The latest award season scandal is a doozy: Late Wednesday, Academy Award Best Original Song nominee “Alone, Yet Not Alone” (composed by Bruce Broughton and Dennis Spiegel, and featured in a small, mostly-unknown film of the same name) had its nomination taken away by the film academy.
What caused that extreme and rare rebuke? Turns out, musician Broughton — currently a member of the academy’s music branch, and a former leader of the organization — hadn’t quite followed the rules of Oscar campaigning.
“The decision was prompted by the discovery that Broughton…had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his submission during the nominations voting period,” the academy said in a press release. “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.’”
The song’s nomination (for which it beat out many high profile contenders and joined artists such as U2 and Pharrell Williams in the competitive category) was already a head-scratcher, especially since the film is essentially unknown. According to an extensive Deadline report from earlier this month about how in the world the tune landed a nod, people said Boughton allegedly urged friends in the academy to vote for the song.
Pretty unusual, right? Well, yes and no — while it’s rare that the academy will take away a nomination it originally bestowed (which is rather embarrassing to them, as well), it’s not the first time that nominees have been accused of “playing the game” in the industry to secure award nominations — with varied results. Here are a few other examples of working the system in the murky world of Hollywood award season:
Pia Zadora is nominated (and then wins) the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year.
Probably the most famous example of all: The barely-known actress beat out much more famous names (Kathleen Turner, Elizabeth McGovern) to win the trophy in 1982. Many pointed fingers at her wealthy entrepreneur husband, who treated the Hollywood Foreign Press Association members to trips to Las Vegas, and luxurious screenings of her movie, “Butterfly” (which, incidentally, hadn’t even been released in the United States at the time of the awards). All that networking worked, but decades later, Zadora’s name is still a punchline.
“The Alamo,” a non-critical favorite, lands multiple Oscar nominations.
Though not received well by critics, the John Wayne movie managed to scramble in front of bigger hits to pick up seven Oscar nods in 1961, credited to Wayne’s extreme efforts to promote the film, and a huge number of ads blanketed everywhere for industry people to see. However, “the expensive campaigning annoyed many people in the film industry,” TCM notes, and the movie went on to only win one of the awards. (This seems like an earlier version of Harvey Weinstein’s famously aggressive Oscar campaigns: Vulture recently chronicled a timeline of the powerhouse producer’s “shenanigans.”)
Multiple unknown artists have received Grammy nods if they campaign the right way to the right people, but it doesn’t always result in “winning.”
Apparently, it’s always important to schmooze with Grammy voters. A fine example is local R&B singer Carolyn Malachi, who told The Post’s Chris Richards in 2011 about her efforts to meet and network with tons of Grammy voters, even though her album had only sold 65 copies. It paid off: She scored a nomination for best urban/alternative performance for her song “Orion.” (She lost to Cee Lo Green).
Another similarly surprising artist to get nominated was Al Walser, who shocked electronic dance music fans when his “I Can’t Live Without You” track landed a Best Dance Recording in 2013. Walser, a relatively obscure Los Angeles deejay, talked to NPR about lobbying for votes; he sent out thousands of e-mails to voters through a private Web site, Grammy365, for musicians. “The bottom line is he got the votes,” said the recording academy vice president of awards, who added that though it raised eyebrows, Walser’s methods were legit. (He lost to Skrillex & Sirah.)
And this headline from the Hollywood Reporter — “How Linda Chorney Scored a Grammy Nom Without Registering a Single Album Sale” — speaks for itself. Chorney also ginned up controversy when her album, “Emotional Jukebox” was nominated for Best Americana Album in 2012. She also used social networking on the Grammy365 site, and won over enough people to get a nod. (She lost to Levon Helm.)