Movie Review: A Dog Year

One thing about getting together with family and close friends, as I've been doing this Labor Day weekend, is that you can just relax and be yourself.  I come from a very close extended family, and one of the things we almost universally share is our love of dogs.  So it was hardly surprising that after a delicious fish dinner at a favorite restaurant on the water, we would come home to watch a movie about dogs.  In this case, the movie was A Dog Year, produced by HBO Films and starring Jeff Bridges.

******************** SPOILER ALERT ********************
If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, and you hate spoilers, don't read any further! 

photo source

This movie was based on a book of the same name, by Jon Katz.  Any border collie person reading this is probably already familiar with both the book and the movie, and is bristling, as his name is anathema to many in the world of working (and by that I mean herding) border collies.  There are actually entire websites devoted to bashing this guy.  And I'll admit ... he is someone whose writing can tend to arouse rather passionate emotions in people, myself included.  He's made decisions regarding his own dogs I never in a million years would have made, and yet, though I have no real basis for this belief, I believe his heart has usually been in the right place.  

If you don't know Jon Katz, he is a writer who obtains through a breeder who had read and was a fan of one of his previous books, a somewhat emotionally scarred young border collie who had "washed out" of his career as an obedience trial dog.  The book chronicles his first year with Devon, later renamed Orson, during which time his two yellow Labs, Julius and Stanley, both passed away, one from cancer, the other from congestive heart failure, after which he obtained a Border Collie puppy, Homer, from the same breeder who had sent him Orson, nee Devon.  Subsequently, he started writing books about dogs, the first of those being A Dog Year, and was quickly propelled, more, I think, by his publisher's press, and his fans' enthusiasm, into an "authority" on dogs, something he is not, and actually (save for one book, entitled Katz on Dogs which I thought and still think was quite good and was all based on positive reinforcement) never really claimed to be.  

I've actually corresponded with Mr. Katz via email on a few occasions over the years, and have always found him to be quite pleasant, though I think his reputation as something of a curmudgeon is probably deserved.  In addition to his books on dogs, the newest one of which is due out this month, he also takes beautiful photographs and maintains a website and a blog of the same name, BedlamFarm.com which once centered primarily around his dogs, sheep, and other farm animals, but which has evolved into something else I'm not exactly sure how to define in more recent years, though the dogs, of which there are now four (two Border Collies, Rose and Izzy, a Lab, Lenore, and his new wife Maria's shepherd mix, Frieda), still figure prominently.      

In any case, when I was put in charge of securing yesterday evening's entertainment, I hadn't intended to rent this particular movie.  But it was extremely hot, and the glare on the Redbox screen outside the CVS was fierce.  So after scrolling through several screens of movies I'd either already seen or had no interest in seeing, I saw A Dog Year, and decided to take a chance on it.  After all, I'd read the book and enjoyed it, so I figured why not?  

I should've risked heat stroke or death by perspiration and kept scrolling ...

The book, despite all the controversy about what eventually happened to Orson (Katz made the decision to have him put down after he had bitten a few people), is actually, I think, worth reading, even knowing what happens later on.  Again, I don't agree with many of the decisions Katz has made regarding his dogs, but I don't think there's any doubt that he's an able writer.  I'd give the book a solid B+.  The movie was, on the other hand, disappointing to say the least.  The book was not long, maybe two hundred pages or so, and yet much of it was cut out, or glossed over, to the extent that the others watching it (i.e. everyone else in attendance save for yours truly) were not even really clear on what was going on.  The beginning was ok (pretty true to the book), the middle was so quick as to almost be on fast forward, and the end was so abrupt that everyone, myself included, did what amounted to a group double take ... a kind of collective "huh?"

Final Grade:  D- 

And now, the sun's out, the grill's heating up, and there's a frozen alcoholic beverage with my name on it!  Hopefully my family and friends are not holding a grudge over my choice of movies last night and won't dump me in the pool!  Happy Labor Day, everyone!  

But before you leave, please take a moment to leave your comment HERE for your chance to present the rescue group or shelter of your choice with a donation of up to $100 in your name.  You don't have to jump through flaming hoops, or anything like that.  You don't have to Follow us either, though we'd love it if you did.  All you have to do is leave us a comment with the name of the shelter or rescue group you'd like to donate to if you win the random drawing!  And please make sure to tell us how to contact you if you win.  (If you've already commented and forgot to do this, leave us another comment, and it will count towards the total ... we're trying to get to 100 and still have a long way to go!)


Remi said...

Wow. Thanks for the review. I think I'll pass on that one. Enjoy your frozen beverage!

CaroScat said...

A very interesting review! I might read the book, but will skip the movie, I think! Thanks

Old Kitty said...

Loved your honest review of the film and the book!!

Take care

Sagira said...

What a great review. :)

Spitty-the-Kitty said...

Oh, what a sad ending. We will stay away from this one!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the review. I've pondered over this title at my local RedBox, and now, you've saved me the wasted $1.

Remington said...

Well done on the review, my friend! Thanks!