Happy Chinese New Year! Today marks the start of the Year Of The Dog, one of the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac. Unlike Western astrology, each sign lasts for an entire year, and each year takes the name of an animal whose characteristics influence everything that happens for the next 12 months.
The Year Of The Dog means that the next 12 months should bring good fortune for most of those born in the ”Dog” years: 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1982, 1994 and 2006. It also influences the fortunes of all the other 11 animal signs, depending on their relationship with the Dog.
Chinese New Year takes place on a different date each year because it is based on a lunar calendar. New Year’s Day normally falls between January 21 and February 20. Celebrations last for over two weeks with explosions of light, bell ringing, firecrackers and watching traditional lion dances.
Chinese families clean their houses to sweep away bad fortune on New Year’s Day. Traditionally, you are supposed to give away red envelopes stuffed with ”lucky money” and positive energy on New Year’s Day. Nowadays, there are red envelope apps, so your friends can cash their gift digitally.
A Dog’s defining characteristic is loyalty. They never abandon their friends, family or work. They are popular at parties. Everyone needs a Dog friend for advice and help. They are also good at helping others find and fix annoying habits. Despite how they act, Dogs are deep down worried and anxious on the inside. However, they don’t let this stop them. Once they decide on something, no one can persuade a Dog against it.
Perfect for the Year Of The Dog, I am rather excited about Wes Anderson’s new stop-motion film, Isle Of Dogs. Anderson is a top favorite of mine. He wrote and directed The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), among other great films. Isle Of Dogs looks to have all the characteristics of an Anderson flick: great music, brilliant art direction and cinematography, symmetry, and an off-beat ensemble cast of Anderson regulars including: Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton; plus Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Greta Gerwig, Courtney B. Vance, Fisher Stevens, Liev Schreiber, and Scarlett Johansson. There is also F. Murray Abraham being some sort of a sage.
The film premiered at the Berlin Film Festival last night, New Year’s Eve of The Year Of The Dog, and it is already receiving rave reviews, with some critics saying it is Anderson’s best yet.
It is Anderson’s second stop-motion animation film; the first being the fabulous Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). This one is set in Japan in the near future. The story is about how canine saturation has reached epidemic proportions, dog flu is terrifying the humans, and the government orders the round up and imprisonment of all dogs on nearby Trash Island, the Isle Of Dogs. A 12-year-old orphan flies and crashes a plane on the island as he tries to find his beloved dog, Spots. A pack of five starving, abandoned dogs clinging to the names of their former lives King, Boss, Duke, Rex and Chief help with the search.
Cat lovers: you might not be the right audience for this film. My sources tell me that felines haven’t been this synonymous with villainy since Lady And The Tramp (1955).
Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum is exhibiting a Wes Anderson show, featuring props, costumes and storyboards from his films, that runs from September 2018 through January 2019.
Here is the new, just released trailer for your viewing pleasure. Arf!