“Alone Yet Not Alone”-Gate

The Academy’s music branch, and their picks for the Best Original Score category in particular, have a history of perplexing choices. Remember “Paris 36?” Or “Chasing Ice?” Neither do I, but they are both Oscar-nominated films forever, thanks to (entirely forgettable) tunes that played over their credits tracks. Then there was that time they had only two nominations in the entire category (when Bret Mackenzie’s “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” triumphed over something you’ve never heard of from “Rio,” a movie you had totally forgotten about until just this second).

So, when AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs started off the category with “Alone Yet Not Alone (Theme from “Alone Yet Not Alone”),” the collective bafflement in the room and on the Internet was pretty much par for the course; surprises in that category aren’t even surprising anymore. Things got a little weirder when everyone went in search of this film no one had ever heard of, though: the film had no entry on Wikipedia, no box office information on Box Office Mojo, no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. According to a plot summary on IMDB, the film is a period piece, supposedly based on a true story of two young girls kidnapped by Native Americans during the French and Indian War.

As it turns out, the film was made and targeted exclusively for Christian film markets. The song is a family hymn sung by the sisters as comfort during their imprisonment. You can check out the film’s page for yourself, but I hope it’s not as, um, dubious as it appears. That’s kind of neither here nor there, though; the question is, how did enough members of the music branch even see this thing (or at least a clip of the song) to nominate it?

Well, the clue is in the credits – the song’s music was composed by Bruce Boughton, a member of the Academy’s music branch and, in fact, the branch’s former representative on the Academy’s Board of Governors. Word is that Boughton did some intense behind-the-scenes campaigning for the work, which has resulted in this cinematic curiosity suddenly rising to national prominence.

After all that, it would be one thing if the song were, you know, really good. We’re always pushing the Academy to look outside the box for great work being done, particularly in the craft categories (“Bad Grandpa’s” Best Make-Up and Hairstyling nomination has been met more with applause than the derision you would expect from the critical establishment, as it should be). And the hymn does have, I suppose, an authenticity to it that is commendable – but, so did, say, “My Lord Sunshine” from “12 Years a Slave.” There’s going one’s own way and there’s intentionally being perverse. I’ll let you decide which you think this is.

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