In a shocking and extremely rare move, an Academy Award nominee for original song has had its nomination pulled amid accusations of electoral impropriety.
Alone Yet Not Alone, the theme song from a little-seen film with the same title, was the headscratcher of nominations morning two weeks ago. Few had heard of it before it secured a coveted place among the top five movie songs of the year.
Now it’s out of the race completely as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rules 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.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly’s Clark Collis after the nominations, Bruce Broughton acknowledged that he urged the members of his branch to consider the song, but insisted he had done nothing wrong.
“What happens is that the music branch of the Academy puts all the songs on a disc and I was concerned that this song would be really easy to overlook. So, yeah, I wrote some people and said, ‘Could you just take a look.’ That was literally the extent of the campaigning. I received in the mail songs from other films that were pressed and recorded CDs. We didn’t do anything like that at all.”
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t think his actions were so innocent. In a meeting of its Governors Board on Tuesday night, the panel voted to rescind the Original Song nod for Alone Yet Not Alone — only the fifth time in history the Oscars organization has yanked one of its nominations.
That means Broughton and lyricist Dennis Spiegel are out of contention — but the body won’t be adding a runner-up.
Instead, the category will only have four honorees this year:
• “Happy” from Despicable Me 2
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
• “Let It Go” from Frozen
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
• “The Moon Song” from Her
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
• “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Music by U2 — (credited as Paul Hewson a.k.a. Bono, Dave Evans a.k.a. The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson)
Among those who didn’t make the cut were Taylor Swift’s “Sweeter Than Fiction” (from the film One Chance), Coldplay’s “Atlas” (from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” (from The Great Gatsby), Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire”(from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug),and two Edie Brickell songs from The Way, Way Back.
In a statement announcing the decision, the Academy said the nomination was pulled because Broughton had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period. That would seem to be an innocuous action — studios and publicists are in a constant state of trying to get Academy members to consider their projects.
The violation came because of Broughton’s status as an officer in the organization.
“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,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy.
The Governors Board called it an ethical breach, and although the violation isn’t specified in any of its rules, the group said rescinding the nomination was justified by this section of the Academy’s guidelines: “It is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner. If any campaign activity is determined by the Board of Governors to work in opposition to that goal, whether or not anticipated by these regulations, the Board of Governors may take any corrective actions or assess any penalties that in its discretion it deems necessary to protect the reputation and integrity of the awards process.”
In a statement sent to EW, Broughton characterized this as an unfair action orchestrated by much more powerful and influential rivals: “I’m devastated. I indulged in the simplest grass-roots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that has months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it.”
The song is not without its own interesting backstory. The performer of the song, evangelical Christian author and radio host Joni Eareckson Tada, is a quadriplegic, which obviously adds an emotional element to the recording. And Broughton does have past Oscar cred: he has a previous nomination from 1985 for his score to the western Silverado.