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Tag: movies

Uggie, star of “The Artist,” dies at 13

uggieUggie, the dog who captured hearts in his starring role in the 2011 Oscar-winning film “The Artist,” has died at 13.

The Jack Russell terrier was put down Aug. 7 in Los Angeles after battling prostate cancer.

Uggie, who also appeared in “Water for Elephants,” was best known for his role in “The Artist,” which won five Academy Awards in 2012.

According to his IMDb biography, Uggie was saved from being sent to the pound by animal trainer Omar Von Muller.

Uggie received a Palm Dog award at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival for “The Artist,” and his performance in that movie led to a campaign (unsuccessful) to establish an Oscar category for pets. Uggie was the first dog to leave his paw prints in cement outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

The Jack Russell terrier was a California native, and in his youth he was apparently a handful. His owners were on the verge of surrendering him due to his troublesome behavior when Von Mueller — seeing some raw talent in the pooch — took him in.

“One of the most important thing is that he was not afraid of things,” Von Mueller said in a 2012 interview. “That is what makes or breaks a dog in the movies, whether they are afraid of lights, and noises and being on sets. He gets rewards, like sausages, to encourage him to perform, but that is only a part of it. He works hard.”

Uggie first appeared in TV commercials. His big break came when he was cast in “Water for Elephants” in 2011.

After “The Artist,” Uggie appeared on numerous talk shows, was hired as a Nintendo spokesdog and appeared in an adoption spot for PETA.

Uggie’s “autobiography” was published after he achieved movie fame, and the book was dedicated to Reese Witherspoon, his co-star in “Water for Elephants.”

“For Reese, my love, my light,” the book’s opening dedication reads.

His death was first reported by TMZ, which managed to relay the news without its trademark snarkiness — even though Uggie once nipped at host Harvey Levin during a visit to the the show’s studio.

“I have worked with many celebrities, but people were literally queueing around the block to see this tiny furry star,” said Wendy Holden, who ghost wrote the book. “There was something about him that changed people. Women especially adored him. People approached him far more readily than a human star.”

(Photo: FilmMagic)

White God: It’s not the nerds getting revenge in this haunting Hungarian film

In terms of its story line, White God isn’t too different from any other movie in which the bullied rise up and get even with the bullies.

What makes it different — and makes it shine — is that in this case the bullied are abused and mistreated dogs, a species that already knows (perhaps better and more instinctively than us) that there is strength in numbers.

Perhaps the most talked about scene in the much talked about Hungarian film — winner of the Cannes Film Festival’s Prize Un Certain Regard Award and an official selection of Sundance Film Festival — is when a pack of 250 dogs, all mutts, stampede through the streets.

And what makes that scene even more impressive is that it was achieved not through computer graphics, but with dogs.

Director Kornel Mundruczo first issued a casting call for 100 dogs for the scene, then decided bigger would be better. More than 200 dogs ended up being involved, many of them from local animal shelters.

The scene serves as the movie’s climax, and it was a first of its kind achievement for the dog trainers involved.

Under the leadership of Hungarian dog trainer Árpád Halász, a team of humans was able to train the dogs to stampede in a pack in what was, in reality, a massive rush for treats.

One of the dog trainers involved, Teresa Ann Miller — daughter of a trainer who worked on films like Beethoven and Cujo — was interviewed about the movie on NPR this week.

Miller helped cast and train the two dogs who shared the role of Hagen.

The movie’s story begins when a young girl is forced to give up her dog, Hagen, because it is of mixed-breed heritage. Her father, unwilling to pay the fee required to keep a mutt, abandons Hagen in the streets.

Young Lili tries to find him, and Hagen tries to find her, but eventually he joins forces with, and becomes the leader of, hundreds of other abandoned, abused and mistreated dogs living in the streets.

As a pack, they rise up to seek revenge for the indignities they’ve suffered at the hands of humans.

(If the film has one fault, it’s the notion that dogs would seek revenge. They’re better than that.)

Miller told NPR that director Mundruczó wanted the stampede scene to look as real as possible — a goal complicated by the fact that no one has ever seen hundreds of domestic dogs running as a pack.

It was first rehearsed with 100 dogs running together.

Trainer Halász watched and then said, “What about 150?” Miller recounted. “And 150 looked so good that he says, What about 200? And each time Árpád learned, as he acquired the dogs and introduced other dogs into the pack, that it was possible.”

It took four months to prepare for the scene, she added.

“And that was amazing to see; that was fascinating. I’ve never seen it done. I’ve never seen such a large pack of dogs run together. And, quite honestly, I don’t think we’d ever do it here (in the U.S.) just for the time that it takes. It’s so much easier just to CGI it, but the director didn’t want that effect at all.”

Pooparazzi: Anne Hathaway’s revenge

Anne Hathaway

Anne HathawayActress Anne Hathaway and her chocolate lab, Esmerelda, teamed up to leave a gift on the windshield of a photographer that was dogging the duo as they tried to enjoy an afternoon walk.

The Huffington Post reported that the “Les Misérables” star was walking her dog on the day after Christmas and found herself being followed by a man with a camera.

When Esmerelda pooped, Hathaway dutifully scooped it up in a yellow plastic bag, and knotted the top.

Then, the website reports, she placed the bag on the windshield of the unidentified photographer’s car and walked away.

Movie animator charged with beating dog

 A 40-year-old DreamWorks animator – one who worked on animal-themed children’s movies such as “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar 2″ —  has been arrested on an animal cruelty charge after a surveillance camera videotaped him beating a neighbor’s muzzled dog with a hammer.

Young Song pleaded not guilty in court yesterday and faces a preliminary hearing next month. He allegedly climbed a fence into a neighbor’s yard in Pasadena. Surveillance camera video shows the 16-month-old dog being beaten but does not reveal what Song did with the dog.

Authorities say the dog is missing and presumed dead.

Song was being held on $40,500 bail, according to authorities, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“When our officers first viewed the videotape, one of our officers had tears in his eyes. He’d never seen anything like this before,” said Steve McNall, who heads the Pasadena Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. “In my 31 years at this animal shelter I’ve never seen anything like this.”

McNall’s agency, which is licensed to investigate crimes involving animals, is conducting the probe. It made the arrest in conjunction with Pasadena police.

According to authorities, the suspect shot the dog with a pellet gun, then returned with a hammer and began chasing and striking the animal.

The Times reported that Young works as a “surfacer,” an artisan who creates the look and surface qualities for animated characters, props and environments. Young’s credits on animal-themed films also include “Shark Tale” and “Bee Movie.”

The motive for the attack is not clear. “It might have originated as a barking issue, a noise issue, and then escalated into something else,” McNall said.

If convicted, Song could face more than four years in prison, the district attorney’s office said.

From “The Office” to the dog house

For all those wondering what Steve Carell would do after “The Office,” now we know: He has agreed to star in and co-produce a new movie about talking to a dog.

It may sound cutesy, but it’s not.

“Dogs of Babel” will be a film adaptation of the 2003 novel by Carolyn Parkhurst, described as a tragic story of love and loss, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Carell — pretty much a virgin when it comes to serious drama — will play a linguistic professor who comes home to find his wife dead in the backyard.

When the police rule the death an accident, the professor has some doubts, and he attempts to teach his dog Lorelei — the only witness – to talk, so he can learn about the final moments of his wife’s life.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch”

“My Dog Tulip” — J.R. Ackerley’s classic account of how a dog entered his life, stimulated his curiosity, broadened his horizons, and brightened his otherwise cranky golden years — is now out as an animated movie, and the book has been reissued in paperback.

“Unable to love each other, the English turn naturally to dogs,” the British writer wrote in what’s perhaps the most famous line of the 1956 book about the bond between dog and man.

“Sometimes love really is a bitch,” reads the tagline, updated for the times, of the new movie.

The movie came out late last summer, directed by Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, who are also responsible for the hand-drawn animations that, on screen, are like a New Yorker cartoon come to life.

The film is narrated by Christopher Plummer, in the role of Ackerley, and also features the voice of Lynn Redgrave, who died in May and to whom the movie is dedicated. One review called it “the most sophisticated dog movie ever made.”

It tells the story of a lonely gay man who has all but given up on finding a longtime companion and “ideal friend” in the human world.

Enter Tulip, or, as was her name in real life, Queenie, a German shepherd Ackerley acquired from his neighbors when he was “quite over 50,” and with whom he would spend the next 15 years.

“She offered me what I had never found in my life with humans: constant, single-hearted, incorruptible, uncritical devotion, which it is in the nature of dogs to offer.”

Ackerley died in 1967, and though the book is now 55 years old, it retains a sense of freshness attributable to the fact that Queenie was his first dog. His keen observation of inter-species interaction is that of someone who just landed on the planet, as opposed to being an old hand with dogs.

“It seemed to me both touching and strange,” he says at one point, “that she should find the world so wonderful.”

We long-time dog lovers know exactly what he means. It’s what makes dogs so lovable — they see the world as wonderful, and, no matter how curmudgeonly we may be, they help us see it that way too.

Roadside Encounter: James Dean

Name: James Dean

Breed: Brooding rebel

Age: 24 at the time of his death. Were he alive today, he’d be 79

Encountered: The James Dean sign is at Blackwell’s Corner, a gas station, nut dealer and memorabilia shop in Lost Hills, California that bills itself as “James Dean’s last stop.”

Backstory: An icon of 1950s Hollywood, Dean was killed in a head-on collision in 1955 — the same year the movie version of John Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” came out, in which Dean had a starring role. Steinbeck reportedly didn’t like Dean personally, but thought he was perfect for the role of Cal Trask.

After the movie’s release, Dean was driving his Porsche to Salinas for a car race. About 20 minutes after he gassed up at Blackwell’s Corner, an oncoming car struck his vehicle. He would posthumously receive an Academy Award nomination for best actor.

Today, Blackwell’s Corner specializes in pistachios and almonds, and also sells 1950s memorabilia. It offers a free pack of James Dean trading cards with a purchase of $75 or more.

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