Film Review: PUGLI: A PUG’S LIFE (Canada 2018) ***

Pugly follows the triumphs and struggles of 3 rescue pugs, and explores the current craze for flat-faced dogs.

For dog lovers, especially pug lovers, arrives this lovable documentary of the lives of 3 rescue pugs together with some insight on the world of pugs.  Even for those who are unamused by pugs, PUGLI is an enjoyable if not educational doc on the subject.

The film explores the current craze for flat-faced dogs and follows the trials, tribulations and triumphs of three pug dogs as they journey from rescue, to foster care, to their forever homes.

The first pug is Gunner.  Gunner is a two-year-old pug in the care of Pugalug, Toronto’s pug rescue network led by self-professed “Crazy Dog Lady” Blanche Axton.  As she prepares Gunner for adoption, we meet a growing community of “squishy-faced dog” devotees with big personalities, and follow their stories of heroism, humour and heartbreak.  Dogs are not allowed for adoption until they are at least well and adopters are made aware of the new pet’s ailments as pets medical bills can come out to the thousands.  Gunner is adorable and his medical problems do not show.

Next, the audience sees the glamorous side of the pug life, as cover girl Miss Pickles the Pug wins the Now Magazine (the Toronto few news and events weekly) prize for Best Instagram account.   

There is Helmut, superstar of the monthly “Pug Grumble” at Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, as he takes a break in his busy schedule for a photo shoot for the Canada Pooch clothing company. 

Other minor pug stars include red-carpet movie star Igor Pugdog and his little brother Zombie are featured in their very own yearly calendar – a Pugalug Pug Rescue fundraising initiative driven by motorcycle-riding pug-lover Tracey Silverthorn.

The film also pays special attention to the owners.  Yes, there are dog ladies as well – but with supportive husbands.  These people are revealed to be committed owners who must nurse their pugs through the myriad medical problems that can plague flat-faced dogs.  Titus is a half-blind pug crippled by a congenital condition but he will not give up barking and chasing after speeding trains.  His doting owner Erin carries him everywhere he goes, and ensures that he gets his meds and his thrice-daily catheterization. As a result, for the past three years, these two have never been apart. And then there’s Tawnie, the “sassy bitch” with a lengthy list of maladies, beloved by Blanche, Sigrid and the rest of the Pugalug team, but whose continual (and costly) vet visits have made her adoption prospects doubtful.

Movie pieces frequently feature villains.  What is a good movie without one?  In this case the villains are the breeders.  The breeders are shown to be obsessed with breeding the perfect pug – which means a smashed nose and a curly, short tail.  The nose means difficulty breeding with lots of pugs with respiratory problems.  The shot tail entails spinal problems as well.  As they keep breeding those with short tail or pug noses, the pups face medical problems on growing up.

The audience sees Jessica Kelly, dog behaviourist and Todd Kaufman, a psychotherapist who works with emotional support animals who both express their dislike for breeders who aim for the “smushiest face”, the highest tail, and other extreme features.   The film shows Jim and Mary Lou Dymond, an older couple who have spent 30 years trying to breed the healthy “perfect pug.”

  The film has a especial screening on on Sunday, January 6, 2019 at 1:00pm- Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema before opening on different platforms.

Assorted clips: 

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z4qlh2grh4jhfy3/AAC5U__naEb5juf4iAFlg7_Ua?dl=0

Film Review: CATWALK: TALES FROM THE CAT SHOW CIRCUIT (USA 2017) ***

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Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit Poster

People can grasp the concept of a dog show.  But people cannot grasp the concept of  a cat show.  This is the film, CATWALK’s premise and mission to put cats on the film map just as the successful dog show film BEST IN SHOW did for canines.

One difference between BEST IN SHOW and CATWALK should be noted.  BEST IN SHOW was a mockumentary that followed 5 different dogs with their owners as they showed off their dogs in different shows while CATWALK is a real documentary.  This does not mean that a real documentary is less funny that a mockumentary as the film occasionally proves.

The cats are judged by a panel according to:

what cat perfection is (agility; intelligence etc.)

the best of the breed (example: if the exhibitor does not comb out the knots of his/her long haired cat, a whole lot of points will be lost

The main cat that has won the most points by touring the catwalk circuit in Canada, when the film opens, is a white playful cat named Bobby owned by Kim. The other, is a Red Persian breed full of fluffy fur named Oh-La-La by owned by Shirley.  The film shows that the cat owners are just as interesting to observe than the cats.  When Oh-La-La is showcased on stage, the camera locks on the face of Kim, showing how jealous she is that her cat, Bobby might be upstaged.  Bobby and Oh-La-La are completely different cats.  The former loves to play, winning the hearts of the judges from its friendliness as compared to Oh-La-la who just sits proudly, unconcerned of the surroundings.  There is a scene whee the two cat owners are seen joking with each otter.  Deborah says to Kim: “I don’t think evil of you…. just of your cat.”

The film takes a distraction with a segment on Kim taking scuba diving lessons and having a new group of friends she considers her family.  There is no purpose this segment serves with regards to cats except as a time filler.  CATWALK runs at a brisk 75 minutes.

The film interviews two main cat owners/exhibitors and a few breeders while featuring a few of the show’s judges.

The main owner is Kim Langille who shows off her pride a white Turkish Angora.  Kim is also a show organizer and her enthusiasm for cats rubs off n her audience.  She as a wise pick to be the doc’s main character.  The other is her competitor, Shirley McCollow who spends hours grooming her Red Persian for the show.  There is a sweet moment of an autistic cat owner who overcomes her disability by devoting her efforts on her cat.

CATWALK is made more colourful  by the titles that appear on screen, one on purple or green or orange background.

CATWALK the film does not offer any advice to cat showers or messages for the audience.  (Oh, maybe just one message from a cat breeder: Good things come to good people who do good things.)   It is just an entertaining fun picture about cats, even for non-cat lovers like myself.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mepAvFdUJag

 

 

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