Saturday, July 28, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold (1996) ***

NR, 28 min.
Director/Writer/Narrator: William Wegman
Starring: Battina, Crooky, Fay Ray, Chundo

So, I’m visiting my old stomping grounds in Maine, the Brunswick/Topsham area, and my mother tells us about an art show at Bowdoin College covering the work of William Wegman. He’s the guy who takes all the pictures of his Weimaraner dogs that I’m sure most of you have seen. He dresses them up as people, or he just takes shots of them in interesting poses. Anyway, he draws much of his inspiration from the time he spends in Rangeley, Maine. So, a show of his work at Bowdoin College makes some sense. Apparently he was present at the opening of the show. That would’ve been nice to go to.

So my wife and I think this is a great opportunity to expose our kids to ART! With their video games and sports, they really don’t get a whole lot of exposure to the arts. We figure they’ll recognize his style and have some added enthusiasm for it. Well, it worked. We brought them to an art gallery and they actually enjoyed themselves. And, it wasn’t all photos of his dogs either. I found his doodles and sketches to be fascinating.

We also got the pleasure of witnessing his foray into filmmaking with a screening of his short film “The Hardly Boys in Hardly Gold”. It starred his dogs as some of the human characters he’d created for them in his pictures. They’re ‘hardly boys’ because they’re dogs and they’re girls. For the purposes of dogs dressed up as people, however, that hardly matters.

The movie has a kind of Warren Miller ski film feel to its dry narration and silly comedy, but it’s very charming. The “boys” are set out on a case during their annual summer visit to Rangeley when an aunt mysteriously disappears. Some ne’er do wells are plotting to destroy the Rangeley area in order to get at an abandoned mine they think is filled with gold. With the boys on the case, they don’t have a chance, however.

It is mostly the visuals of the dogs doing human things that make this comedy work. I suppose that all goes back to the day someone thought it would be funny to see a picture of dogs playing poker. It’s not high comedy, but its fun; and the kids liked that too. I was a little proud to learn later, however, that the movie was not their favorite part of our museum visit. They were much more thrilled by Bowdoin’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum and learning about the great creatures of our arctic north and the large-mustached men that helped bring awareness of them to the modern world.

The movie is available for rent on DVD through Netflix.

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