It happens almost every Oscar season. An Academy Award frontrunner is maligned in the blogosphere by some critics who practically blow a gasket over its perceived sin. It happened last year with the silly uproar over Natalie Portman’s use of a dance double in “Black Swan”. And it’s happening this year again with "The Artist" director Michel Hazanavicius in the cross hairs for choosing to use a piece of Bernard Herrmann’s score from “Vertigo” for a dramatic scene towards the end of his movie.
Here are the facts: In the last 20 minutes of “The Artist” Hazanavicius uses six minutes of Herrmann’s score from “Vertigo.” Hazanavicius said he used it because the music is so moving and it fit the melodrama of his scene. This kind of practice is done all the time. Almost the entirety of music cues from Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” has been culled from existing movies. Martin Scorsese has always used dozens of existing pop songs to create a mood, like he does in “Goodfellas”. If you’ve ever watched “American Horror Story” you may recognize a number of famous horror themes there because creator Ryan Murphy has sampled them throughout the show. He does the exact same thing that Hazanavicius did.
Could “The Artist” composer Ludovic Bource have written original music for that one scene as well? Of course. Just as Quentin Tarantino could have used an original score rather than sample other movie scores by the likes of Ennio Morricone and Giorgio Moroder. But they didn’t. And that’s his creative choice, just like Hazanavicius’. And their choices work.
But that’s not good enough for some movie bloggers and critics still railing despite those facts. Maybe they just want to stir the pot. Or get people to pay attention to them. After all, many of these protestors are the same folks who last year wrote so stridently about Natalie Portman. Did they really expect her to have the moves of a prima ballerina? How naïve.
At the end of the day, “The Artist” will likely win the Best Picture Oscar. And maybe that doesn’t sit well with these awards prognosticators who want more influence over the Academy vote. Perhaps they have a different favorite in the mix and don’t want their film to lose. But it is all so much ado about nothing.
Perhaps “The Artist” would have been even more wonderful with a dramatic score that was 100% original. But that point is really moot. The movie is what it is. And in my opinion, it is great. And the Bernard Herrmann piece was used in it beautifully. That should be enough.