The Artists best friend is his dog

The Artists best friend is his dog

From The Artist to Hugo, 2011 was a year with an uncharacteristically high number of films featuring dogs, prompting some industry commentators to joke that there should be an award for the best canine performance. Well, the Dog News Daily marketing firm has obliged with what it has described, perhaps optimistically, as the “1st Annual Golden Collar Awards.”

‘Optimistic’ not to belittle the concept, but because an industry not set up specifically for man’s proverbial best friend won’t necessarily be able to sustain such an event. As it is, even in its inaugural year, the dog of the moment, Jack Russell Uggie, found himself nominated against himself, having featured in two films – The Artist and Water for Elephants. 

In the event, the Uggie vote wasn’t split and his crowd-pleasing turn in the film that’s leading the momentum during the human film awards season saw him beat off competition for the best performance by a dog in a theatrical release. Ewan McGregor’s talking dog from Beginners, Charlize Theron’s purse-sized pooch in Young Adult and 50/50‘s Skeletor failed to snatch the Golden Collar from the inevitable grasp of the Artist’s dog. Even a late intervention from the director Martin Scorsese, to ensure that Hugo’s doberman Blackie appeared on the ballot, wasn’t enough to secure the sparkling Golden Collar.

Whether this ceremony can be seen as any kind of an indicator of Oscar success is moot, but the event itself was entertaining enough – and mercifully short for an awards ceremony – something from which the organisers of its human counterparts could learn, although it’s likely that you can’t teach those old dogs new tricks.

While it was undeniably unconventional for the audience at an awards ceremony to be teaming with dogs, other elements of such an event were recognisable in the Los Angeles Room at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel; a red-carpet arrivals featuring nominees dressed up to the nines (Uggie wore a bow-tie and collar), presenters not being given the envelope containing the winners names, winners processing to the stage with their owners to a chorus or applause (and barking), acceptance speeches (mostly from the owners) and goody bags – or more acurately doggy bags full of dog food – on the way out. There was even a video-taped acceptance from one winner who couldn’t be there in person – or in dog; the Australian winner of the Best Dog in a Foreign Film prize, Red Dog‘s Koko, barked his thanks, with subtitles for those in the audience who don’t speak – well – Australian.

A team of more than a dozen judges, most of them Hollywood entertainment journalists, also considered the performances of dogs in other categories, including reality TV (Giggy from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills tied with Hercules from Pitt Boss), regular television (Modern Family’s Stella, played by Brigitte) and straight-to-DVD films (Rody as the young Marley in Marley & Me:The Puppy Years). The awards were presented by some of the dog-loving co-stars of the canine thespians, such as The Artist’s James Cromwell and Missi Pyle and Hot In Cleveland’s Wendie Malick.

Dog News Daily also gave two awards to humans: director Robert Vince received the Legend Award for making fifteen films starring dogs and Charlize Theron was given a Humanitarian Award.

No-one is going to pretend – not even the organisers – that the Golden Collars will hold any sway or influence in any industry other than, perhaps, the pet industry – although even there, the ceremony took place as the world’s most acclaimed dogs were battling it out at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York. But there’s no doubting that for anyone who goes “aaaah” (that’s the cute rather than pained pronunciation) at the sight of a pooch – and for the studio PR executives keen for whatever publicity they can get for their productions while the Oscar voting is still open – it’s a welcome addition to the film awards calendar.

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