Dogs. What are they? Where did they come from? How did they become our best friend? We may never know the answers. Why are there so many dog movies, and could they alleviate our concerns? Against our best instincts, we must make another dog movie.
The prelude was an impromptu tangent of presumably another tangent. This week, we came together with the intention to take a bite out of canine cinema. Cinema, by and large, relies on the artistic balance of visual and aural. Any regular schmuck can capture the moment their dog slips off the couch as brief sight gag. Constructing a full feature length film with a narrative requires a little more. Even the Three Stooges had to explain the context to us why they kept falling over for it to work.
Herzog dragged a boat over a mountain, I think we can throw just a few dogs into large pits.
Devon: Well, we can start very much in the way of good old Jerry Seinfeld¹, “What is the deal with dog movies?” Why are there just so many?
Alexander: I think the thing is, they’re such an easy template and dogs seem to have an innate character. It’s extremely easy to write how you’d imagine a pit-bull to behave if it was a person. Ironically, it would be very hard to write Pitbull² the singer.
Devon: I think that’s quite a strange concept we’re definitely going to tackle a lot here. We apply so much personality onto dogs, but then pretty much every movie dog is the same, no?
Alexander: Very true, once the dog stereotypes, I feel weird saying that, are in place, they don’t really change much. Lead will always be a lab of some kind, they’re very much the white male lead of the dog world. You’d never get a Labrador being a piece of shit villain.
Devon: Okay, you say that. I think we have to definitely put a pin in that note for our idea. God, we’re going to run into dog kind issues the moment we get an academy award for dogs. #OscarsSoLab
Alexander: Didn’t the dog from The Artist either get nominated for an Oscar or had a petition to get him nominated? He was a guest there, can’t remember if he wore a tux or if he freeballed the event.
[¹According to all known laws of athletics, there is no way a dog should be able to dunk.]
[²Having heard his music, I would assume most of it would resemble that Zion party scene in The Matrix Reloaded.]
Devon: As I wrote just then I did have the weird image of a dog accepting an Oscar.
Alexander: I think that must be it, was he a Jack Russell? Very popular movie/tv dog. Do you think dogs like him are more respected as actors because he didn’t ‘talk’? Are dogs in, say, Homeward Bound less respected because they ‘talk’?
Devon: I’m immediately going off topic, but I just want to share this movie is on Netflix.
Alexander: Holy shit. That monkey’s smile mocks me.
Devon: They hit you with that power play of dog movies and monkey movies. If this were the ’90’s¹, they’d be billionaires.
[¹If this were the 1990’s, Alexander and I would have probably been greenlit last week.]
Alexander: I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dog and a monkey together, it’s a very bold move. My gut tells me that dogs and monkeys would not be friendly.
Devon: In a wrestling scenario too. It does look like a movie we’d make.
Alexander: It opens up the whole question of how much dogs can participate in wrestling. Surely, they’d have to just sit back and take it rather than dish out the moves.
Devon: If we’re going by Air Bud logic, literally anything that doesn’t specifically state dogs can’t compete. I share your thoughts about dog dialogue, by the way, in the sense that it only highlights how most dogs are written in the same general way. Even with the gift of language, wouldn’t it be great if we got a dog that could talk to humans, but only in, say, Cantonese so none of the English leads have any idea what it’s saying.²
[²Even past the ’90’s, I have to jadedly assume we can’t afford both a talking dog and a non perfect Aryan nuclear family cast.]
Alexander: I like that concept, what rule is there, that if a dog could talk, that it would be in English?
Devon: Exactly, you really can’t get mad at a dog for not being bilingual³, it’s pretty impressive already.
[³As it turns out, this is not an industry term for being able to direct Bai Ling.]
Alexander: Most talking dog films have a ‘funny’ accented dog, like a French poodle or a Mexican chihuahua. Which is always pretty awful and offensive, but they don’t actually speak their native language.
Devon: Though, that the fact they have accents suggests they’ve learnt English after their mother tongue. The socio-science behind all that is, uh, complicated.
Alexander: Isn’t that wild? These dogs had to take classes to learn English so they’d possibly have a better chance in life. Were they forced to assimilate?
Devon: There’s some real parallel opportunities here. We can have our dog equivalent of Crash. I honestly do not want to dwell too hard on whether racists would apply their racism to animals if they had defined foreign accents.¹
[¹The great contemporary satirists we are, here’s a #BuildTheFence punchline.]
Alexander: I really hope you mean the 2004 Crash and not Cronenberg’s Crash², because I don’t think I can handle a bunch of dogs erotically stimulated by car accidents.
[²To distinguish the two, remember the rhetoric, one beat Brokeback, the other beats off to broke backs.]
Devon: The cinematography of two dogs going at it beside a flaming car wreckage in slow motion is very Lars Von Trier.
Alexander: Oh, he’s used talking animals before! The fox in Anti-Christ had some shit to say. He definitely wandered straight out of an Air Buds movie.
Devon: But, if we’re talking artistry here, do we go dubbing… or subtitles?
Alexander: Subtitles for sure. It classes everything up a bit and it’ll make audiences feel like they worked more.
Devon: Animals dubbed in foreign languages and then subtitled. Beautiful.
Alexander: I think that makes sense, we want authenticity. We are auteurs after all, we want to challenge people with this dog movie.
Alexander: Didn’t Anchorman go the route of dog subtitles? It’s interesting there are so many films that hint that barking is in itself a complex language.
Devon: It very much goes the same for baby’s cooing being a language we just don’t understand.
Alexander: That’s a big subject too. I think we’re meant to assume that the intonation of a bark or cooing is suppose to change the meaning. There are such things as angry barks, happy barks, inquisitive barks, horny barks, etc.
Devon: That’s how Lassie worked right, her language was only several words, some of the most common being “well” and “trapped”.³
[³One would think in retrospect a more preventative Lassie would communicate to the children, “hey, you realise the cyclical irony of the only dead body down will be yours trying to see one, woof woof..”]
Alexander: Oh right! Maybe barking is a more complex language than we can understand, like the backwards speak in Twin Peaks. “That bone you chew is coming back in style”.
Devon: Lassie in the Black Lodge makes perfect sense.
Alexander: The original Dog From Another Place.
Devon: *dog runs into screen door* “How’s Lassie!?”
Alexander: “I have to clean my leash”, repeated in an uneasy monotone voice. Almost too haunting.
Devon: We can definitely implement the Black Kennel into some idea. If we’re talking dog personalities today, that gives us a good chance at exploring some dichotomies.¹
[¹A bad example of dichotomy is Alex and I, who could honestly both add dogs to Twin Peaks reference for hours on end.]
Alexander: Speaking of personalities and types, I feel that dog protagonists are almost always young or young sounding. You don’t usually get a dog-tagonist with the voice of, say, David Carradine.²
[²If your dog is voiced by Carradine, be sure to keep the leash far away from the closet.]
Devon: We need our own dog Logan. We can do a contemporary take on Lassie; she’s given up on saving little kids that fell in the well.
Alexander: We could put a modern spin on Lassie where she’s career focused and doesn’t want to save kids, and nobody gives her due respect.
Devon: Except this time she gets put in a giant well herself, and it’s the pit from Dark Knight Rises.
Alexander: A dog climbing up the walls of a well is something that might have to be CGI’d, unless we can get a particularly athletic and strong dog. The Braun Strowman of dogs.
Devon: CGI and dogs is maybe another topic we need to get into. I’m quite an advocate for the Nolan approach of practical effects and stunts.
Alexander: For sure, that’s a whole other ball of wax.
Devon: We can leave that to legal. Look, we’re auteurs. Herzog dragged a boat over a mountain.³ I think we can throw just a few dogs into large pits.
[³Herzog was also shot by a BB gun while doing an interview, we should invest in bulletproof vests before putting any dogs near pits.]
Alexander: Yeah, I mean, why not! Herzog also had to deal with a Kinski with a gun, I doubt any dogs we’d encounter would have any guns. The worst they’d have is maybe just a tiny little knife.
Devon: We are considering a dog war movie.
Alexander: Those will be mostly prop guns. Any dogs caught with guns brought from home will be arrested. Unless it’s a particularly cool dog/gun.
Devon: I feel that goes for most movies.
Alexander: Definitely. Can you imagine if Tom Hanks rocked up to Private Ryan with a glock he just happened to have in his gym bag? “What do you mean I can’t use this? I’m The Burbs’ Tom Hanks”.
Devon: “I brought this to the Carly Rae Jepsen music video shoot, she didn’t complain, Steve!”
Alexander: “Tom, who the hell is Carly Rae Jepsen?” *Tom, covering his time machine with a blanket* “Nobody”.
Devon: Right, so to wrap this discussion up then. Bringing it back to a point, I’m not sure if we tackled, why are there so many dog movies? We may have answered the question by just how applicable they are.
Alexander: I think it’s A) There’s an easy template to follow. B) Dogs have the biggest fandom, which is everyone except for weird people. C) You don’t have to hire actors who are expensive and divas. Or D) Hollywood is ruled by several very powerful and influential dogs.
Devon: I think D speaks for itself.
Alexander: It’s the big secret that nobody is talking about.
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