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Tag: movie

New kids film “Show Dogs” draws fire from parents groups

In the somewhat bizarre world of dog shows, the one traditional practice that most strikes outsiders as weird comes at that point in judging when a judge cops a feel of a male dog’s testicles.

As part of what’s called conformation — or seeing how well a dog conforms to “standards” — the process is usually a quick check, aimed at making sure the dog is intact (not fixed) and that his testicles have properly descended.

But to dog show spectators, who traditionally include families and children, it’s hard to miss.

It is also hard to miss in the new film “Show Dogs,” a family-oriented movie that stars Ludacris as the voice of a talking police dog named Max who infiltrates a prestigious dog show to investigate a suspected animal smuggling ring.

One subplot of the movie involves Max becoming comfortable, as a dog show contestant, with strangers touching his genitals.

In the PG-rated film, Max must learn how to “get used to” the groping, and it’s that aspect that has some parenting groups fuming about the movie.

showdogsWhatever parents teach their children about “inappropriate touching” and sexually predatory behavior, they say, this movie seems to be sending an opposite message: Grin and bear it, accept it, it’s no big deal.

Valid a concern as that may be, it’s funny — to me at least — that the practice is so accepted and goes so unquestioned at dog shows, also aimed at being fun for the whole family, but is proving so irksome in a comedic family movie.

Does that piece of a dog show really have to be performed before an audience of adults and children? Couldn’t it be done backstage, or as part of a behind the scenes pre-show screening procedure?

You don’t hear those concerns voiced so much among the high society dog show crowd — just as you don’t hear too much discussion about why a similarly sized, fully descended pair of testicles is so important in the first place in such competitions.

It’s because the American Kennel Club and other dog show operators see the competitions as a way to select and crown dogs that are prime breeding stock — those healthy and perfect dog that comes closest, appearance wise, to standards. (Standards set, by the way, by the AKC and other groups.)

Standards? How about one that doesn’t require a dog to to through a public groping in front of thousands, or maybe one that doesn’t require him to go through it at all.

From the makers of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” the movie opened in theaters May 18. It tells the story of a human detective (Will Arnett) and his canine partner Max, a Rottweiler whose voice is provided by Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Together they go undercover at the world’s most exclusive dog show to solve a big case involving a stolen panda.

Since it opened, the movie has caught the attention of several parenting blogs, Entertainment Weekly reported.

“Max’s success is riding on whether or not he lets both his partner (for practice) and a stranger (the competition judge) touch his private parts. IN A KIDS MOVIE. WHAT??? Newsflash, folks: THIS IS CALLED GROOMING and it’s what sexual predators do to kids!” wrote Jenny Rapson in the blog “For Every Mom.”

In reality, those who show dogs do condition their dogs to get used to the groping to ensure they will behave properly during the judging practice.

“The movie ‘Show Dogs’ sends a troubling message that grooms children for sexual abuse,” said the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, previously known as Morality in Media. “It contains multiple scenes where a dog character must have its private parts inspected, in the course of which the dog is uncomfortable and wants to stop but is told to go to a ‘zen place.’ The dog is rewarded with advancing to the final round of the dog show after passing this barrier.

“Disturbingly, these are similar tactics child abusers use when grooming children — telling them to pretend they are somewhere else, and that they will get a reward for withstanding their discomfort. Children’s movies must be held to a higher standard, and must teach children bodily autonomy, the ability to say ‘no’ and safety, not confusing messages endorsing unwanted genital touching.”

The filmmakers responded to the concerns with this statement:

“It has come to our attention that there have been online discussion and concern about a particular scene in Show Dogs, a family comedy that is rated PG. The dog show judging in this film is depicted completely accurately as done at shows around the world; and was performed by professional and highly respected dog show judges.

“Global Road Entertainment and the filmmakers are saddened and apologize to any parent who feels the scene sends a message other than a comedic moment in the film, with no hidden or ulterior meaning, but respect their right to react to any piece of content.”

Yesterday, though, the studio announced it would be removing two of the most controversial scenes from the movie, according to CNN.

Guess us kids will have to wait for the next Westminster Dog Show to see the grabbing of the gonads.

“Show Dogs” is clearly not an exercise in reality, what with its talking dogs and all, but it did pretty accurately nail this particular aspect of dog shows.

So why is it people are so quick to jump on, edit and whitewash a portrayal of a reality and fashion it more to their liking — all while not giving a second thought as to whether the reality deserves some scrutiny and reconsideration, too?

Theater to offer dogs a screening of new Wes Anderson movie, Isle of Dogs

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco is having a bring-your-dog screening of Wes Anderson’s new movie, “Isle of Dogs.”

Why? Well for one reason, publicity just like this. For another, they think dog owners will be willing to buy their dogs a ticket, which will allow them to double sales.

The 4 p.m. (Pacific Time) screening will be March 19, Indie Wire reported Tuesday.

According to the theater, “This is a BYOD event! Dogs are invited and will be in attendance at this screening. Dogs and owners will each need to have a ticket to attend. You do not need to have/bring a dog to attend. Owners are responsible for their dog’s behavior. Overly aggressive or uncontrollable dogs will be asked to leave.”

The movie will open in select theaters March 23.

“Isle of Dogs” features the voices of Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Greta Gerwig, Tilda Swinton, F. Murray Abraham, Scarlett Johnasson, Yoko Ono, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Frances McDormand.

The stop action movie is set 20 years in the future in a Japanese city, where canine overpopulation and an outbreak of dog flu has led the local government to banish dogs to an island filled with trash.

A 12-year-old boy hijacks a plane and flies to the island in search of his dog, Spots, beginning a quest in which he is assisted by five other exiled dogs (all of whom speak, of course).

In “Isle of Dogs,” canines in a Japanese city are banished to an island of trash

Director Wes Anderson has been secretive about the plot of his new animated movie, “Isle of Dogs,” but judging from a trailer released last week it will be trademark Anderson — bleakly beautiful, deceptively sentimental, more than a little haunting, and unconventional, with a capital UN.

It is set, 20 years from now, in a Japanese city, where canine overpopulation and an outbreak of dog flu has led the local government to banish dogs to an island filled with trash.

A 12-year-old boy hijacks a plane and flies to the island in search of his dog, Spots, and so begins an epic quest (is there any other kind these days?) in which he is assisted by five other exiled dogs (all of whom speak, of course).

“We’ll find him,” one of the dogs reassure the boy. “Wherever he is. If he’s alive. We’ll find your dog.”

It remains to be seen how family friendly the film will be, and whether it, like many other Anderson films, will have dogs dying off as the plot unwinds.

The movie is Anderson’s first feature since 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Its cast of voice actors includes Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum, Frances McDormand, F. Murray Abraham, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Courtney B. Vance, Harvey Keitel, Scarlett Johansson and Yoko Ono.

The film is scheduled to hit theaters in March, 2018.

Happy ending? Pattinson retracts account of being urged to pleasure a dog in film

Actor Robert Pattinson now says the story he told on Jimmy Kimmel Live —
about being urged by a film crew to perform a sex act on a dog — didn’t actually happen.

Pattinson appeared on the show last week, and said that while filming the movie “Good Time,” the director urged him to stroke a dog’s penis. He told Kimmel he refused, and that a prosthetic penis was used for the scene.

PETA, maybe a little too soon, jumped on the story, criticizing the movie’s makers but supporting Pattinson for his courageous refusal to do what he was asked.

“PETA depends on actors and crew members to come forward when they see mistreatment, whether it involves a dog who is being forced into churning water on the set of ‘A Dog’s Purpose‘ or an A-list actor who is being asked to molest his canine co-star,” PETA Vice President Lisa Lange said in a statement.

She added, “Robert Pattinson is our kind of guy (and everyone’s who has a heart) for refusing to masturbate a dog — which is like child molestation — and for talking about it so that the public can see that once again animal trainers’ top priority is money and animals’ interests and well-being are often ignored.”

After the PETA statement, Pattinson cleared the record. He issued his own statement, saying the story he told Kimmel was “a joke.”

“The story I told on Jimmy Kimmel last night seems to have spiraled out of control,” he said in a statement to E Online. “What didn’t come across is that this was supposed to be a joke. No one at all expected or assumed that anything like that would happen on the Good Time set.”

No one, maybe, except PETA and millions of animal lovers.

GoodTime2017Pattison’s initial remarks on the show were in reference to a scene in which his character, he said, was “sleeping with the dog and basically giving the dog a hand job.”

“I asked the trainer [about it] because the director was like, ‘Just do it for real, man! Don’t be a pussy!’ And the dog’s owner was like, ‘Well, he’s a breeder. I mean, you can. You just gotta massage the inside of his thighs.’ I was like, ‘Just massage the inside of his thighs?!’ I didn’t agree to do the real one, so we made a fake red rocket.”

He prefaced his telling of the story with these words, “Oh, God! I don’t even know if I can say this. There are a lot of things in this movie which really cross the line of legality. Like, it’s not even on the line, it’s way beyond the line.”

That doesn’t sound too much like the set-up for a joke, but he insisted later that a joke — funny or not — is what it was.

Co-director Josh Safdie, in a statement on Instagram, denied that Pattinson was pressured to touch the dog inappropriately. He said the prosthetic device was used in filming. The scene, however, was deleted during editing.

“Everyone involved in Good Time are amazing professionals and have come together to make a movie that I’m extremely proud of,” Pattinson said. “I feel embarrassed that in the moment, I was trying to make Jimmy laugh, only to create confusion and a false impression.”

The independent film stars Pattinson as Constantine “Connie” Nikas who is trying to evade authorities and get his brother out of jail after a bank robbery goes wrong.

It premiered to rave reviews at Cannes in May and opens August 11.

AHA concludes no animals were harmed in the making of “A Dog’s Purpose”

dogspurp

As expected, the American Humane Association announced that an investigation into the treatment of a dog on the set of “A Dog’s Purpose” confirmed that — like their seal of approval says — no animals were harmed during the making of the movie.

The AHA said the investigation was conducted by a “respected animal cruelty expert,” who concluded that an edited video given to the website TMZ “mischaracterized” the events on the set.

“The decisions by the individual or individuals who captured and deliberately edited the footage, and then waited longer than 15 months to release the manipulated video only days before the movie’s premiere, raise serious questions about their motives and ethics,” the AHA said in a statement.

hercThe AHA (almost as an aside) did admit that Hercules, the German shepherd performing the stunt in question, showed signs of stress that should have been recognized earlier, and efforts to get the dog into the water should have been “gentler.”

Apparently it has no plans to further pursue that piece of the controversy — the one that initially led one actor and the executive producer to say the dog did not appear to have been handled correctly.

The video that aired on TMZ was actually two videos, shot on different days and spliced together in editing — the result of which was misleading, the AHA says, because it makes it appear the dog, after resisting going in the water and becoming stressed, was made to go back into the water.

“The first video scene was stopped after the dog showed signs of stress. The dog was not forced to swim in the water at any time,” the organization said.

While acknowledging attempts to get the dog in the water might have gone on too long, and been a little heavy handed, the investigation didn’t deem that “harmful” to the dog.

The dog resisted going into the pool after the location where he was to enter it had changed.

As for the second part of the video — showing the dog going under the churning water before someone on the set yells “cut it” — the AHA said:

“Handlers immediately assisted the dog out of the water, at which point he was placed in a warming tent and received an examination that found no signs of stress. Eyewitnesses report that the dog wanted to go back in the water. Still, out of an abundance of caution, American Humane stopped filming of any more scenes with the dog.”

The findings of the investigation come as no surprise, given AHA CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said last week, in a piece she wrote for Variety, that the video was “misleading” and “edited” and reflected no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

It seemed an unusual statement for the head of the watchdog group to be making, especially before the investigation was completed. While the video’s release was clearly timed to hurt the movie — or at least bring those who provided it to TMZ a maximum payoff — Ganzert’s piece was clearly timed to help the movie.

Ganzert’s piece focused more on the leaking of the video — 15 months after it was shot and in the week before the movie’s release — than on what it showed. She focused primarily on PETA, which called for a boycott of the film based on the video.

In its statement on the results of the investigation, AHA again spends at least as much time bashing PETA as it does on the handler’s questionable efforts to get the dog into the pool, as shown in the video, or whether the monitors they assigned to the film stopped those efforts soon enough.

“It is disappointing that the public was misled by a manufactured controversy promoted by a radical organization like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals with a mission to remove animals from films and other parts of our lives,” Dr. Kwane Stewart, the veterinarian who heads American Humane’s ‘No Animals Were Harmed’ program is quoted as saying in the statement.

“We are the first to address and fight cruelty and abuse, and no such things happened on the set of ‘A Dog Purpose,'” he added.

PETA didn’t leak the video, but it did call for a boycott of the movie after it aired on TMZ, which has not said how much they paid for it, or who provided it.

In a report on the investigation’s findings, TMZ said that the AHA statement “virtually ignores criticism from the movie’s Exec Producer that they were asleep at the wheel.”

Producer Gavin Polone, while bad-mouthing PETA as well, said shortly after the video’s release that its first scene clearly showed an over-stressed dog, and that the AHA monitor on set should have stopped the stunt immediately.

Actor Josh Gad, who supplies the voice of the dogs featured in the movie, also said the video was disturbing and the scene should have been stopped as soon as the dog showed resistance to getting in the water.

(Our earlier reports on “A Dog’s Purpose” can be found here.)

“Dog’s Purpose” has solid opening weekend

protest

“A Dog’s Purpose” opened over the weekend to protests, mixed reviews and box office receipts that, while impressive, were slightly less than those it expected before controversy arose over the treatment of one of its canine stars.

The film pulled in $18.4 million over the weekend — less than the estimated $24 million expected before a video was leaked showing a German shepherd resisting efforts to have him perform a stunt.

After the video appeared on TMZ, PETA called for a boycott of the movie.

Initially, many of those involved in making the movie — including its director and actor Josh Gad — said the video was disturbing.

Gad, who supplies the voice of the continually reincarnating dog in the movie, posted on Twitter that the footage left him “shaken and sad … As the proud owner of a rescued dog and a fervent supporter of organizations like PETA, I have reached out to the production team and studio to ask for an explanation for these disturbing images.”

The days leading up to the movie’s release saw a scheduled press preview canceled, Gad go silent, and a well choreographed defense of the movie that included appearances by its star, Dennis Quaid, who insisted no animals were harmed and that the video was misleading.

Even the American Humane Association, which monitors the treatment of animals in TV and movie productions — after suspending the monitor assigned to the film and before its investigation was finished — came out in support of the movie in a PETA-bashing letter published by its CEO.

The studio provided additional footage of the dog willingly performing the stunt during rehearsals to support their stance that he was not being mistreated. The movie’s makers also questioned why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was made — and the week before the movie’s opening — suggesting something nefarious was going on.

Dog lovers, generally a united bunch, found themselves on both sides of the issue — some saying the video showed the dog was pushed too far and supporting the boycott; others saying the leaked video lacked context, that the stunt was eventually called off for that day after the dog resisted, and that nothing cruel took place.

For many fans of the best selling book, there was a feeling that the movie’s sweet, dog-loving message didn’t deserve to be tarnished by a video they viewed as dubious.

Forty-five seconds of the video shows the German shepherd being urged to get into the pool, and dipped into it against his will. Another shorter piece of the video — believed to have been recorded on a different day — shows him struggling in the water and going under.

The water in the pool was being churned by outboard motors to create the effect of river rapids.

While the dog had willingly jumped into the pool during rehearsals, the location of where he was entering the pool was changed on the day of filming.

On opening night, there were small protests, including one outside the Arclight theater in Hollywood. Dozens of protesters held up signs that read, “A dog’s purpose is to be loved. Period” and they chanted “There’s no excuse for animal abuse! Dog’s aren’t props!”

PETA and others argued that the effects the movie makers were after could have been achieved with computer graphics, but the movie’s makers said that would have been too expensive.

Amblin Entertainment and Walden Media’s film was released by Universal Pictures, and its weekend receipts were nearly enough to cover the estimated cost of making it, about $22 million.

“A Dog’s Purpose” came in second to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split,” which tells the story of a man with dissociative identity disorder who takes three teens hostage.

Industry consultants say the leaked video and boycott had some impact on the film’s opening, but apparently a minimal one.

“A Dog’s Purpose is based on the novel by W. Bruce Cameron, which has spent longer on USA Today’s best-selling book list than any dog book since “Marley & Me.”

(Photo: Patrick T. Fallon / For The Los Angeles Times)

It’s all good, American Humane CEO says

Suddenly, it seems, that video of a dog being coerced into a pool during the filming of “A Dog’s Purpose” is not so “disturbing” at all.

When the video was first leaked, by TMZ, even the makers of the movie — all avoiding any responsibility for what might have happened — all said at least some aspects of it appeared disturbing.

But in the week leading up to the film’s release, the reassurances that nothing bad happened have poured out — from the author of the popular book of the same name, from the star of the movie, Dennis Quaid, from its producer, even from Ellen Degeneres.

And now even the CEO of the non-profit organization that is supposedly “investigating” the incident(s) seems to be saying — before the investigation is even concluded — that nothing inappropriate happened.

Dr. Robin Ganzert, CEO of the American Humane Association — the agency that monitors the safety of animals in movie productions — said in a piece written for Variety that the leaked video was “misleading” and “edited” and reflects no wrongdoing on anyone’s part.

“The beautiful story opens at the box office this weekend mired in controversy stemming from the release of an edited video manipulated in an effort to mischaracterize the behind-the-scenes treatment of the film’s four-legged stars,” she wrote.

The film’s official release date is today.

The viral video has provoked a call for a boycott of the movie by PETA, and some conflicting feelings even among dog lovers — both those who insist the German shepherd, named Hercules, is being mistreated, and those who say the edited video is not to be trusted.

The video shows the dog being nudged and coerced to get into a churning pool of water. He had performed the stunt gladly in rehearsals, but the location of where he was entering the pool had been changed on the day of filming.

He clearly resists getting in, and struggles to get out during the first 45 seconds of the video. Another piece of video was edited onto that, showing the dog, on a different day, swimming in the pool before going underwater, at which point someone yells “cut it” and the dog is helped out of the pool.

To restate our take on all this: That second snippet of video is too short, out of context and blurry to draw any conclusions from. The first 45 seconds, in our view, shows a dog being pushed more than a dog performing a stunt in a movie should be pushed. The stunt was called off that day, but not soon enough.

Is that a crime? No. Should it result in the movie being boycotted? We vote no, but that’s up to you. Should there be repercussions — say a warning, or a fine? Probably, but the agency that would impose that appears to have already made up its mind.

Should the makers of the movie, somewhere along the line, admit to an iota of responsibility for what was a small mistake on the set of the movie they were making? Should they make some amends, maybe offering a percentage of opening week receipts to dog-related charities (likely not PETA)?

Well, that would be classy — a whole lot classier than circling the wagons, denying responsibility, and launching a public relations effort to rescue, not a dog, but their movie.

Yesterday, Dennis Quaid defended the movie on The Today Show, and then did the same on Ellen.

Meanwhile, in her piece for Variety, Ganzert acknowledged that the dog “appeared to show signs of resistance” to getting in the water. The rest of the piece is a defense of the movie, a diatribe against PETA and more questioning of why the video was leaked a year and a half after it was taken.

But what about those 45 seconds?

“People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) swiftly called for a boycott of the film, and has since continued to exploit — and further sensationalize — the controversy as an opportunity to argue that the animal actors who enchant and educate audiences don’t belong on the Silver Screen,” Ganzert continued.

But what about those 45 seconds?

“A full spectrum of rigorous safety measures was in place to protect the dog throughout this particular scene,” she added. “In addition to one of American Humane’s Certified Animal Safety Representatives, five individuals –including scuba divers and animal handlers — were present on the set at the time to ensure the safety of the dog.”

But what about those 45 seconds?

Here is what I would like to hear from the AHA — were the methods used trying to get Hercules in the water during those 45 seconds acceptable to them? Was the level of stress the dog was allowed to reach acceptable? Should a dog be allowed to get stressed at all during the filming of a movie stunt?

AHA suspended the monitor it had assigned to the film pending the results of the “third-party” investigation it says has been launched.

But with the publication of his Variety article, it’s pretty clear what Ganzert and the AHA want that “ongoing” investigation to find.

Dog’s can’t talk. Dogs don’t have a union. If the American Humane Association has appointed itself as their guardian in Hollywood — and is soliciting our donations to carry out that mission — we’d like to think it is objective, vigilant and doesn’t give a hot damn about the profit margins of movie makers.

In that respect, Ganzert’s article, on the eve of the movie’s release, is not too reassuring.

As for the movie’s makers, we’d like to think that your production treated dogs in a manner as sweet as your movie’s message and that, if you didn’t, even in small way that has been blown out of proportion, you are at least a little bit sorry it.