Casual followers of Academy Award coverage probably aren’t aware of the controversy riling the “Original Song” category. In amongst songs from movies you’ve heard of:
- “Happy” from Despicable Me 2
- “Let It Go” from Frozen
- “The Moon Song” from Her
- “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
There was one other nomination, “Alone Yet Not Alone”, from the movie of the same name, a little-known historical film of evangelical Christian intent about young women kidnapped by native Americans before the Revolutionary War. The film was financed by the father of the author of the book it’s based on, and another daughter stars in the movie. It doesn’t even open until June (although it had a week-long qualifying theatrical run last fall), and the title song is sung by Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who was herself the subject of a 1979 autobiographical movie popular on the church circuit decades ago.
Now, ew.com is reporting that this
Academy Award nominee for original song has had its nomination pulled amid accusations of electoral impropriety…. the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rule[d] that its composer, a former governor of the music branch and current member of its executive committee, took advantage of his leadership position to improperly lobby fellow members of the branch.
That composer, Bruce Broughton, seems to be arguing that he did some campaigning but other candidates did a lot more. He seems to miss the point that it’s not just how pushy you are, but the position you’re in when you push. Studio head or publicist? Expected. An officer on the awards committee? Bad idea.
There have been other movies removed from nomination in the past, but this is the first time it’s on ethical grounds. And the usual subjects are up in arms over the removal, calling it another example of “a faith-based culture-war”.
I suspect the difference here is that, when a blockbuster movie campaigns, you can’t prove that someone only heard about, say, Frozen because of Disney’s efforts. It’s likely that they already knew the movie existed and they probably already saw it. Here, though, that’s very unlikely, so voting for this song is much more directly attributable to the campaigner’s efforts, even though it was only one email. That he says he sent it to only about 70 people also demonstrates how easy it might be to get a nomination, a revelation that most awards don’t like having pointed out. So ironically, if the movie hadn’t been such a small project, making it seem like a Cinderella story, then it likely wouldn’t have gotten its nomination yanked.
The fifth nomination slot will not be filled, although commenters at the EW post argue for Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby.