This year, Slate asked Buck Loughlin, last seen co-hosting the climactic dog competition in Best in Show, to talk with me about this year’s Oscar race. Below is an edited transcript.
Buck Loughlin: Live from Hollywood, this is Buck Loughlin, here with David Edelstein, for the second biggest day of the movie year—the penultimate lap of the Oscar race. David, your thoughts on this great, great competition?
David Edelstein: Well, Buck, I just want to say at the outset that I don’t really like to do this sort of racing commentary. I’m a serious critic for a serious magazine, and I have little interest in trying to fathom the middlebrow taste of the Academy–
Loughlin: So you’re a pretentious two-bit whore is what you’re saying?
Edelstein: Well …
Loughlin: Hold on! They’re out of the gate! Actors, actresses, directors! All in the running for that golden statuette. Whatever happened to his genitalia, by the way? I’m just kiddin’ ya. David, you gotta like the legs on that Julia Roberts.
Edelstein: Well, she does have certain coltish, equine–
Loughlin: And there’s Russell Crowe in his souped-up chariot! Backed by those big DreamWorks bucks. Oh, you don’t wanna mess with that big dog! Go get ‘em, Russ! Rrrroooof!
Edelstein: Just a laughably crude movie—a high-minded splatter picture.
Loughlin: And he’s flattening everybody, isn’t he?!!! Billy Elliot, watch out! Whoa, that was ugly!
Edelstein: I thought Billy Elliot was a pretty limp movie.
Loughlin: Speaking of limp—I gotta ask ya—you think Billy was a little light in the loafers? Maybe that hurt him with the Academy?
Edelstein: Well, his sexuality wasn’t really the point.
Loughlin:Almost Famous, GET OUTTA THE WAY!!! Oooh, too bad.
Edelstein: You don’t like to see that … that was a sweet picture …
Loughlin: That’s gotta hurt, huh? The darling of all you critical ay-leets …
Edelstein: Looks like two supporting actresses and a screenplay slipped through, though.
Loughlin: That little Goldie Hawn girl, she can be my groupie any time. Hey, who’s that driving the Wonder Boys car? Robert Downey? It’s off the track—and mowing down bystanders!
Edelstein: Well, I thought that movie didn’t work.
Loughlin: I guess you could say Downey lost by a nose, eh? Anyway, Traffic moves into the lead. They’ve got a whole bunch of cars on the track!
Edelstein: I think Hollywood respects that film’s multiple subplots and vast ambition—as do I.
Loughlin: But that Steven Soderbergh guy—how can he be driving two movies? You know what I think? I think he’s carrying Traffic, and Brockovich is running on those Julia Roberts legs. You know who gets my vote.
Edelstein: Well, there is a kind of thoroughbred charm to Julia Roberts. A sort of equine grace.
Loughlin: Look out! Here it comes, down the middle of the road—the Miramax mobile!
Edelstein: A shocking come from behind, I’d say.
Loughlin: Y’know, Harvey Weinstein had his ticker go kerflooey this year; he lost some speed, but the drive is still there, I’m tellin’ ya! Kick some ass, Harvey!! Spend, baby, spend!
Edelstein: I’m still stunned that Miramax has forsaken risky, low-budget movies for the middlebrow art house market. I thought this year they’d get their comeuppance.
Loughlin: Yeah, those pretty horses didn’t even get out of the gate, huh? I guess they only looked pretty.
Edelstein:Vatel—what a wreck.
Loughlin: Stoppard him before he writes again! I’m just punning. But here comes Chocolat. The dark horse—dark chocolate. You must’ve liked that picture?
Edelstein: Uh … no. It celebrated the fearless morality of self-gratification.
Loughlin: Sounds like a Hollywood theme to me! And there’s Cast Away, fast out of the box! Hey, Cast Away, look out for Gladiator!!! Pow! Cast Away pancakes the inside wall! It’s marooned! Cast Away is marooned!
Edelstein: I’m surprised.
Loughlin: What do you think? Too much weight?
Edelstein: That’s my guess.
Loughlin: But Hanks is fast, boy! He’s in there with a Best Actor nomination!
Edelstein: He did suffer for his art.
Loughlin: Hey, if you paid me $25 million to go on a diet … That guy didn’t have to act hungry! What’s that up in the sky? Holy Hong Kong, it’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon! It’s flying over everything! Is that allowed?
Edelstein: I think all’s fair in this race.
Loughlin: Yowza, that little Chinese girl sure can fight!
Edelstein: She deserves a nomination, don’t you think?
Loughlin: What’s her name?
Edelstein: Zhang Ziyi.
Loughlin: Zagnut? Zing Zang Zooley? I think the 80-year-olds just said, “Screw it, let’s vote for Judi Dench.” A great old Dame! Julie Walters, is she a Dame, too? Can we petition someone for a Dameship for Julie Walters? I’m kiddin’ ya.
Edelstein: I suppose it could be worse. It looks like a good day for Javier Bardem.
Loughlin: Doesn’t he play for the Phillies?
Edelstein: I do feel sorry for Mark Ruffalo.
Edelstein: They look upset at the Village Voice table. Gillian Anderson was a favorite for House of Mirth.
Loughlin: Legs too short to compete against Julia Roberts.
Edelstein: Ellen Burstyn did.
Loughlin: Hey, let me ask you something. Did Burstyn really get electroshock therapy? When they had the camera in close on her face and she was just rattling around there—how’d she do that?
Edelstein: I guess she was acting.
Loughlin: Now that’s acting! Boy oh boy. Rattling your brains for the sake of art.
Edelstein: My life as a movie critic.
Loughlin: A joker! Good luck to you! Hey, thanks for watching, everybody. See you all in March! Julia—slow down!