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Controversial Best Song Oscar Nominee Loses Its Nomination

January 30, 2014  |  1:15pm
Controversial Best Song Oscar Nominee Loses Its Nomination

This is, by far, the strangest story of Oscar season. If you missed the origins, the deal here is that a song called “Alone Yet Not Alone” from a tiny, obscure Christian film of the same name earned a nomination in the Best Original Song category, and a lot of people were stumped. It’s rare for a song from a small movie to be nominated, and frankly, Alone Yet Not Alone wasn’t just a small movie; it was practically unknown. So unknown that it was released for 21 days and earned just $134,000. (Had you heard of it? I hadn’t.)

Joni Eareckson Tada, the singer, had an inspirational story as a 64-year-old quadriplegic whose husband had to press on her diaphragm while she recorded so she could muster the lung capacity to execute the song. And the song, I guess, is fine. But probably not great enough to make sense of the nomination. Tada herself acknowledged that her performance was “good, not great,” and admitted that she didn’t know how the nomination process worked.

The whole thing became less mysterious, though, when it came out that one of the writers, Bruce Broughton, spent nine years on the Academy’s board of governors in, of course, the music branch. Allegations of impropriety flew in, and yesterday, it was reported that the song had been stripped of its nomination. The reason? Boughton “took advantage of his leadership position to improperly lobby fellow members of the branch.” Broughton himself claimed that he’d only tried to draw attention to the song since it could easily be overlooked (the only real press the movie got was from groups who said the portrayal of Native Americans in the film was racist). And in fairness to him, the Academy’s statement said that the extent of his campaigning was a few emails, which pales in comparison to the promotional pushes from the bigger movies. The problem, though, was his previous position.

“No matter how well-intentioned the communication,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy, “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.”

Broughton said he was “devastated” by the decision, and said he was taken down by “competition that has months of promotion and advertising behind them.” It’s hard to know who was right and wrong in this situation, but I get the feeling that this inspirational story suffered for not having the money that other inspirational stories have.

Check out “Alone Yet Not Alone” below:

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