Monday, June 16, 2014

OVP: Alone Yet Not Alone (2013)

Film: Alone Yet Not Alone (2013)
Stars: Kelly Grayson, Natalie Racoosin, Jenn Gotzon, Clay Walker, Victoria Emmons, Brett Harris
Directors: Ray Bengston and George D. Escobar
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Song-"Alone Yet Not Alone"...we'll get into the controversy surrounding this nomination below
Snap Judgment Ranking: 1/5 stars

I don't even know where to start with this movie, so let's start with the reason that I saw the film, that infamous Oscar nomination.  I remember Cheryl Boone Isaacs announcing this particular film being nominated for Best Original Song, and being stunned.  Taylor Swift, Lana del Rey, Jay Z, Coldplay-these were the names we were expecting, but it ended up being Bruce Broughton, former Academy governor, who grabbed the nomination.  Once the dust settled, we heard rumors about this little seen film: that it was wildly racist and sexist, and that Broughton had improperly used his position as a former member of the Board of Governors to nab the nomination.  This latter bit caused one of those extremely rare instances where an Academy Award nomination was rescinded, and the first time it had been rescinded for ethical violations.

And this, I came to the conclusion of before I saw the film, was wrong.  Broughton's actions may have been inappropriate, but it's no more inappropriate than some of the other actions that have been taken through the year in terms of campaigning.  You cannot tell me that Cheryl Boone Isaacs didn't campaign for The King's Speech and The Artist when she served as a consultant on those films and was also a member of the Board, but those movies were too big and too important to attack.  This film was an easy film to take down, and whether it was because of the quality of the film or the subject matter of the film, it shouldn't have lost this nomination which the Music Branch voted to give it merely over Broughton's actions.  That sets up an inappropriate and selective precedent, and one I cannot back, even if the nomination was causing the Academy embarrassment.  And so I will keep the OVP title up top and this film will be discussed when we get to the 2013 nominations next week.

That being said, there's no reason this nomination should have ever existed in the first place, because this movie (and the song) are terrible.  I felt wildly out-of-place when I went into the theater (which, scarily enough, was packed) early Saturday at a matinee, but even more so when audience reaction seemed to applaud scenes I found deplorable or laughable.  The film looks like it was made on a shoestring budget and you'd be forgiven for not recognizing any of the actors in it (though upon research, Jenn Gotzon who played Lydia in the film was also Tricia Nixon in Frost/Nixon a few years back, so at least one cast member has an Oscar connection and yes that is Clay Walker the country singer as Fritz).  However, that's no excuse for some of the historical inaccuracies that were easily preventable.

Grayson's teeth are probably the worst and stupidest historical inaccuracy.  Grayson is clearly a very beautiful woman in real-life and in particular has stunning teeth.  Perfectly straight, bleeched, and probably with some sort of veneers (or at least caps).  Teeth that could never exist ANYWHERE in the 1750's, much less in the wilderness for a decade.  Her hair, also-they are on the run from the Native Americans for three weeks, and yet somehow her natural hair color doesn't remotely show up until they are at the Fort, despite the fact that it almost certainly rained and that they were in water frequently during that trek (this also goes for her skin tone)?

There's also the acting, which is laughably bad, though the writing, which is clunky, stilted, and preachy doesn't help.  I have no problem with the film trying to push a Christian message, but I do have a problem with the actors speaking in a way NO ONE would possibly do, even in the 18th Century.  I also could not stop laughing at the way certain actors had accents for the entire movie, certain actors randomly dropped their accents, and certain actors who should have accents (like the main character) never did.

The film also has deeply unsettling ways of handling race, particularly the Native Americans.  The film is shockingly one-sided, in a way I haven't seen a modern film ever be (you'd have to go back to the 1950's to find a more one-sided film in regard to the main character's plight versus the other side of a war).  The film makes the main characters comically good, and the Native Americans by-and-large exceedingly cruel and malicious (the same goes for the commanding British officers, while the Americans are all smart and more "open-minded").  The film also imposes Christian ideals on the Native Americans with occasionally blatant historical inaccuracy.  I find it difficult to believe that our main character, who is eighteen in the latter half of the film, wouldn't have already taken a husband, particularly since he'd been pursuing her for years.  But that would put a mar on her chastity (women, by-and-large, are seen as more props to hand out food than anything else), which of course would make her love story at the end of the film seem less perfect (at least in the eyes of the director).

I could go on and on about how truly terrible this movie is (how can some actors age while others don't?), but I think I'll leave it there.  I do want to say the silver lining is that I like the idea of a company like Seatzy (where they seek out ways to show more independent films across the country, and this film gives them an opportunity that they certainly never would have had otherwise to expand to a large number of screens).  Otherwise, though, this is a prejudiced, morally questionable film with a severe lack of understanding in its characters and a truly sappy, sickening song at its center.

Those were my thoughts-what about yours?  Has anyone else seen Alone Yet Not Alone?  Can anyone defend its filmic merits?  And do you agree with me that the nomination (though lacking in quality) should have stood as the reasons it got revoked were questionable at best?  Share in the comments!

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