WBEZ | war horse http://www.wbez.org/tags/war-horse Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Academy Awards snub the animal kingdom http://www.wbez.org/blog/alison-cuddy/2012-02-23/academy-awards-snub-animal-kingdom-96608 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-21/uggie.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" height="470" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-21/uggie.jpg" title="Uggie, star of 'The Artist.' (AP/Joel Ryan)" width="600"></p><div class="inset"><div class="insetContent"><p><span style="font-size:10px;">Listen to Alison Cuddy on <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em></span></p><p><span class="filefield_audio_insert_player" href="/sites/default/files/120224 animals and oscars.mp3" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-126371" player="null">120224 animals and oscars.mp3</span></p></div></div><p>This year’s nominees for the top Oscar slots (picture, director, actor, actress) generated the usual responses, from elation to disappointment to prolonged bouts of head scratching. I don’t know whether they’re a better or worse batch than previous years' contenders, but the Academy must be feeling a bit itchy about its picks - in recent years <a href="http://www.movieline.com/2011/06/15/academy-awards-tweak-best-picture-rules-will-nominate-between-5-and-10-films/">rules have been tweaked</a> so that <em>in theory </em>more – and perhaps more deserving – films make it into contention.</p><p>As far as deserving Oscar performances go, what hasn’t changed is the ineligibility (<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wendy-diamond/animals-and-the-academy-a_b_481290.html">technically</a>) of non-human actors. Now, that oversight normally doesn’t generate a whole lot of controversy. But in a year when star turns by dogs, cats and other creatures are both ubiquitous and in some cases outshine their two-footed competitors, well, that’s a horse of a different color.</p><p>Animals in films that are actually nominated include Uggie, who plays "The Dog" in <em>The Artist</em>, Cosmo aka "Arthur" in <em>Beginners</em>, Blackie, the fierce doberman "Maximilian" in <em>Hugo</em>, and Finder, who plays "Joey" in <em>War Horse. </em>All won awards at the recent <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/and-the-pawscar-goes-to-139040659.html">PAWSCARS</a> (Cosmo snagged the award for best speaking part because his barks were subtitled. Surely Uggie deserved those as well – the rest of his silent co-stars got them!).</p><p>Best ensemble cast went to a non-nominated film – <em>We Bought a Zoo</em>. I would have recommended <a href="http://oscar.go.com/nominees/foreign-language-film/belgium-bullhead"><em>Bullhead</em></a>, one of this year's foreign film nominees. A herd of photogenic Belgian cattle alongside a duplicitous veterinarian and mobsters dealing in banned bovine hormones? That’s got Oscar written all over it!</p><p>The most glaring oversight might be Andy Serkis' performance in <em>Planet of the Apes </em>(a tour de force that also troubles the human-animal hierarchical bent of the Academy). Another performance to ponder, if not necessarily award, is the talking cat Paw Paw in Miranda July’s <em>The Future </em>(who really ought to connect with another crowd-dividing animal performer - the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L2ooG_MX9E">apocalyptic fox</a> in Lars Von Trier’s <em>Antichrist</em>). Hummer, the Pomeranian who played "Dolce" in <em>Young Adults</em> deserves special mention as a <a href="http://www.sheknows.com/entertainment/articles/849787/charlize-theron-reveals-her-craziest-costar-ever">non-professional animal actor.</a></p><p>Meanwhile Kelly Reichardt’s <em>Meek’s Cutoff </em>features a tragic canary and a bestiary of oxen, horses and burros, but not her <a href="http://this.org/magazine/2009/06/24/kelly-reichardt-wendy-lucy-michelle-williams/">soulful dog, Lucy</a>, who co-starred in her previous film <em>Wendy and Lucy</em> and completely stole <em>Old Joy</em> out from under solemn, Walt Whitman look-alike Will Oldham.</p><p>I admit, I’ve got a bit of a thing for animal performances. Where would westerns be (which never get a lot of Oscar love) without horses? Particularly charming is <a href="http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/american-actor-randolph-scott-with-his-palomino-horse-news-photo/71060381">Stardust</a>, the frequent co-star of Randolph Scott.</p><p>But I can trace my fixation far earlier, to the 1919 Canadian film, <a href="http://www.canuxploitation.com/review/backtogods.html"><em>Back to God’s Country</em></a>. Starring the multi-talented (and real-life animal lover) <a href="http://www.svpproductions.com/nellshipman2.html">Nell Shipman</a>, the Northern epic features scenes with adorable bear cub Cubby, as well as a very prickly porcupine. The film has some interesting gender politics –it is heroine Nell who races her sled across the frozen North to save her man.</p><p>I’ve also always wondered about the film’s sexual politics. Thanks to some frenzied cross-cutting at the film’s climax, the true-love relationship seems to involve Nell and Wapi the wonder dog, an abused Great Dane she picks up along the way.</p><p>But I digress - let’s get back to Oscars country! Rumor had it that the semi-retired Jack Russell, Uggie, would make an <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17038472">appearance at the awards</a>. Sad to say that’s not the case. What do you want to bet that Billy Crystal, a man who’s done his share of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/City-Slickers-VHS-Billy-Crystal/dp/0792837258">acting opposite animals</a>, thought he might be upstaged?</p><p>Nominate your favorite animal performance (from this or previous years) below!</p></p> Thu, 23 Feb 2012 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/alison-cuddy/2012-02-23/academy-awards-snub-animal-kingdom-96608