future.

  • brnicolosi

    This is a disgrace considering the outright bribery that the big studios engage in for their films.

  • 1984isnow

    They don’t even try to hide their bigotry any more.

  • RustbeltRick

    Or . . . we can stop pretending we are persecuted and look at the actual circumstances of this case. This was a movie so obscure that it ran in theaters for all of seven days, even though the official release date is in 2014 (in other words, they did a quickie run to be eligible for the Oscars). No one had heard of this movie or this song, yet somehow it got nominated for an Oscar? The fact that the composer was well-connected made this story look a little fishy.

  • Mr. Moe

    Don’t forget that the producer of The Hurt Locker did the exact same thing (on a larger, and more distasteful scale), and The Hurt Locker wasn’t rescinded of any nominations.

  • Jeebus

    Big whoop.

  • B.J.D

    Had this not been produced by evangelicals there never would have been an issue.

  • Joe

    and didn’t make any phone calls or a marketing campaign.

    Because he didn’t have to. Because of his insider “former governor of the music branch and current member of its executive committee” status. If he wants to complain about something, he should complain that it’s okay for influential insiders to lobby for their own songs. Good luck with it. Maybe that’s why he’s ignoring that little itty bitty minor eentsy beentsy point. Or maybe he would like to claim he wasn’t lobbying. In which case he would be lying.

    “I’m devastated. I indulged in the simplest grassroots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention.”

    Yeah, as a guy in his position, how many people has he “devastated”. Chin up, poor little feller.

  • N.V. Marrone

    Response to dropping the song from the nominee list:

    Open Letter of Encouragement To The Board of Governors of the Academy Awards

    Dear Academy Governors,

    The legacy and the call of the American Motion Picture Industry you represent is indeed great. The call of the Academy is to single out greatness without pettiness or politics or prejudice but on its own merits. As one whose life has been deeply affected by this greatness, I stand with many others who will not let you take a road unworthy of that legacy, instead of the high road your called to that has always been one less traveled. We cannot standby and watch prejudice against disabled people, quadriplegics and under budgeted efforts replace who you are and what you stand for, for all of us, especially when something great has been placed before you by the hand of Providence to lift us all. We encourage you to please restore the Nomination of Best Song Nominee, “Alone Yet Not Alone.” The least it would deserve is an honorable mention though we believe it and the Academy deserve so much more to keep the Academy’s calling and future, Great. Those who’ve gone on to greatness before us would be proud of such efforts.

    Sincerely one fan among many, many others,

    N.V. Marrone