Oscars: Surprise Song Nom 'Alone Yet Not Alone' Riles Up Contenders (Audio)

Alone Yet Not Alone - P 2014

Alone Yet Not Alone - P 2014

How did a song few people have heard in a movie nearly no one has seen beat out Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Beyonce and Jay Z for an Oscar nomination? 

"I can't figure any of this shit out with the music branch," said someone who missed out on a best original song Oscar nomination this morning at the expense of the song "Alone Yet Not Alone" from the movie of the same name.

In conversations with The Hollywood Reporter, multiple people with songs on the Academy's longlist of 75 qualifying songs have wondered how the Academy's music branch came to nominate a song that has been heard by virtually no one outside the branch from a film that hardly anyone has seen. They also raised questions about the fact that it was written by Bruce Broughton, who served on the Academy's board of governors as a representative of the music branch from 2003 through 2012, when he was termed out.

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"I'm sure he has a lot of friends in the branch," one person whose song was snubbed told THR. Another added, "It doesn't really surprise me -- I think it's just the latest example of how true art sometimes is overlooked by those in a position to make decisions about what is paid attention to and what is not -- but it's disheartening to a lot of artists."

Broughton, who was previously nominated for an Oscar 27 years ago for Silverado (1985), was nominated this year for "Alone Yet Not Alone" along with the lyricist, Dennis Spiegel. There is little information available about the film online beyond the facts that it is a drama set in the 18th century, cost $7 million to make, received a limited awards-qualifying release in September and was primarily targeted at the Christian community. The song is apparently performed in the film by Joni Eareckson Tada, a prominent -- and quadriplegic -- Evangelical minister. As of this morning, the film had no reviews listed on RottenTomatoes.com and no box-office figures listed on BoxOfficeMojo.com.

Despite its incredibly low profile, the song was awarded a spot in the best original song category alongside "Ordinary Love" (the song from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom for which U2 won the best original song Golden Globe), "Happy" (the music and lyrics of which were written by the popular Pharrell Williams, who also performed it in Despicable Me 2), "The Moon Song" (which was written by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O and Spike Jonze and features prominently in the best picture Oscar nominee Her) and "Let It Go" (the Idina Menzel ballad that was written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez and has propelled the Frozen soundtrack to the top of the charts).

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The best original song Oscar nominations were determined by the 240 voting members of the Academy's music branch, who received DVDs from the Academy featuring clips of no more than three minutes each that show footage of how each longlisted song was used in its film.

It is difficult to understand why "Alone Yet Not Alone" snagged an Oscar nomination over more acclaimed and high-profile competitors on the Academy's longlist of 75 such as "Atlas" (performed by Coldplay for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) and "Sweeter Than Fiction" (performed by Swift for One Chance), both of which were nominated for Golden Globes, or "I See Fire" (performed by Ed Sheeran in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), "So You Know What It's Like" (performed by Keith Stanfield in Short Term 12), "Young and Beautiful" (performed by Lana Del Rey in The Great Gatsby), "Unfinished Songs" (music and lyrics by six-time best original song Oscar nominee Diane Warren and performed by Terence Stamp in Unfinished Song), "You and I Ain't Nothin' No More" (performed by Gladys Knight and Lenny Kravitz in Lee Daniels' The Butler), "Last Mile Home" (performed by Kings of Leon in August: Osage County), "100$ Bill" (performed by Jay Z in The Great Gatsby), "Rise Up" (performed by Beyonce in Epic) and "We Both Know" (performed by Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw in Safe Haven) and "Cut Me Some Slack" (performed by Paul McCartney and the surviving members of Nirvana in Sound City).

It is not uncommon for members of the Academy's board of governors to receive Oscar nominations -- Kathryn Bigelow, a governor for the directors branch, scored one last year for Zero Dark Thirty, and Tom Hanks, a governor for the actors branch, was widely expected to earn at least one nomination this year, although that did not happen.

This is not the only funny business that has taken place in the best original song competition this year. Back in December, a member of the Academy's music branch reported receiving "an anonymous envelope" containing an article, made to look like it was from Variety, that suggested that Del Ray's "Young and Beautiful" had been disqualified from the contest due to a release date technicality. The claim was false and its source was never found.


Twitter: @ScottFeinberg