Christian film stripped of Academy Award nomination
by Ben Johnson
Thu Jan 30, 2014 17:38 EST
HOLLYWOOD, CA, January 30, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Hollywood loves an underdog – unless, it seems, that underdog is a Christian. That’s the reaction of one Christian film expert to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ decision to strip the family-friendly motion picture Alone Yet Not Alone of its Oscar nomination for best song.
Alone Yet Not Alone is based on a true story about how a family’s Christian faith helped them survive after being kidnapped by the Delaware Indians during the French and Indian War.
Songwriters Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel were nominated for the Best Original Song for a theme performed by Joni (pronounced “Johnny”) Eareckson Tada, a pro-life evangelical quadriplegic with only 51 percent of her lung capacity.
“Can you imagine how this might encourage other people with disabilities?” she said upon learning of the nomination last week. “It’s all about ‘God’s power in our weakness,’ and I love the chance to advance that message!”
“The Bible is filled with stories of God picking ill-equipped, unskilled people for places of great influence, which is how I feel, as a quadriplegic, singing an Academy Award-nominated song,” she said.
But at a board meeting Tuesday night, the Academy announced it was revoking the film’s nomination.
Broughton, who had been nominated for best score for the 1985 Western Silverado, is a former Academy governor and served on its board for nine years. He admitted e-mailing a few other members to ask them to consider his song.
Hollywood industry moguls said that violated their rules against lobbying and would call into question the award’s integrity.
Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs told the Hollywood Reporter, “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.”
The Hollywood Reporter found only eight instances in the Academy Awards’ 86-year history when a film had an Oscar nomination rescinded – one of them after the film had won. None cited “unfair advantage.”
“I’m devastated,” Broughton said.
He said he did less to campaign for an Oscar than his competitors. “I indulged in the simplest grass roots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention,” he said. “I got taken down by competition that had months of promotion and advertising behind them.”
Critics say the award revocation is a form of harassment that is regularly endured by conservatives and others who do not fit the Hollywood ethos.
Dr. Baehr told LifeSiteNews.com that Alone Yet Not Alone and Broughton are being punished on a transparent double standard. “This guy did exactly what everybody else is doing,” on a much smaller scale, said Baehr.
He called the Academy’s explanation “duplicitious.”
“The Weinsteins are known for spending a lot of money to get Academy Awards,” Baehr said. “They’re members of the Academy. Nobody ever calls them and says the Weinsteins can’t come because they spent a lot of money.”
Harvey Weinstein has been known to go to elaborate lengths to court Academy members, cold-calling them, screening films for them, and following up afterwards. These aggressive campaign tactics have netted Harvey Weinstein and his family’s productions more than 300 Academy Award nominations.
A study last year showed Oscar winners thanked Harvey Weinsten, co-founder of Miramax Studios, more often than they thanked God.
But Weinstein produced darker films such as Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds, the pro-abortion film The Cider House Rules, Pulp Fiction, and the documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare.
“The Academy has lost its appeal and it’s become deluged by voters who no longer represent the Golden Age of Hollywood,” Baehr told LifeSiteNews. Every year Oscar award winning films “get worse audiences, they get worse audience reactions, they drop off faster than ever.”
An Academy Award “immediately tells people that this movie is awful,” he said.
This year’s crop of films, he said, is no exception.
“Probably the most big budget [film] is Wolf of Wall Street, where Leonardo DiCaprio, for the first time for a major star, is shown pleasuring himself, and his co-star is show pleasuring herself,” Baehr said, a development he called “unfortunate.”
That worldview keeps pro-family or faith-themed films out of the running, he said.
Some in the entertainment press questioned the inclusion of Alone Yet Not Alone on the grounds that few people saw it. Baehr said that critique could easily be fixed.
His own Movieguide awards require films to open in 1,000 theaters, or be on a major network that reaches a million people.
“If their real problem was that” Alone Yet Not Alone “wasn’t a broad audience movie, then the guidelines should have” specified a minimum of “500 theaters or more.”
The 22nd annual Movieguide awards will take place on February 7, hosted by comedian Bill Engvall. They will broadcast on Reelz TV on March 1 at 2 p.m. and rebroadcast on March 2 at 2 p.m.
Joni Eareckson Tada did not immediately respond to requests for comment by press time. Her radio program “Joni and Friends” has aired since 1979.