Top dogs: Hollywood's canine Oscars

The Oscars may be competitive, but the Fido cinema awards are strictly dog eat dog. By Gaynor Flynn
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The Independent Culture

Award season is upon us onceagain; that time of year when the film industry congratulates itself on a job well done. The Golden Globes kick off events every January followed, a month later, by the Oscars. The speculation has already begun. Some critics think Angelina Jolie will take home one of the highly coveted golden statutes for her performance in Changeling.

Others think Anne Hathaway deserving (Rachel Getting Married). While both women no doubt wait anxiously to find out whether their pay cheques will double overnight or not (well, actually winning an Oscar will probably quadruple their fees), spare a thought for Ross and Hugo. The canine stars of The Duchess (human costars include Ralph Fiennes and Keira Knightley) will spend the next week nervously wagging (sorry, wondering) whether their emotionally nuanced performance as 18th-century English pointerhounds is enough to earn them the supreme champion award, Best in World, at the second international Fido Awards in London on Sunday.

The Fidos – For Incredible Dogs on Screen – are dedicated to celebrating the finest cinematic contributions by a canine. The event is the brainwave of journalist Toby Rose, who organises the prestigious Palm Dog Award at the Cannes Film Festival, now in its eighth year. "The inspiration for the Palm Dog was Mutt, my wonderful fox terrier who charmed the stars over the years when I went interviewing. He had true star quality," says Rose. "The Fidos were the natural successor to the Palm Dog," he adds. "The Palm Dog is restricted to films screened during the frantic two weeks of Cannes. The Fidos allow for a wider net to be cast."

Indeed. No longer will heart-wrenching performances by canines in films such as Legally Blonde or Men in Black II, (when Frank is transformed into a dog and sings "I Will Survive"), go unrecognised or unrewarded. This year's Fidos have a lot to live up to, however. Last year's inaugural event set an impossibly high benchmark when the top gong was awarded to the ensemble performance by the corgis in Stephen Frears's The Queen. The judges chewed over their decision for quite some time, but in the end it was unanimous: the petite pups' performance was understated, daring but also incredibly moving. Dame Helen Mirren – clearly too overwhelmed to attend in person – sent a personal message of congratulations.

She told a newspaper at the time, "The corgis were not film-trained. I had to work with them to follow me. But I am good with dogs and know how to get them to do what I want. I loved those corgis because they were funny. I can understand why the Queen has them. Forget winning an Oscar, I'd be more proud of an award for dog-handling."

This year's nominees are no less impressive. Fifteen films will compete in the following five categories: Historical Hound, RomCom Rover, Comedy Canine, Blockbuster Bowser and Mutt Moment. The Best In World award will be given to the best dog across all categories. "The year, we added Mutt Moment for a standout scene from a film which makes a big-screen difference," explains Rose. "It also carries the name of Mutt [his beloved pooch], who died this year on 17 April."

Camilla Rutherford (Gosford Park), one of this year's presenters says, "I will be very happy to hand out the prize for Historical Hound. And for once at an awards ceremony the reaction will be 100 per cent genuine – probably a slobbery lick." Gill Raddings, animal coordinator on The Duchess, was "absolutely delighted" when she found out that her dogs were up for an award.Raddings's company, Stunt Dogs & Animals, represents cats, pigs, geese, cockroaches and even maggots. She's wrangled animals on 101 Dalmatians, Atonementand Cold Mountain, and says that any accolades the animals receive are well deserved. "They've been overlooked for far too long," she says.

Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson's latest film, What Just Happened, is among films vying for Mutt Moment award. "The dog's role is important in our film," he says. "We needed a substantial dog, a smart dog. One who'd lie there at the end after the trauma of being shot. Our dog was a mixed breed. I have worked with many dogs who are a nightmare, but this dog was extraordinary. Sean Penn loved the dog – he was a pleasure to work with."

The second annual Fido Awards take place on Sunday. For more information about the Palm Dog, see www.palmdog.com

The Fido nominations: Dogs have their day

Historical Hound

The Duchess: Keira Knightleyalongside a pair of hunting dogs

Charlie Wilson’s War:starring Julie Roberts andher Afghan hounds

The Wackness: starring Ben Kingsley and a toy dog

RomCom Rover

Sex and the City: Samantha and her new sweetheart Yorkshire terrier

High School Musical: Prom queen Ashley Tisdale and her pampered Yorkie

Made of Honor: Patrick Dempsey and an assortment of dogs, including a golden retriever, a sheepdog and two Scotties called Hamish and Calum

Comedy Canine

St Trinian’s: Rupert Everett and the iconic pooch Mr Darcy

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People: Sidney Young sends a chihuahua out of the window

Fred Claus: Vince Vaughn and Santa’s little canine helper

Blockbuster Bowser

American Gangster: Denzel Washington and a gangster’s best friend

I Am Legend: Will Smith and German shepherd Samantha

The Incredible Hulk: Loner Norton has someone he can trust, his dog

Mutt Moment

Flashbacks of a Fool: Daniel Craig as the reluctant dog sitter

Blindness: Julianne Moore has a dog lick, which proves it is not the end of the world

What Just Happened?: Sean Penn and a white hound caught

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