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The great talking dog controversy.

The great talking dog controversy. (photo)

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Now that all this Oscars nomination nonsense is out of the way, let’s talk about something really important: talking dogs.

Specifically, let’s talk about how the ones in “Up” are awesome and in no way a disqualifier for Best Picture status. I first became aware of this objection a few days ago, when Ray DeRousse of groused about the many reasons “Up” wasn’t a “worthy” Best Picture candidate. Leaving aside what “worthy” means, he had his reasons — mostly, he thinks the last hour doesn’t follow internal logic. “Who built miniature planes for his pooches, or any of the other devices used throughout the climax?” Also: “Those who were blown away by the opening sequences found themselves an hour later staring at talking dogs flying airplanes.” (His italics, not mine.)

This battle cry was taken up by Hollywood Elsewhere readers and noted by the New York Times’ Melena Ryzik when discussing the Pixar film’s Oscar chances as part of its “conventions of kiddie stuff.”

Personally, I’m not a big fan of “cute,” and I’m definitely not a fan of those ghastly children’s movies where the animal’s lips move in time with what they’re saying, like “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey,” with Michael J. Fox as Young Dog and Don Ameche as Old Dog. And I didn’t like “Wishbone.” Nor am I looking forward to “Marmaduke.” In fact, I don’t even like pets. So forget all that.

02022010_baxter.jpgThat is not remotely what “Up” is doing. “Up” is about a dog who thinks like a dog, a joke about non-mediated thought processes and weird syntax, and not something I’ve seen before. And, incidentally, not all movies about talking dogs are cute. There’s 1995’s inexplicable “Fluke,” in which thoughtless yuppie/neglectful father Matthew Modine is reincarnated as a dog to reunite with his family. Not strange or violent enough? Try 1989’s “Baxter,” in which a sociopathic dog teams up with a young lad who worships Hitler. (Tagline: “Beware the dog that thinks.”)

Of all the objections that could be raised against “Up” (the only movie that “belongs” on that list, for my money), this is one of the silliest and most short-sighted. It doesn’t matter that the dogs are talking; what matters is what they’re saying. It’s not like they put the dog and child in danger and waited for you to cry, or cut to cute LOOKATDAPUPPY shots. We live in a world where a glorified YouTube assemblage of baby footage — “Babies” — is somehow being marketed as an art-house crossover movie. Now you tell me who’s really falling back on cutesiness.

Looking for a real crime against on-screen talking dogs? Try this:

[Photos: “Up,” Walt Disney Pictures, 2009; “Baxter,” Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment, 1989]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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