Wonder why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to take the unusual step on a Super Bowl Saturday to “clarify” its decision Wednesday to rescind the Best Song nomination of the controversial Alone Yet Not Alone from the yet-to-be-released (now they are saying early summer) faith-based movie of the same name? Since the decision was announced, there has been blowback regarding the true intent of the Academy’s decision — particularly in a letter to Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs from Oscar-winning producer Gerald Molen (Schindler’s List) who was also an executive producer of the controversial documentary 2016: Obama’s America, a high-grossing documentary that became a lightning rod in the last Presidential campaign and a darling of right-wing critics of President Obama.
In the letter, Molen accuses the Academy of bias: “Many will see this decision as faith-based bigotry pure and simple,” he wrote in defending songwriter Bruce Broughton‘s right to the kind of grass roots campaign he conducted in order to get the unknown film a nomination against stiff competition from the likes of Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Lana Del Rey — none of whom made the cut. In order to stem further bleeding — particularly in becoming a target of right-wing blogs — I believe the Academy decided to curb any further damage or controversy the decision seems to be causing. In today’s detailed statement (read it below) it even gets very specific and states that Broughton sent “at least 70” emails to fellow Music Branch members (the entire branch numbers 240). AMPAS explains that coming from a former governor and current member of the Branch’s Executive Committee, he could be rightly suspected of taking advantage of his insider status in gaming the system (my term, not the Academy’s). The original statement Wednesday was much more polite in using the phrase “no matter how well intentioned” Broughton’s efforts might have been. This letter today is far more damning and much more specific in explaining Academy rules. There has been no indication the Academy plans to take any further action on the matter, but it certainly isn’t bowing down to critics who are saying it made a mistake in deep-sixing the song. Here’s today’s statement:
The Board of Governors’ decision to rescind the Original Song nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” music by Bruce Broughton, was made thoughtfully and after careful consideration. The Academy takes very seriously anything that undermines the integrity of the Oscars® voting process. The Board regretfully concluded that Mr. Broughton’s actions did precisely that.
The nominating process for Original Song is intended to be anonymous, with each eligible song listed only by title and the name of the film in which it is used—the idea being to prevent favoritism and promote unbiased voting. It’s been a long-standing policy and practice of the Academy—as well as a requirement of Rule 5.3 of the 86th Academy Awards® Rules—to omit composer and lyricist credits from the DVD of eligible songs that are sent to members of the Music Branch. The Academy wants members to vote for nominees based solely on the achievement of a particular song in a movie, without regard to who may have written it.
Mr. Broughton sent an email to at least 70 of his fellow Music Branch members—nearly one-third of the branch’s 240 members. When he identified the song as track #57 as one he had composed, and asked voting branch members to listen to it, he took advantage of information that few other potential nominees are privy to. As a former Academy Governor and current member of the Music Branch’s executive committee, Mr. Broughton should have been more cautious about acting in a way that made it appear as if he were taking advantage of his position to exert undue influence. At a minimum, his actions called into question whether the process was “fair and equitable,” as the Academy’s rules require. The Academy is dedicated to doing everything it can to ensure a level playing field for all potential Oscar® contenders—including those who don’t enjoy the access, knowledge, and influence of a long-standing Academy insider.