“Alone Yet Not Alone”? More like nominated yet not nominated.
In a move with few precedents in the 86-year history of the Academy Awards, the board of governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to disqualify an Oscar nominee prior to the Oscars ceremony itself. “Alone Yet Not Alone,” a little-heard tune from a little-seen film of the same name, will not appear on Oscar ballots when the final round of voting begins on Feb. 14. And the Academy will not announce a replacement nominee.
The Academy’s board of governors met on Tuesday evening to investigate allegations that have been levied against the surprising nominee since Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 16. The board eventually concluded that the song’s nominated writer, Bruce Broughton, a former governor and current music branch executive committee member, “had emailed [some of the other 239] members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period,” the Academy said in a statement Wednesday.
Broughton, who was nominated for the best original score Oscar for Silverado 28 years ago and served on the Academy’s board from 2003-12, shared his nomination with the lyricist Dennis Spiegel. Their hymnal song is featured in an independently produced faith-based feature about 18th century colonists struggling to survive in the Ohio Valley. It was performed in the film by Joni Eareckson Tada, a prominent, quadriplegic Evangelical minister.
Moments after the announcement was made, Broughton said in a statement to THR: “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.”
“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, the Academy president.
According to the Academy statement, “The board determined that Broughton’s actions were inconsistent with the Academy’s promotional regulations, which provide, among other terms, that ‘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.'”
Only a handful of nominations or wins have been revoked throughout Oscar history.
The very first Oscar nominations produced four mentions for Charlie Chaplin for his film The Circus (1928) — for best production, best director of a comedy picture, best actor and best writing (original story) — but, perhaps fearing a sweep that would make the debut ceremony unexciting, the Academy decided to take him out of the running and award him an honorary Oscar instead, “For versatility and genius in acting, writing, directing and producing The Circus.”
Subsequently, the short subject (comedy) nomination for Stout Hearts and Willing Hands (1931) was revoked and replaced with one for another RKO Radio short, Scratch-As-Catch-Can, without any documentation as to why. Dive Bomber (1942), a nominee for best effects (special effects), was replaced by The Sea Wolf on the Oscar ballot; history has recorded no explanation for this substitution. A best writing (motion picture story) nomination for Hondo (1953) was revoked after it was determined that it was not an original work; a replacement nominee was not announced. The nomination for a Bowery Boys comedy that was mistaken for a musical that shared its title, High Society (1956), was removed from the Oscar ballot at the request of the former film’s nominees, who acknowledged that their nomination was clearly the result of voter confusion. And, that same year, the screenwriter Michael Wilson was nominated for best adapted screenplay for Friendly Persuasion, but Wilson, as a result of being blacklisted, did not receive screen credit for his work and, thanks to a special Academy by-law in place at the time, precluded the Academy from recognizing him, as well. (The by-law was declared unworkable and abolished in 1959.)
The best original dramatic score nomination for The Godfather (1972) was revoked by the Academy prior to the Oscars when it was determined that it featured portions of Nino Rota‘s earlier composition for another film, Fortunella (1958); it was replaced on the ballot by the score for Sleuth. A Place in the World (1992), Uruguay’s entry for the best foreign language film Oscar, was nominated by the Academy but subsequently deemed ineligible and taken off of the ballot because Uruguay was found to have had less to do with its creation than Argentina. And Tuba Atlantic, after being nominated for and losing the best live-action short Oscar, was subsequently disqualified after it was revealed that it had aired on Norwegian television prior to the Oscar ceremony.
The only film or individual to be disqualified after winning an Oscar, as far as THR has been able to determine, was Young Americans (1967), which won the best documentary feature Oscar but less than a month later was stripped of its win when it was revealed that the film had screened the prior year. The first runner-up, Journey Into Self, was awarded the win the next day.
The remaining four nominees for the best original song Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards are “Happy” from Despicable Me 2, “Let It Go” from Frozen, “The Moon Song” from Her and “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Multiple people associated with some of the other 70 songs that made this year’s best original song Oscar shortlist but were not nominated on Jan. 16 have expressed great frustration to THR about the Academy’s decision not to elevate another song to the status of a nominee, citing the aforementioned instances in which replacements were named and noting that ballots have not yet been printed and mailed to voters, most of whom now vote online anyway.