Hollywood do-godders often wring their hands over the persistence of racism or sexism. Now there’s a new scourge: breedism. According to Martin Scorsese, that’s what’s at work in this year’s Best Movie Dog awards race, given the favoritism shown at the upcoming first annual Golden Collar prizes to “The Artist” star Uggie. Specifically, the director is miffed that, while the fuzzy Jack Russell terrier is nominated for work in two films (both “The Artist” and “Water for Elephants”), Blackie the Doberman Pinscher from Scorsese’s own “Hugo” was shut out of the nominations.
In an editorial in the Los Angeles Times, Scorsese argues that moviegoers (and animal lovers) have an unjustified prejudice favoring Jack Russells over Dobermans. The former are cute and adorable, the latter hulking and fearsome. Hence the awards love for Uggie, whose performance as a resourceful and heroic pet in “The Artist” has made the four-legged star a red-carpet fixture this season, while Blackie’s unsympathetic performance as guard dog Maximilian, who helps train station security guard Sacha Baron Cohen hunt down truant orphans in “Hugo” goes unheralded.
For one thing, Scorsese suggests, Blackie deserves credit for playing a character of the opposite sex. On the set, he recalls, her acting prowess earned her the nickname “Citizen Canine.” He also touts her bravery (if that’s the right word for a performer who doesn’t have any real say in how she’s cast) in playing a character so unlikable. Ever the film historian, Scorsese notes, “We all have fond memories of Rin Tin Tin and Lassie, the big stars, the heroes, but what about the antiheroes? We have learned to accept the human antihero, but when it comes to dogs, I guess we still have a long way to go.”
Scorsese calls upon the readers of Dog News Daily, which is presenting the Golden Collars, to start a write-in campaign for Blackie. To their credit, the editor of Dog News Daily is encouraging the effort to throw Blackie a bone. According to the Hollywood Reporter, editor Alan Siskind promises that, if Blackie earns 500 write-in votes on Dog News Daily’s Facebook page before February 6, the nominating committee will submit a formal request to the judges that Blackie be added to the ballot. (Besides Uggie, the ballot includes fellow Jack Russell terrier Cosmo, the talking dog from “Beginners,” as well as Denver the Greyhound, who plays Skeletor in “50/50,” and Hummer the Pomeranian, who plays Dolce in “Young Adult.”) The award winner will be announced on February 13.
Of course, Scorsese may be guilty of a little breedism of his own. There’s no mention in his article of Saatchi, the long-haired Dachshund in “Hugo” who plays Cupid to Madame Emilie and Monsieur Frick. Sure, Blackie is impressive, but what’s Saatchi? Chopped liver snaps? In any case, with the announcement last week of Uggie’s imminent retirement, the “Artist” star is likely to win on sympathy points alone.
Still, props to Scorsese for his unorthodox Oscar campaigning stunt. It may not shift the Best Picture momentum away from “The Artist” and toward “Hugo” (Uggie and his pals still seem to have the inside track), but at least the director is making sure that every dog has his (or her) day.