Monday, February 24, 2014

Upcoming Oscar Sunday: 'Alone Yet Not Alone has already earned a unique place in history

Joni Eareckson-Tada is an author, artist, and radio host. She is founder of Joni and Friends, an organization to "welcome, serve, and include people with disabilities." The ministry includes "Wheels for the World," purposed to give wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers to those in need all across the U.S. and overseas to developing countries.

In 2005, Joni was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee, U.S. State Department. Joni herself is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down, as a result from a diving accident in 1967.

Now 64-years old, she recently took on the task of singing a low-budget film theme song, "Alone Yet Not Alone," written by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel.

Sources say "her lung capacity is just 51 percent of what it ought to be -- so weak, in fact, that her husband needed to push on her give her enough breath to hit the high notes."

Since the song, ever beautiful though it may be, is from an obscure movie, it would escape notice by Academy Award voters if not somehow brought to their attention. 
It deserved the simple courtesy, without obligation, of letting the lyrics speak for themselves:
I'm alone, yet not alone.
God's the light that will guide me home.
With His love and tenderness,
Leading through the wilderness,
And wherever I may roam,
I'm alone, yet not alone.
I will not be bent in fear.
He's the refuge I know is near.
In His strength I find my own.
By His faithful mercies shown.
That so mighty is His shield
All His love is now revealed.
When my steps are lost.
And desperate for a guide,
I can feel his touch,
A soothing presence by my side.
Alone, yet not alone.
Not forsaken when on my own.
I can lean upon His arm,
And be lifted up from harm.
If I stumble, or if I'm thrown,
I'm alone, yet not alone.
When my steps are lost.
And desperate for a guide,
I can feel his touch,
A soothing presence by my side.
By my side! 
He has bound me with His love,
Watchful angels look from above.
Every evil can be braved,
For I know I will be saved.
Never frightened on my own,
I'm alone, yet not alone.
I'm alone, yet not alone.
Since the movie was not part of the elite publicity machine in press releases, gala screenings, or plushy parties with giveaways such as DVD's of upcoming movies, Bruce Broughton decided he could send out e-mails, a total of 70, to simply ask that the song be given a listen. His e-mail read:
"I'm dropping you a line to boldly direct your attention to entry #57...The clip includes the final scene in the film and a performance of the song as used in the beginning of the End Credits. I'm sending this note only because it is extremely unlikely that this small, independent, faith-based film will be seen by any Music Branch member; it's the only way I can think of to have anyone be aware of the song. This is merely a request "For Your Consideration," a hope that the song will get noticed and be remembered among the many worthy songs from more highly visible films." 
Sending out the emails posed no problems as nothing in the Academy rules prohibits sending "for your consideration" ads to anyone in Hollywood this time of year. The Academy did give a listen, and they liked what they heard. The song became a nomination for best original son.

Tada was thrilled. Her quotes to the Hollywood Reporter include,
"I'm the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie, I'll tell you that up front, so it's amazing. It's amazing enough that a family-friendly movie with a Christian theme is nominated in any category for an Academy Award. Besides The Blind Side, which was wonderful, it's just not the norm. 
"I don't know how the nomination process works, but I'm grateful. I think I give a good performance but not a great one, and I think that the Academy recognizing this humble, good little song is rather wonderful.   
"Hollywood always talks about the dark horse film, and man this horse is so dark. This is such an out-of-left-field thing. The God of the Bible delights in using ill-equipped, unskilled and untrained people in positions of great influence, everyone from Joseph to David. It's all to show that it's not by human prowess or brassiness, but all by God's design. I don't know if that's what he's doing here, but it's worth giving pause and considering."
She wasn't the only one with a surprised reaction.

A writer of a song that wasn't nominated hired private investigators basically to find a reason why the song should be disqualified. They figured something had to be fishy because how could a little-known song possibly be more deserving of a nomination than a much more visible song performed by professional singers? It was suspected that standards for advertising stated in the Academy’s rules for eligibility were not met. The Academy proved otherwise and dismissed the allegation.

The investigators did not give up.  The charge they finally came up with is that arms were twisted and that members of the Academy were afraid not to heartily comply, in spite of the fact that votes were secretly cast. They emphasized that though Broughton currently has no position at the Academy, he was an Academy governor until 2012. Furthermore, they pointed out, he is on the executive committee of the Academy's music branch.

The Academy decided they had a good point. President Cheryl Boone Isaacs stated,
"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."
This is the only time in Academy Award history that a nominated song has been disqualified because of an advertising ethics complaint even though all kinds of advertising practices by "film, director, writer, cinematographer, actor, art director, costume designer and efx house" to promote work has heretofore been the norm. (See Gerald Molen, producer of "Schindler's List," quote below).

From Gerald Molen is a colorful and dead-on response to Cheryl Boone Isaacs:
"Every film, director, writer, cinematographer, actor, art director, costume designer and efx house finds a way to pitch or promote their work. Many will see this decision as faith-based bigotry pure and simple." 
Critics will pounce and accuse us of being out of touch and needlessly offending middle America by stripping this song -- a song sung by a quadriplegic hero to evangelical Christians who has captured the imagination of the American people -- of its nominationl 
In my humble opinion, it seems to me that this has turned a Cinderella story that America loves into a story of the wicked stepmother who wants to keep her daughter from the ball, with we the Academy cast as the villain." 
My goodness, if we were truly to operate by this new standard the committee has cited, your office would be filled with returned Oscars from past winners and nominees who have lobbied their friends and colleagues. This seems to me to have been a normal practice for a long, long time, and yet the Academy has suddenly discovered lobbying in the case of this one song?" 
It has been reported that a rival film hired a private investigator to find dirt on the film in an attempt to discredit it as not having been advertised properly and that when this failed to sway the committee, a decision was instead made to disqualify it because of the email. I urge you and the Academy to reconsider this decision and restore the song and fairness and integrity to our process."
Four nominees remain in best original song category: "Happy" from Despicable Me 2, "Let It Go" from Frozen, "The Moon Song" from Her, and "Ordinary Love" from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. There is no replacement song for the worthy yet disqualified "Alone Yet Not Alone."
On the Red Carpet
Screen Crush
Hollywood Reporter

Broughton's response: "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."
For original article, click here.
Update: "Let It Go" from Frozen was winner for best original song.

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