The "Where's Whitey?" award for Best Animal Performance of 2009


Every year at this time countless awards go out to human beings for their accomplishments in movies. But what about the animals, whose contributions are sometimes the only thing that make a film worth watching? The "Where's Whitey?" Award is my small attempt to compensate for this injustice.

For those who need to be reminded, the name of the award refers to Kim Tae-kyun's "Crossing," a South Korean film I saw at the Palm Springs Film Festival. In it a little boy from a starving family finds joy despite his poverty in a beloved dog named Whitey. One day the kid comes home and is pleasantly surprised to find that his mother has managed to cook up a big, delicious stew. Too overwhelmed to ask how she managed it, he eats his full. Only then does he look around and ask, "Where's Whitey?"

Needless to say, it was the highlight of the movie. In the spirit of Whitey then, I present this year's award to the iguanas in Werner Herzog in "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans." Amazingly, they were able to upstage Nicolas Cage in his most scenery eating performance since he ate a cockroach in "Vampires Kiss." Something that not even Val Kilmer was  able to do.

The choice was a tough one, however. Here are some of the great animal performances in competition:

The Fox, Deer and Crow, a.k.a Grief, Pain, and Despair, in Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist"

The tiger in the hotel room in Todd Philips's "The Hangover"

The baby camel in the sidecar in Sergei Dvortsevoy's "Tulpan"

The escaped ostrich in Majid Majidi's "The Song of the Sparrows."

The dog in Bent Hamer's "O'Horten"

I know you're probably saying to yourself (the tiger in "The Hangover" notwithstanding) that "this guy hates Hollywood animals" or, to paraphrase one of my colleagues, "he only likes animal performances with subtitles." Perhaps so. In which case please let me know what other animals you think are more deserving of the "Where's Whitey?" award.

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