Dogs are pivotal characters on the big screen, alighting it with not only their furry antics but also dabbling with more demanding genres like drama. Alas, they don’t really get the recognition they deserve for their acting prowess.
Legend has it that during the very first Academy Awards, a GSD named Rin Tin Tin, gained the most votes for the Best Actor only to be ignored. The world rallied behind Leonardo DiCaprio till he got his Oscar but what about the other notable contenders – the canine kind, long snubbed by the Academy?
Palm Dog Award
Palm Dog Award, a yearly alternative award presented by the international film critics at the Cannes Film festival, honors the best performance by a four-legged star. These awards have rapidly grown in stature, due to the illustrious ensemble of a jury made up of some of the world’s leading movie critics.
The Palm dog award is now one of the most recognised and lauded fixtures at the Cannes Film Festival. The awards are covered by The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Le Monde, The Sydney Morning Herald and not to forget, Dog with Blog 🙂
The award has a phenomenal track record of predicting Cannes’ best film winners. Uggie was named top dog for his star turn in The Artist in 2011. That film went on to win the Palme d’Or and the Oscar. In 2014, the entire canine cast of White God was celebrated, and that film went on to win the top prize in the Un Certain Regard.
Recipients of the Palm Dog awards:
- Otis from The Anniversary Party (2001)
- Tähti (‘Star’ in Finnish) in The Man Without a Past (2002)
- Moses in Dogville (2003)
- All dogs in the film Mondovino (2004), the documentary which investigates the effect of globalisation on wine culture.
In Sofia Coppola’s visually stunning film Marie Antoinette (2006), Mops the pug steals the show as a beloved pet of the titular character. With his comically squished face and expressive eyes, Mops adds a layer of charm to the extravagant and opulent world of the French court. He’s a constant presence by Marie Antoinette’s side, serving as a loyal companion during the tumultuous and politically charged period in which the film is set. Mops’ memorable scenes, including a hilarious moment where he wears a tiny powdered wig, provide a lightness and levity to the film’s heavy themes. As a standout character in the film, Mops’ performance is a true testament to the power of canine actors in cinema.
In 2007 for the first time, the Palm Dog was awarded in a tie: All the stray dogs in Mid Road Gang and Yuki in Persepolis
In the animated film “Persepolis”, Yuki the dog is a beloved companion to Marjane, the film’s young protagonist. Yuki is a scruffy, loyal terrier who provides much-needed comfort and companionship to Marjane as she navigates the complexities of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Director Marjane Satrapi expertly captures the bond between Marjane and Yuki, using the dog’s expressive face and playful antics to convey the emotions that Marjane is feeling.
Lucy in Wendy and Lucy (2008) took us through a penniless girl’s journey to Alaska accompanied by her dog…
In “Wendy and Lucy,” director Kelly Reichardt tells a poignant and affecting story of a woman and her dog struggling to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world. Wendy, played brilliantly by Michelle Williams, is a young drifter traveling through Oregon with her loyal dog Lucy.
Dug in Up (2009) helps the grieving old man to expect love all over again.
In Pixar’s “Up,” Dug the dog is a scene-stealing comedic presence who quickly became a fan favorite. Dug is a lovable golden retriever who, through a series of hilarious mishaps, ends up accompanying the film’s main characters on their adventure to South America. Voiced by co-director Bob Peterson, Dug is a constant source of laughs, with his goofy facial expressions and endearing personality.
But beyond his comedic chops, Dug is also a deeply empathetic character who brings an important emotional weight to the film. His unwavering loyalty and desire for human approval make him a relatable and touching addition to the story.
Uggie in The Artist (2011) not only won the Palm Dog at Cannes but also had a legion of fans rooting for him to be nominated for an Oscar.
In “The Artist,” Uggie the dog steals the show with his charming and charismatic performance. As the loyal companion to silent film star George Valentin, Uggie provides much of the film’s comic relief and emotional resonance. Whether he’s performing clever tricks or providing a comforting presence in times of crisis, Uggie’s impeccable timing and expressive face make him a scene-stealer in every scene he’s in.
The chemistry between Uggie and his human co-stars is palpable, adding an extra layer of depth to the film’s exploration of the ups and downs of fame and fortune in Hollywood. With his loveable personality and boundless energy, Uggie is a true star in his own right, and a testament to the enduring power of the human-canine bond.
Smurf, the dog, won the Palm dog award for “Sightseers” (2012), a dark comedy directed by Ben Wheatley. The film follows the story of a couple as they embark on a caravan holiday across the British countryside. As they travel, they visit various tourist attractions, but their trip takes a deadly turn as they begin to murder anyone who offends them or stands in their way.
Baby Boy, the sight-impaired poodle in Behind the Candelabra (2013) took home the top prize at Cannes Film Festival 2013.
Behind the Candelabra is a mesmerizing and heartbreaking film that explores the life and loves of legendary pianist Liberace. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the movie follows the tumultuous relationship between Liberace and his young lover, Scott Thorson, played with raw vulnerability by Matt Damon. The viewers were captivated by the endearing qualities of the dog whose declining health serves as a unifying force between the lovers.
The canine cast of White God (2014) won the award for the deeply moving film that explores the complex relationship between humans and animals. Directed by Kornél Mundruczó, the movie follows the journey of a young girl named Lili and her beloved dog, Hagen. When Lili’s father abandons Hagen on the streets of Budapest, the dog is forced to fend for himself and becomes a pawn in a brutal dogfighting ring. What follows is a gripping tale of survival and redemption, as Hagen leads a pack of other abandoned dogs on a quest for revenge against their human oppressors.
Nellie in Paterson (2016)
In Jim Jarmusch’s gentle and poetic film, Paterson, a mischievous yet loyal character manages to steal the show with her disappointing looks and endearing personality. I’m talking, of course, about Marvin the bulldog, brilliantly portrayed by Nellie.
As Adam Driver’s character, Paterson, navigates his daily routine in the charming town of Paterson, New Jersey, Marvin serves as a constant companion and source of amusement. Their interactions are at times hilarious and heartwarming, showcasing the special bond that exists between humans and their furry companions.
Marvin’s performance in Paterson earned her the first posthumous Palm Dog Award in 2016, and it was a trophy very well deserved. The bulldog was best thought of as the child of the central family in the film, with Driver’s Paterson and his artistic girlfriend played by Golshifteh Farahani serving as the loving parents.
Despite Marvin’s disappointing looks, she managed to capture the hearts of viewers with her endearing personality and a dynamic portrayal of a beloved pet. Marvin’s wary relationship with Paterson was always bound to bring a smile to a viewer’s face, and her comedic timing and impeccable acting skills are a true testament to the talent and versatility of canine actors.
Einstein as Bruno in The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)
Bruno, the lovable poodle in “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)”, is a scene-stealing delight. As a faithful companion to the film’s protagonist, Danny Meyerowitz (played by Adam Sandler), Bruno serves as an emotional support system for his owner and a source of comic relief for audiences. With his charming personality and expressive eyes, Bruno adds a layer of heartwarming sincerity to the film. Director Noah Baumbach has a talent for incorporating four-legged characters into his stories, and Bruno is no exception. His presence on screen is a true testament to the power of the human-animal bond and the importance of canine companionship.
- Joy, the Chihuahua in the Italian film Dogman (2018) was awarded the Palm Dog award.
Sayuri as Brandy won the Palm dog award in 2019 for Once upon a time…in Hollywood
Sayuri is the beloved pet dog of the character Rick Dalton in the film “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”. She is a friendly and well-trained pit bull who is often seen accompanying Rick on his daily errands. Sayuri is a loyal companion to Rick and serves as a source of comfort during the difficult times he experiences throughout the film. Her presence also adds to the overall charm and authenticity of the 1960s Hollywood setting.
In 2020, there were no festivities due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Sophie is the canine co-star in the film “Red Rocket” directed by Sean Baker. She plays the loyal companion to the main character, Mikey, who is a former adult film star. Sophie is a sweet and playful pit bull who often accompanies Mikey on his adventures throughout the small town of Texas City. The bond between Mikey and Sophie is heartwarming and provides a sense of comfort and stability for both of them as they navigate their tumultuous lives. Sophie’s expressive eyes and charming demeanour make her a beloved character in the film, and her presence adds to the film’s overall themes of redemption and companionship.
In Riley Keough’s directorial debut “War Pony”, the four-legged star Britney, also known as Beast, takes on the role of a loyal Australian Cattle Dog. This talented pooch has been awarded the prestigious gilded collar prize, crowning her as top dog of 2022. Despite being unable to attend the ceremony, two elaborately-coiffed poodles took the stage to accept the award on behalf of Britney. With her captivating performance in “War Pony”, Britney has solidified her place in the hearts of audiences and as a standout canine performer in the film industry.
In a stirring display of valor and service, Patron the Jack Russell terrier from Ukraine was been awarded the illustrious Palm Dog Award at the International Cannes Film Festival. A true hero, Patron has selflessly risked his life to detect over 200 explosives scattered by the Russians during the ongoing conflict in the war-torn region. The significance of his name, meaning “cartridge” in Ukrainian, has taken on a new resonance, becoming a symbol of patriotism and hope for many. His bravery has garnered worldwide attention, with countless works of art, toys, and other tributes dedicated to this exceptional canine. Patron is a true inspiration, a testament to the unbreakable bond between humans and their furry companions.
Complement this with more doggo movies – and some from Bollywood.
After all, they’re the best in the show!