Tall tails and lead roles.
Dogs, universally acclaimed as the world’s greatest animal (Certainly in our house anyway), do seem to feature in some great films. Some pretty dreadful ones too, Marley and Me saw a confused golden haired mammal with a shaggy mane floundering around hopelessly, but enough about Owen Wilson, onto the good stuff.
You can take your pick from Bolt, Lassie, Benji and even Digby, but cinephiles can enjoy films of a greater pedigree. One recent film to ‘winalot’ of attention was 2014’s White God, where a Hungarian city’s stray population rise up in rebellion, featuring some astonishing footage of real dogs, it’s a hard watch at times, but well worth it. Sometimes dogs end up stealing the show from the human cast, remember Jack Russell Uggie in The Artist? His master’s fortunes rise and fall but Uggie’s loyalty is never in doubt. Uggie got to attend the film’s premier and won the Palm Dog Award in 2011, that’s a real award by the way, given to the best canine performance in a film, presumably in a lead role. A dog plays a very unusual part in one of the film society’s future films, anyone watching the charming Dean Spanley will be very surprised at the twist in the tail.
The film that I think best captures the unifying effect that a dog can have is 2011’s Red Dog. The story of a stray dog adopted by a group of Australian miners, and the effect it has on their lives and relationships. You can pick it up cheaply and it will bring joy to the hardest heart. Finally, without wishing to repeat my friend and fellow columnist Tom Brookes’ recent musings, if you’re looking for the perfect canine illustration of dogged devotion, loyalty and companionship in cinema, there’s only one winner, and his name is Gromit.
By Michael Hudson
From our weekly column in the Oswestry Advertizer, published on 29th May 2018.