What’s the most obscure movie to be honored with a 2014 Oscar nomination? Easy: That’d be “Alone Yet Not Alone,” a Christian film that played within its niche theatrical circuit and not at all outside of it: With no reviews on Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say the film flew far below the secular mainstream’s cultural radar. And yet there it is with a Best Original Song nomination, right alongside “Frozen,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” and “Her.”
Well, fine, good for the underdog, right? Wouldn’t it have to be a darn good song to make the cut? As you can see from the video below, “Alone Yet Not Alone” is solemn, churchy, heartfelt, not too polished -- a little logy, perhaps, but obviously coming from a more sincere place than a lot of entries in this category. And -- oh, yeah -- it’s composed by Bruce Broughton, an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences governor and a recent head of the Academy’s music branch.
So what happened here? Since the nominations in any craft category are voted for only by members in that branch -- everyone gets to vote on all the categories for the actual awards -- there clearly was a campaign on the part of someone or someones that did the trick and got enough votes to get the song over the hump, however big or small that hump may have been. Furthermore, is it any coincidence that the composer of the score for “Alone yet Not Alone” is William Ross, who will be the Oscar telecast’s music director this year for the fourth time?
Just so we’re clear on this: Quality may count in this category or it may not, but having multiple Academy connections counts for more. Two years ago, when Broughton was heading up the Academy’s music branch and the kerfuffle was that there weren’t enough songs being nominated, he told The Wrap, “The last thing we want to do is exclude worthy songs … but we don’t want to lower the bar, either.”
We’ll let Academy voters decide which one’s worthy -- “Let it Go” from “Frozen” is the favorite to win -- but consider the bar officially underwater.
Ty Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.