What’s with the attention given to all these friggin’ animals in this year’s awards race? What does it say about us, the audience, that so many sharp, accomplished people are saying “I like The Artist a lot but I really love that dog” and “boy, that horse sure can act up a storm in War Horse!” and “whadja think of that goose in War Horse…whuck-whuck!” What would the late Michael O’Donoghue say?
(l.) Uggie the wonder-dog, costar…let’s just call him the star of The Artist; (r.) One of the biggest-selling National Lampoon covers ever, or so I’ve read.
We’re only talking about two movies so it’s hardly a trend, but I guess I’m a little thrown by Stu Van Airsdale‘s Movieline campaign to get some awards recognition for Uggie, the 8 year-old Jack Russell terrier who costars in (and pretty much flat-out steals) The Artist. I’m especially amazed by the enthusiastic support for Stu’s campaign by N.Y. Times “Carpetbagger” Melena Ryzik.
This is what some of us are talking about as the year draws to a close and the best films are being examined and debated?
Melting down and making a fuss over a cute dog or an emotionally constant horse is the most basic emotional default in the human behavior book. And to me dog and horse talk during award season just feels low and common and…I don’t know, trailer-parky. And it indicates that there’s not a lot of passion out there about the November-December films, let’s face it.
What else could it mean when Van Airsdale writes that Uggie “delivers as nuanced a performance as either leading man Jean Dujardin or leading lady Berenice Bejo“? Van Airsdale isn’t writing for The Onion so he’s being at least half-serious. He’s surely aware that Dujardin placed second (right behind Brad Pitt) in yesterday’s NYFCC balloting for Best Actor and so he’s basically saying if Uggie had been in the running, Dujardin might have been…what, out-pointed?
And what about his saying that “from his connection to his master to his lingering close-ups and beyond, Uggie is director Michel Hazanavicius‘s purest model of physical expression”? Shorter Van Airsdale: “The Artist is pandering to the lowest emotional common denominator.” Doesn’t that “purest model” quote more or less imply that the popularity of The Artist is simplifying and thereby lowering the typically crackling award-season atmosphere? Uggie is making people go dippy, and this kind of thing hasn’t colored an end-of-the-year discussion since…E.T.?
Newsflash: Dogs have always been cute/endearing/lovable (they can’t help it) and have been giving cute performances in movies for many, many years. In the mid to late 30s Hollywood had Skippy, a wire-haired Fox terrier who starred as “Asta” in the first two Thin Man films, “Mr. Smith” in The Awful Truth and “George” in Bringing Up Baby.