It’s that time of year again. Time for winter’s icy grip to loosen for the spring thaw, as we indulge in our most debauched and ribald fantasies, slaves to nature’s immortal code.
It’s also Oscar time! I thought I’d rundown my picks in the Best Picture category, for those of you who weren’t able to make it to the theaters.
First up is Joel and Ethan Coen’s "A Serious Man." A semi-autobiographical tale of the brothers’ childhood growing up Jewish in suburban Minnesota, the film is one of their best in years. I was confused at first by its title, as the ticket boy told me that it was a comedy, but then I remembered that the Coens’ sense of humor is less like "The Big Bang Theory," and more like "The Big Bang Theory Without a Laugh Track." Wanting everyone sitting next to me to know that I was "hip" to the subtle comedy, and "in on the gag," I made sure to laugh at everything remotely approximating a joke. I howled with laughter every time the actors made a dry delivery of innocuous dialogue. The rest of the audience was right there with me, with some people shouting, "Shhhhhhh," and "Quiet down" at the hysterical dead-pan. That’s what’s great about living in a liberal college-town like Ann Arbor: we are all finely-attuned to anti-humor, and able to appreciate its hilarity the instant we see it. When we left the theater, everyone seemed abuzz about what they had just watched. I heard one woman proclaim, "That howling dog really ruined the movie." Someone else said, "I don’t think the dog got it," to which his friend responded, "Her strained laughter came across as vaguely anti-Semitic." I wasn’t exactly sure what part of the movie they were referencing, but I did take a brief nap mid-way through, so maybe I missed something. For the most part, though, the movie did a great job of keeping my attention. I was only distracted twice by garbage on the floor, and spent no more than six minutes gnawing on my paws. "A Serious Man," is a serious contender for best picture, but it is devoid of the most basic components of dramatic plot. Couldn’t the Coens have thrown in even a token reference to squirrels running up trees, leaves blowing across the street, or other dogs’ rear-ends? Better luck next time, guys.
Next is James Cameron’s "Avatar." This film has received a lot of press, mostly about its expense, coming in at nearly $500 million. With no conception of human money, I asked my masters to explain that sum. They said that for the same price, I could eat 456,621 rawhide bones each day for a year. You can imagine how excited I was to see it! Avatar is a visual masterpiece, but as many of you know, it’s very long. I took five naps during it, spent three minutes growling at a carton of "Milk Duds," and licked myself throughout most of the film’s second act. Needless to say, I was a bit distracted. From what I could pick up, though, the movie is about a race of blue people called the Na’zi. The Na’zis are very connected with the earth, and can fly on pterodactyls. I was so excited watching them swoop around, that I yelled out "I LOVE THE NA’ZIS!" during the final fight sequence. Apparently the theater is very strict about staying quiet, as I was immediately escorted out. Licking my proverbial wounds outside the theater, I received ovations of support by a pack of Samoyeds who gave me some pamphlets to read about "mongrels." Cameron’s use of animals gives him a leg up over the Coens in the Oscar hunt, but a similar lack of concern for wagging tails and dirty underwear plagued the movie. I won’t "Avatarnish" the film’s reputation, but it is not this year’s best.
Quentin Tarantino also examines Na’zis in his movie, "Inglourious Basterds." As a "basterd" myself – I got your stinkin’ "papers" right here AKC! – I was itching to see Tarantino’s new offering. Unlike in Cameron’s film, these Na’zis aren’t blue – but red…with blood. It was a highly visceral movie, which many of my animal companions will enjoy, punctuated with a number of scenes containing milk – a nod to all feline friends. I liked this film a lot, particularly because it reminded me of a German Shepherd I once dated back in college. The interracial couple at the movie’s end brought me back to those wild days. However, I left the film more confused than ever; these Na’zis are a complex bunch. When I remarked to a stranger as we cleared the aisles, "I guess the Na’zis weren’t so good after all," I was met with only an awkward silence. However, I would still recommend this film to my doggy comrades, and it’s my pick for Best Picture.
Kathryn Bigelow’s "The Hurt Locker," keeps things real by letting us not forget about the Iraq War (thank God that whole mess is finally over). Focusing on a bomb-disposal squad being replaced by robotic diffusers, "The Hurt Locker" is a middle-class fantasy about blue-collar specialization, and the longing for a prelapsarian world of manual labor in the face of increasing industrial technology and business outsourcing…or something. For the purposes of full disclosure, I must admit that I have a personal history with such issues. The army turned me away from its bomb-disposal unit, due to my inability to distinguish color. I tried joining the less-prestigious "sniffer squad," but routine squabbles with a hot-shot Weimaraner sank my career. Nevertheless, the chaps in the 172nd's "Ole-Factory Fighters" division shouldn’t be forgotten. Shame on you Ms. Bigelow for failing to include them in your story.
Many people stop me in the street to talk about Pixar’s animated movie "Up," certain that I loved it. Unlike the other films reviewed here, "Up" contains many scenes with dogs. While I appreciate the effort, I must take umbrage at the depictions. "Up" can only be described as canine minstrelsy, seeking to portray us as either villainous attackers, or comical dupes. I noticed, when reading the credits, that not a single dog was consulted in the making of the picture. We’ve come a long way, but we have much further to go.
I didn’t see any of the rest of the movies nominated for Best Picture, so I’ll give you a rundown of what some of the other blogs are saying.
"An Education" received low marks from an ocelot’s blog. The ocelot complained that the film did not portray enough fur that resembled that of a Clouded Leopard or Jaguar.
A marmoset’s blog panned "Up in the Air" for not addressing family groups of 3 to 15, consisting of one to two breeding females, an unrelated male, their offspring and occasionally extended family members and unrelated individuals.
Wilfrid Priest gave a "thumbs down" to "Precious" for not including any characters who were Honorary Fellows of Queen's College, University of Melbourne.
Flaxton Railway Station criticized "The Blind Side" for its utter lack of mentioning the York to Scarborough Line, but praised "District 9" for its fair treatment of the York and North Midland Railway.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to this year’s Best Picture Nominees. Until next time, see you at the movies!!!