The Academy's music branch can always be counted on for at least one out-of-nowhere surprise in the Best Original Song category. Remember "Paris 36?" Or "Chasing Ice?" Or "August Rush?" Forgotten them all? No one would blame you. Anyway, they seem to have truly outdone themselves this year. There were audible gasps and chuckles when Cheryl Boone Isaacs began reading the list of nominees in the category, and first off the bat was "Alone Yet Not Alone" from, er, "Alone Yet Not Alone."
If you already knew what the movie was when the nomination was announced, give yourself a pat on the back, since it doesn't seem a stretch to call this Christian drama the most obscure feature film nominated for an Oscar this year. As I scoured the internet to find out what exactly it was, not a whole lot came up: there is no trace of the film's existence on Metacritic, while its Rotten Tomatoes page features not a single review. Okay, so it's not the critical radar, but how about commercially? I'd like to tell you, but Box Office Mojo hasn't heard of it either.
Turns out the film received a limited release in September, specifically within the Christian market. Production company Enthuse Entertainment describes themselves as producing "God-honoring, faith-based, family-friendly films that inspire the human spirit to seek and know God." A true-life historical drama set in 1755, it tells the story of two young sisters captured by native Americans during a raid on their family's farm. As the poster informs us, a "forced marriage" and "desperate escape" ensue. (I really hope this isn't as politically dubious as it sounds.) Cue the titular song, a family hymn that provides them with solace and inspiration during their ordeal.
And a hymn it very much is: composed by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel, it's a slow, solemn ode to constant spiritual presence. I'll be diplomatic and say that it certainly sounds authentic -- but it's not exactly going to light up the Oscar telecast if performed live. Which, if recent years are anything to go by, it almost certainly won't be. Still: as a mash-up with Pharrell Williams' "Happy?" Or maybe let Lana del Rey sing it on the show as a consolation prize for her "Great Gatsby" snub? Now's your opportunity to get creative, Academy.
Anyway, I suppose you can call it a triumph of sorts for genuine independent filmmaking -- even if the independent film in question looks a wee bit sludgy. Or, you know, for AMPAS peer loyalty, given that Broughton is a former Academy Governor and, oh, the former chief of the music branch.
For your listening pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the vocal stylings of Joni Eareckson Tada on "Alone Yet Not Alone":