Mainstream media outlets erupted in confusion and indignation Thursday over a surprise Oscar nomination for Best Song. “Alone Yet Not Alone,” the theme song for an independent Christian film of the same name, edged out a long list of songs by mainstream artists and will face off against the likes of U2 and Pharrell Williams, as well as the hit song from Disney’s Frozen. A sample of those who might consider themselves snubbed: Taylor Swift, Paul McCartney, Ed Sheeran for his performance of “I See Fire” from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and many others.
The Huffington Post reported that while the Oscar announcement offered several surprises, including the lack of a nomination for Tom Hanks or Emma Thompson, it was this Best Song nomination that really had them “scratching their heads.” Evidently the movie’s release didn’t “merit an entry at BoxOfficeMojo.com, which tracks movies' ticket-sale revenues, or any reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.” A press release for the film specified that the movie had a limited seven-day run in September in a handful of cities, with a national roll-out scheduled for February. According to the release, the film is “based on a true story” set during the French and Indian War. Two young girls from a German immigrant family are “captured by the Delaware Indians” and have to maintain hope amidst separation from their family.
Other journalists are not just confused but crying foul. They imply the nomination was procured through influence rather than merit, pointing to the position of the film’s musicians: 10-time Emmy winner Bruce Broughton composed the music, and until 2012 served as a “governor” for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He also specifically headed up the academy’s music branch for several years. William Ross, who is the conductor for this year’s Academy Awards orchestra, composed the film’s overall score. (He also led the orchestra last year.)
Deadline Hollywood reports that Broughton engaged in regular and irregular campaigning for the song. At first he tried to get press attention through publicists. When that failed he “started making phone calls to colleagues urging them to consider the song.”
On the other hand, Hollywood Reporter acknowledged that “it is not uncommon for members of the academy’s board of governors to receive Oscar nominations,” and cited Kathryn Bigelow’s win for Zero Dark Thirty while serving as a governor. Also, Todd Martens in the Los Angeles Times admits that an argument for the song’s nomination could be made based on the fact that it’s a “recurring theme” in the film. Still, said Martens, “it’s hard to overlook such connections when the film virtually came out of nowhere to score an Oscar nomination.” According to Christianity Today, the film’s producer, Ken Wales, ascribed a completely different source for the Oscar nomination: “By the grace of God.”
Well-known Christian author, speaker, and quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada performs the song (see video clip below), which combines the characteristics of an old spiritual and a modern hymn. In bright, surprisingly clear and beautiful tones, Eareckson Tada sings about a struggle she probably knows well: “I will not be bent in fear / He is the refuge I know is near.”
In an email, Eareckson Tada declined to comment on the controversy surrounding the song’s nomination, focusing instead on the providence of recording it in the first place: “A quadriplegic with limited lung capacity is the least likely candidate to record a song for a movie … but isn’t that just like God to display his glory through utter and complete weakness; for that I’m deeply grateful.”
Listen to Joni Eareckson Tada perform “Alone Yet Not Alone”:
Watch the official trailer for Alone Yet Not Alone: