I love dogs. Growing up an only child in the Midwest, my dog (I use the word "my" loosely, since, as a third-grader, I was not the one who paid for her food or for her spay) was the closest thing I had to a sibling. That's why my current emotional state is so perplexing. In addition to being a dog lover, I am one of the ever-dwindling number of people on the Internet who don't just expect "The Artist" to win Best Picture but want it to happen, too. But good lord, I am so sick and tired of that stupid dog from "The Artist."
The dog's name is Uggie. I really shouldn't know this piece of information, and yet I didn't even have to look it up. And I'm sure that Uggie is a fine dog -- man's best friend, even -- but for reasons that I will explain, I hate this dog.
Last week I was at the Sundance Film Festival. One morning, I was working on only four hours' sleep when I received a mass email about "The Artist." Two minutes later, someone sent a follow-up email that read, "It's worth seeing 'The Artist' just for Uggie alone." From Sundance, I immediately tweeted, "I love 'The Artist.' One of my favorite movies of the year. But I'm so sick of hearing about that fucking dog." (Of course, the person who sent that email later asked if I'd written that Tweet in response to him. Note to self: add "Don't Tweet about nice people when sleep-deprived" to the list that already includes "Don't Tweet about ex-girlfriends after more than two cocktails.") This is precisely why I have learned to loathe the dog from "The Artist." At this point, I've stopped caring if you like or dislike the film, but at least don't make the decision based on a dog.
Speaking of disliking "The Artist," there has been a sustained backlash against the film for reasons that are valid and for reasons that are not valid. The problem for me: as a supporter of "The Artist," it's becoming more and more difficult to have an intelligent discussion about its merits because "The Artist" has morphed from "the black and white, silent film from France" to "the movie with the cute dog." Now, when I defend "The Artist" as a worthy Best Picture winner -- and it is worthy -- I feel like I'm defending "Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch." In other words: Uggie has given the detractors of "The Artist" fuel.
This all started with Movieline's "Consider Uggie" Facebook campaign. I feel partially responsible for this campaign because when Movieline editor S.T. VanAirsdale mentioned the idea to me over drinks one night on the Upper East Side of Manhattan -- we were sitting at a dog-themed bar called Fetch, of course -- I did nothing to stop him. In fact, I might have even said something like, "That's a really good idea, Stu." At one point, I may have even been a staunch supporter of this campaign. Back before the campaign started overshadowing "The Artist." Back before "The Artist" became "the movie with the fun dog."
Poor Jean Dujardin. Yes, I know that it may seem odd to write the word "poor" before the name of a person who is the favorite to win an Academy Award. But Dujardin absolutely carries this film, yet most Americans have not bothered to even learn his name. Yet, everyone seems to know Uggie's name. Jean Dujardin, who possesses human emotions, surely realizes that his quite remarkable Oscar run is being overshadowed by a dog. Uggie, meanwhile, has no idea he was even in a movie. Right now, Uggie is not thinking, I appreciate all of the accolades and I'm happy my work is being recognized. Right now, Uggie is thinking, I'm hungry. After I eat, I will then poop.
Now comes the news that Uggie will be performing with Billy Crystal during the Academy Awards ceremony. For me, this is the final straw. This is when "annoyance" skipped on down the road to the town of "Enough, already." I mean, of course Uggie will be performing with Billy Crystal. Was there any doubt that Uggie would be performing with Billy Crystal? Do you want to know who would not perform with Uggie? Eddie Murphy would not have performed with Uggie. Sure, Eddie may have worn some sort of fat suit made out of flatulence, but Eddie is not about to be upstaged by a dog.
I just wish that the team behind "The Artist" could say the same thing.
Mike Ryan is the senior writer for Moviefone. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com, GQ.com, New York Magazine and Movieline. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter