Lists, Top 10 Performances — January 11, 2012 at 9:00 am

WAYNE’S TOP 10 ANIMAL PERFORMANCES OF 2011

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When another year in cinema comes to a close, it’s always interesting to reflect on all the movies I’ve seen and realize what scenes and performances have stuck with me. One of the most important, and often underrated, contributions to the cinematic experience are those characters always in the supporting shadow; the animals. Reflecting on the sixty-odd films I watched in 2011, two things stand out the most.

One, the GAG (Goat Actors Guild) was sorely underrepresented. I can only assume they spent 2011 renegotiating for higher scale or better perks. If it weren’t for a brief cameo by a goat in The Descendants, I’d think they’d gone on strike. The other possibility is they were muscled out of the spotlight by the CAG (Canine Actors Guild). Which brings me to my second point. I REALLY hate to say this but…who let the dogs out?! 2011 was a boon year for canine thespians, pushing out both traditional and non-traditional animal performers in favor of their loving, loyal mugs. Maybe my tastes in movies simply led me to more dog-centric stories, but whatever the case, dogs overran seven of the my top ten spots. Let’s have a look see which animal, solo, duo, or ensemble, gave audiences memorable performances.

HONORABLE MENTION: CAESAR (ANDY SERKIS AND THE CGI CREW) IN RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.

Obviously, Andy Serkis is a human, not an animal, but he gives one hell of a convincing performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis deserves much love for his continued to ability to astound audiences with his animalistic portrayals, as does the technical crew who merged his mannerisms with a chimpanzee’s. Perhaps the Academy will one day recognize his talent.

10. BAT AND PIG IN CONTAGION.

While the bat and pig have only the tiniest of roles in Contagion, without them Matt Damon would have been unable to ask the question, “What happened to her? WHAT HAPPENED TO HER!” The entire plot hinges on their ensemble performance, which validates the exceptional roles of their more recognizable costars.

9. ATTACK DOGS IN COLOMBIANA.

How can audiences believe that the lithe Zoe Saldana is the straight-up badass chica, Colombiana? Have two hulking rottweilers heel to her every whim. I bet they are as cuddly as kittens offscreen, but these two unnamed Rotts are so vicious and menacing. I’m glad I only saw them onscreen; a face-to-face meeting would make you crap your pants.

8. SHETLAND PONY IN SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS.

Robert Downey, Jr. is always a treat to watch and when he’s paired with a charismatic companion I dare you to deny their awesomenicity. I’m not talking about Jude Law as Watson. He and the remaining human actors are forgotten when an unnamed Shetland pony trots onscreen for a scene-stealing collaboration. Audiences find a welcome reprieve from the sluggish Sherlock 2 as the pony bounces RDJ across the European countryside.

7. ARTHUR (CHOOP) IN THE MECHANIC.

Everyone knows that to become a cold, calculating assassin, the first thing you must do is adopt a Chihuahua. Choop, who portrays Arthur, seems born to play just such an instructional beast. Starring alongside Jason Statham and Ben Foster, he’s a great wing-pooch for wooing the ladies, or men if you prefer.

6.?SKELETOR (DENVER AND WILLIAM) IN 50/50.

No dog could better empathize with a person enduring back pain than a greyhound. In 50/50, both Denver and William are able to do what so many of us only dream about; they get to share a bed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s an envious role to be sure, maybe that’s why they needed two of them to share the responsibility.

5. DOLCE (HUMMER) IN YOUNG ADULT.

Sadly, this it the best photo I could find of Hummer, the Pomeranian who plays the under appreciated companion of Theron’s Mavis. Like any respectable Pom, Hummer excels at begging for love and attention. Unfortunately, Mavis is capable of neither, which leaves Hummer with the difficult performance of expressing disappointment through his genetically permanent smile.

4. PUPPIES IN BRIDESMAIDS.

I’m not sure what kind of career Hollywood has for these lab puppies once they grow up, but I hope any of these nine that want to be an actor can see their dream realized. Melissa McCarthy is one of the few highlights in Bridesmaids, so any animal that can play straight man to her crazy comedy (and still look adorable doing it) deserves mad props.

3. WILLIE NELSON (WESTIN HAVING A PARTY) IN OUR IDIOT BROTHER.

There isn’t much that Paul Rudd’s Ned needs in life. Friends and family that love him are nice and the occasional joint can help him through the rough patches, but without the companionship of his golden retriever, Willie Nelson, it’s all for nothing. AKC Champion Westin Having a Party, Mr. DJ to his friends, is a natural. The chemistry between him and Rudd is totally believable; you’d think the two were born and raised together.

2. ARTHUR (COSMO) IN BEGINNERS.

Cosmo is a 9-year old Jack Russell terrier, and for those who watched Beginners, the dog who stole the show from its talented costars, Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor. He is a real trooper. Not only did he give an earnest performance as the often-subtitled pooch Arthur, but to attain the proper coloring desired by writer-director Mike Mills, Cosmo submitted to a dye-job. Now that’s dedication.

1. DRUG DEALING MONKEY (CRYSTAL) IN THE HANGOVER PART II.

Did you really expect anyone else? The fact of the matter is, without Crystal, The Hangover Part II would have been one of the most tired and tepid comedies of 2011. Luckily, Crystal brought her A-game, slapped on that Stones jacket and chomped down on that cig likes she had a two-pack-a-day habit. The most amazing thing about Crystal? She also starred in We Bought a Zoo and The Zookeeper in 2011. I haven’t seen those performances yet, but damn, that’s one hard-working capuchin!

Before I wrap up this post, let us take a moment to remember a legend.

IN MEMORIUM: CHEETAH-MIKE A.K.A. ORG, B. 1931 – D. 2011

Cheetah-Mike, sometimes know as Org, was a chimpanzee who played Cheeta in the Tarzan movies. He died of kidney failure at the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary on December 24, 2011. While the validity of his acting credits have been brought into question, above all he was a performer that will be missed.

I couldn’t see every 2011 film featuring phenomenal animal performances. Who was your favorite animal performer of the year?

Remember, we here at Man, I Love Films don’t do definitive lists. We do our favorites and we want to hear yours. So, make sure and tell us about them in the comments section below.

9 Comments

  • Where is Uggie, the dog from “The Artist?” He deserves an Oscar before Jean Dujardin or Bérénice Bejo do. However, I’m glad to see Cosmo and Dolce making an appearance.

    • Alas, The Artist has not opened in my neck of the woods, so I haven’t seen Uggie’s performance. I wish I had, sounds like he would’ve been tougher competition for Crystal.

  • Even with the monkey (which I didn’t really enjoy anyway) The Hangover 2 was ABSOLUTELY one of the most tired and tepid comedies of 2011.

    Just sayin’…

    • You should have seen Bucky Larson, not that I’d wish that on anyone. It was THE most tired and tepid comedy of 2011. It could’ve used a strong monkey performance.

  • Funny list. However, even if you haven’t seen the films, I still think you should have included Uggie from The Artist, Joey from War Horse, and the werewolf from Twilight.

    Also, in the best ensemble category, we have the entire cast of We Bought A Zoo.

    • I wouldn’t feel right including animal performances I hadn’t seen in my list. It isn’t fair to all the contenders.

      Since many movies don’t open near me until January, I’d usually do my ‘Best of” in February, you know, when no one cares anymore. I guess I could have polled the MILF staff and compiled a composite list, maybe next year.

      I’ve had no interest in the Twilight movies since watching the first one. Is the werewolf an actual wolf or CGI?

      • I fully understand, and it’s true that some of these aren’t opening up yet in a lot of places.

        Oh, and I was just trying to be funny with the werewolf. Ha!

        • I was wondering if you were messing with me! 🙂 Then I figured maybe a real wolf stood-in for Lautner’s werewolf and, compared to his acting, its performance appeared Oscar-worthy.

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