A controversial song from a Christian film has been 86'd from the upcoming Academy Awards ballot, over what Oscar committee executives cite as a rule violation.
The academy said that Bruce Broughton, a music branch executive committee member who wrote the song's music, had emailed members of the branch during the voting period, a rule violation. No new nominee will be named; only four nominees will be eligible for the Oscar. In a release Wednesday, the academy said the board of governors had made the decision in a vote Tuesday night after concluding that Broughton "had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period."
But this isn't the first time this song's nomination has made headlines. "Alone But Not Alone" also garnered controversy earlier this year, owing to the fact that the song is from a heavily Christian-themed film that only had a seven day run before qualifying as a Best Song nominee:
When it was announced as one of the nominees two weeks ago, "Alone Yet Not Alone" raised eyebrows among pundits and carping among non-nominated rivals. The song, whose lyrics were written by Dennis Spiegel, came from an independent movie about 18th-century colonists that few had heard of. It has received just a niche release in no more than 11 theaters and taken in only about $100,000. A larger release is planned in June.
But wait; there's more. Many were shocked at the song's nomination, as the film seemingly "came out of nowhere."Alone But Not Alone is a deeply religious film with a rather controversial plot, especially in the notably progressive Hollywood film circles:
Its production company — Enthuse Entertainment — describes itself as a producer of "God-honoring, faith-based, family-friendly films that inspire the human spirit to seek and know God." The film tells an alleged true-life tale from 1755 of two young sisters kidnapped by Native Americans after a raid on their family farm.
Film.com writer Daniel Weber points out the movie is officially endorsed by Republican Rick Santorum and some anti-gay groups. "This is the pepper in the salad," Broughton said when we brought it up. "You never know who's going to attach themselves to something," he said, adding that his song is integral to the film, which he calls "a very straight forward story." Weber weighed in, telling Yahoo over email, "Overall, it's just a bit of a surprise to see names like Rick Santorum ... popping up in an Oscar race. It's definitely an evangelical film, which you can tell from the music video for the nominated song, but that alone is hardly a reason to condemn it."
Critics raised eyebrows at the song's nomination, not just because the film had such a small release (and it's not unheard of for a little film to get big nominations, mind you), but because of the connections of the song's writers:
Broughton's nomination is somehow tainted because he served on the Academy's board of governors for the music branch for nine years. One songwriter who didn't get a nomination told THR that the Alone Yet Not Alone nomination was "disheartening to a lot of artists." The Week magazine called the situation "shady." Others who are questioning the Academy's choice include The Wire, Spin and HitFix. And Broughton's involvement is not the song's only connection to the Academy, as its arranger, William Ross, was the musical director for last year's Oscar show and he will reprise that role again this year.
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs called the issue a perception problem, noting "No matter how well-intentioned the communication, using one's position as a former governor and current executive committee member to personally promote one's own Oscar submission creates the appearance of an unfair advantage."
In case you are wondering, something similar has happened before. The academy revoked Hurt Locker producer Nicholas Chartier's Oscar night tickets for sending a mass email basically slamming fellow nominee Avatar as "that $500 million movie." But the revocation of an actual nomination is pretty unprecedented.
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