Mr. Greenjeans

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.

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    Classic Lampoon cover; it needs to be on one of my walls already.

  • Alboone

    Ditto. I gotta get that Lampoon cover. Hilarious!

  • berg

    while we’re at it let’s give awards to the cockateil in Jack & Jill and a nod to the robot dog (voiced by Ricjy Gervais) in Spy Kids 4

  • SilverScreener

    Funnily enough, Michel Hazanavicius addressed this attitude at a screening a couple weeks ago. Apparently, a lot of people had been praising the dog’s performance to him, so he wanted to nip it in the bud at the get-go:

    “The dog, he is a dog. He’s not acting. He didn’t read the script. He didn’t make decisions. There were no discussions about his character. He just wants hot dogs. It is ridiculous.”

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    The Artist won’t even be in this area for another 3 weeks and change, and somehow I’m already sick of talking about it — let alone watching it.

    It’s not really the Oscar frontrunner, is it? Come on, man!

  • Rothchild

    Your obsession with War Horse is hilarious.

  • actionlover

    “Take a movie like, gee I don’t know, just thinking off the top of my head here, uh, ‘Moneyball’. Yeah. ‘Moneyball’ didn’t have any stupid lame-o animals in it. (sigh) Just ANOTHER reason why it’s not only the best film since ‘The Social Network’, but worthy of an Oscar sweep.”


  • Douglas Reinhardt

    Cosmo gave the best animal performance as Arthur in “Beginners”.

    I haven’t seen “The Artist,” but Cosmo the dog does a bit of acting in the film.

  • MikeSchaeferSF

    Yeah, and what about those chimps in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”? Oh, wait…

  • CitizenKaned4Life


  • Ray

    “What would the late Michael O’Donoghue say?”

    Nothing. He’s dead.

    For the record, I missed the part where E.T. was a pet animal. Was that in the “I hate Spielberg” Director’s Cut?

  • Rashad

    That is one adorable dog

  • creepingmalaise

    If I’m not mistaken, that NatLamp cover was for the magazine’s first issue.

  • The Thing

    I think the thing is that so many movies that featured prominent animal use have sucked. But this year we have 2 movies that are garnering a lot of critical praise, and feature an animal. This is what’s prompting all the talk about how good these animals are.

  • berg

    the dog cover is from Jan of 1973 … the above URL has links to all the 70s Nat Lamp covers … my personal favorite was from Oct of 1974

  • Gabe@ThePlaylist

    I could NOT sit and enjoy the entirety of Young Adult the other night because this egghead woman next to me would loudly AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW whenever they showed Theron’s little pooch. That damned dog gets almost as much face-time as Patton Oswalt.

  • Bob Violence

    “The dog, he is a dog” is just about the Frenchiest thing anyone could say

  • CitizenKaned4Life

    I had absolutely no idea NL’s publication era extended all the way through the winter of 1998. Totally surreal to me that I could have conceivably gone out and bought that last issue on Thanksgiving break of my freshman year at college.

  • Floyd Thursby

    Dogs and cats are better people than people.

  • EDouglasCS

    I worry that Crystal the Capuchin will get an oscar before Andy Serkis.

  • Animals are the perfect movie stars: They show up on time, always look like they’re supposed to and will – with training – hit their marks every time simply because you told them to. They’re like CGI without the dead-eyes thing.

    In all seriousness, thinking about it it’s suddenly kind of amazing that there ISN’T an Oscar for Best Animal Performance. It’s a completely legitimate field worthy of the recognition (that guy who trained Bart The Bear put DECADES into him), but more importantly from an Oscar perspective it IMMEDIATELY becomes one of the big highlights of the night: People – especially your average non-cinephile Oscar viewer – LOVE animals in movies, and this would lead to nominations for popular family flicks that’d (rightly) never get mentioned otherwise which equals interest which equals ratings. The split-screen/cutaways to the various critters “anxiously waiting” to be named back at their pens/ranches/whatever? The ‘hillarious’ moment where the winner shrugs off the award but is waaaaay more interested in a Snausage? The post-show publicity stills of some fuzzy pooch snuggled up around an Oscar statue? Gold. Ratings. GOLD.

    Plus, it’d give the presenters/production a welcome oppportunity to stump for animal charities, the ASPCA, etc., which is hard to resist. Grazer, might as well make this happen.

  • BobbyLupo

    Did you know that Cannes gives out a yearly award called the Palme D’og? I’m 100% serious.

    “They show up on time, always look like they’re supposed to and will – with training – hit their marks every time simply because you told them to.”

    The thing is, if you use an animal like this, it’s kind of a waste. The great thing about animals is that they’re respond completely organically and naturally and that, if you let them, they’ll give you a better moment than was written into the script. Look at the dog reacting to E.T. if you don’t believe me.

  • gregsmith

    Too cute, but I can see the ASPCA getting onto this.
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  • gregsmith

    Super cute dog. Is he a Jack Russell?
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