Tag Archives: Bruce Broughton

More Hubbub Over “Alone Yet Not Alone”

First off, after my last post about it several people told me I should’ve included a link to the song itself. While I can’t in good conscience recommend putting yourself through the torture of listening to it, I suppose I’m an enabler just by talking about it. I might as well go all the way and embed it. But you’re responsible for your own decisions…

Ever since the Academy rescinded the song’s Oscar nomination, it seems the story has only grown more controversial. The argument goes something like this:

Despite the fact that the nomination is an embarrassment that never should’ve happened in the first place, the punishment reeks of hypocrisy. According to a private investigator hired by the PR firm for one of the non-nominated songs, Bruce Broughton (the composer and former head of the Academy’s Music Branch) sent a personal email to about 70 of the branches 240-ish voting members. In the email he pointed to the long screener DVD that that all voters got, noting which track was his and asking voters not to overlook it.

The innocence of that request coming from an insider with a conflict of interest is debatable. But against the standard practices of well-funded campaigns by big studios – who regularly play on the fringes of the rules and whose PR firms are known to call up individual voters personally to ask for votes – this little email looks like a drop in the bucket. It didn’t even go out to a majority of the voters.

Now it looks a lot like the Academy is punishing the little guy, while the big guys go free. Why? Because they can; because it sends a statement; and because they can’t send that statement to the contenders with more lots of financial backing to fight it. Money money money.

After they announced the decision to rescind the nomination, there’s been a backlash in the press (who are entering that lull between Sundance and The Oscars where there’s less “real” news to report on). Last Saturday, in response to that backlash, the Academy released the following 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.”

Broughton, meanwhile, continued to defend himself in an interview with the music composition software company Sibelius. (The bulk of the interview is about his musical process and use of their software, but he discusses the the Oscar controversy too.)

So was it the wrong move to take away his nomination (along with that of his lyricist)? Broughton’s influence within the branch obviously holds clout. People respect him. Either it’s a good-ol’-boys club or voters must believe that his position in the industry can be helpful to their careers if they vote for him. Otherwise there is no way such an objectively terrible song would’ve received enough votes to get nominated. Of course that’s just my speculation, but if I’m thinking it I’m sure others are too.

No one believes the Academy is capable, or necessarily even wants to, change campaign practices that have evolved over decades. But if the don’t draw a line on this kind of insider vote-grabbing, it’ll become precedent and only get worse and worse. The process is already nightmare of political backdoor haggling. It’s the least they can do to try and stem the tide and preserve the slightest shred of dignity for their Awards.

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AMPAS Rescinds Oscar Nomination for Song

alone movie

Remember that one song that got nominated for an Oscar a couple weeks ago? The one you’ve never heard of? Of course not, why would you? “Alone Yet Not Alone” is a crappy faux-hymn from the Christian-market-only film of the same name. Apparently one of the songs composers, Bruce Broughton, is a former head of the Academy’s Music Branch, and as such he has the entire voting membership in his contact list. He emailed the song to that list asking for votes, and viola! The most obscure nomination in Oscar history.

It was an embarrassing nomination, and yesterday the Academy decided to undo it. Broughton and his wife responded to the news quite indignantly and defensively on Facebook. (See below to read both sides of the argument.)

Honestly I can see their point about not being able to compete with the massive campaign funds of the bigger contenders, and I would argue in defense of them, if it wasn’t such an obviously terrible song! Even objectively there is no way a voter could listen to that alongside, say, Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” from The Great Gatsby, and think the silly little hymn is better. The only way it could have gotten votes is from thinking “Oh hey, that guy’s my friend. I’ll vote for him.” Or, “Oh hey, that guy has a lot of influence in this industry. It’ll help my career to vote for him.”

Here’s the Academy press release….

“On Tuesday night, the Academy’s Board of Governors voted to rescind the Original Song nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” music by Bruce Broughton and lyric by Dennis Spiegel. The decision was prompted by the discovery that Broughton, a former Governor and current Music Branch executive committee member, had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period.

“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,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President.

“The Board determined that Broughton’s actions were inconsistent with the Academy’s promotional regulations, which provide, among other terms, that “it is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner. If any campaign activity is determined by the Board of Governors to work in opposition to that goal, whether or not anticipated by these regulations, the Board of Governors may take any corrective actions or assess any penalties that in its discretion it deems necessary to protect the reputation and integrity of the awards process.”

An additional nominee in the Original Song category will not be named. The remaining nominees in the category are:

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams

“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez

“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze

“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

 

And here’s the response from Broughton…

“What’s on my mind? The mess of this afternoon’s news and the positive responses of so many friends. If you want to really vent your feelings in a positive way, one that transcends your lovely notes to me, you can let the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences know.

“How do I feel? I feel as though I’m the butt of a campaign to discredit a song, the nomination of which caught people by surprise. As many of you have noted, the campaigning on the other songs is epic compared to my simple email note. The marketing abilities of the other companies before and after the nomination far outstrip anything that this song was able to benefit from.

“We learned this morning that the song will appear on Billboard’s charts shortly. Somebody’s listening to it. Somebody likes it.

“But most of all, I feel sullied, and I feel disappointed not only for me, but for Dennis Spiegel, who wrote a lovely (and although hardly anyone has noticed), truly ecumenical lyric which helped drive the story in the film, and for the unassailable Joni Eareckson, whose vocal on the song breathed real life into it.

“So, if you’re really upset by this miserable turn of events, I appreciate your notes enormously (I also read Belinda’s page), but let the Academy know.”
– Bruce Broughton, evening of Jan. 29.

And his wife…

 “I cannot believe that the Academy just did that to Bruce. Bruce has given hours and hours of his time to the Academy over a period of 30 years, has tirelessly fought for composers, is the only top composer I know who will generously lend out his scores to composers, spends hours having lunches giving advice to up and coming film composers. These poor huge production companies who had their noses put out of joint by a little song. All I can say is, they must have been terrified by the song and it’s one damn good song too. Well, they are happy now, they can play together in the same sand box again. Shame on you Motion Picture Academy for taking the low road, saving your own butts and doing this to one of your former Governors and Head of the Music Branch. Maybe a phone call to Bruce, from one of the Academy Governors of the Music Branch would have been nice too? (Angry wife!)”
– Belinda Broughton, evening of Jan. 29

 

 

 

 

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