Ebertfest 2012: A dog’s view of ‘Taking Shelter’ and Qenny

By Kirisame of Cloud Cuckooland

as told to his assistant Jana J. Monji

Of course, we canine critics are often overlooked and so it’s fitting that we review a movie included in what used to be called the “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival” but is now affectionately known as the Ebertfest.

For Best Performance of a canine over 60 lbs. portraying a dog under 10 lbs., we’d nominate Qenny Ot Vitosha for the Golden Hydrant award for his role in “Taking Shelter.” For Worst Performance in a Dramatic Role, we’d also nominate Qenny Ot Vitosha for the Doggie Doo Doo award for his role in  “Taking Shelter.”

For the review of the movie you’ll have to look at my assistant’s blog. Here’s we’ll talk about what we know best: How humans and canines interact.

My colleagues at the Center for Interspecies Communication were either appalled or thought aspects of “Taking Shelter” were meant to be humorous. My assistants, however, did not laugh at the parts in question, leading me to believe the humor was unintentional. We do understand that once cast, Qenny Ot Vitosha had little choice but to do as the director indicated. There are so few good meaty parts a canine can sink his or her teeth into that aren’t in the hound horror genre (think of the 1982 “White Dog” or the 1983 “Cujo”), particularly for dogs larger than a mailbox. One has to make due.

Still we take issue with “Taking Shelter.” First the character of the dog’s assistant, Curtis, lives in Ohio. He is a blue-collar worker who is trusted. The dog is his and plays with his deaf daughter. Yet in his nightmare, he sees the dog tethered by a rope, breaking lose and attacking him.

Curtis’ solution is to buy some stiff wire fencing of about 4 feet in height and build a small rectangular enclosure of about six to ten feet square. He drives stakes into the soft ground.  Certainly we understand that Curtis is lacking in imagination. After all, he named the black and tan world champion malinois Red—a name one would associate with an Irish setter or perhaps a dog that was, at least in color, closer to red. Understand that while dogs still fail to understand the human obsession with color, we do differentiate some colors. (We as dichromats are red-green color blind  but even humans rarely see a green dog except for some unfortunate dogs with owner/assistant-induced bad hair days, usually, for some unknown reason, highly associated with poodles).

If one wants a friendly-family dogs, one doesn’t chain it. If one wants to contain a big dog or even a reasonably active small dog, one doesn’t put up a simple wire fence. Your average dog would dig under. A larger active dog, particularly one capable of doing harm to a man as tall as the actor portraying Curtis, Michael Shannon, would jumped over or through that fence. Left outside, dogs have a tendency to protest unjust confinement, much to the neighbors’ displeasure.  Red has no lines after the attack scene. He neither protests by whining or barking nor protects  by alerting everyone in the neighborhood to the movements of nocturnal animals such as skunks, raccoons, opossums or rabbits.

Red was, a convenient plot point, of a faithful friend driven to betrayal along the lines of Judas and Jesus, Brutus and Caesar, but not given a fleshed-out portrayal as in the classic “Old Yeller.”

For the above reasons, we consider that writer/director Jeff Nichols was asking poor Qenny OT to portray either a singularly dim-witted dog who faced with an obstacle can only wait for it to be removed or a potentially lethal lap dog whose small paws couldn’t possible break ground to escape.   For these reasons, we can’t decide: Golden Doodoo or Golden Hydrant. What do you think?

Is this the same Qenny?

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