Our second movie, following some epic grilling, was 2000’s Best In Show, easily the best-known (I would also call it the best, but I’ve only seen two) of director Christopher Guest‘s tetroika of mockumentaries released in the late nineties and early naughties.  Best In Show won the Viewer’s Choice vote by a large margin, getting a vote from every voter who listed at least five films (from the list of 22 or 23).  The enthusiasm for the film didn’t end at the voting stage – this film easily elicited the loudest and longest consistent laughs in the history of Cinema 1544.  It didn’t hurt that attendance was pushing 20 – hopefully a great sign for days to come.

The difficulty in writing up Best In Show stems from the fact that it’s definitely not plot-driven.  It’s character driven, and it kind of has to be when you’re following five dogs (and their humans) as they travel to and compete in The Mayflower, the fictional top dog show in the U.S.   They travel, they compete, and (spoiler!) one of them wins the Grand Prize.  But this movie is not about the journey, it’s about the company.

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We met at Starbucks.  Not at the same Starbucks but we saw each other at different Starbucks across the street from each other.

Beatrice is a sweet and incredibly mellow Weimaraner who has the misfortune to be owned by uptight J. Crew yuppies Meg and Hamilton Swan.  The Swans project all of their insecurities on the unsuspecting Beatrice, who really just wants to chill out, not attend their therapy sessions (and get blamed for being such a spiteful dog).  The Swans both have braces, but fortunately, Beatrice does not.

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” ‘I can’t dance!  I can’t dance! I’ve got two left feet!’ ” :: “I thought he was kidding.” :: “…But I wasn’t.  I was born with two left feet.”

Norwich Terrier Winky is owned by Gerry and Cookie Fleck.  Gerry is the former self- proclaimed “Casanova” who was literally born with two left feet, Cookie is a former waitress who went through “hundreds” of boyfriends a few decades ago before settling down with Gerry because of his obvious charms.  Not surprisingly, her former boyfriends keep showing up in the film, over and over and over, and not a one of them is too shy to remind her (directly in front of her husband) about what great sex they used to have.  Gerry almost handles it like a champ, but he’s too much of a dork to actually to anything about it anyway.

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I used to be able to name every nut there was.  And it used to drive my mother crazy, because she used to say, “Harlan Pepper, if you don’t stop naming nuts,” and the joke was that we lived in Pine Nut, and I think that’s what put it in my mind at that point.  So she would hear me in the other room, and she’d just start yelling.  I’d say, “Peanut.  Hazelnut.  Cashew nut.  Macadamia nut.”  That was the one that would send her into going crazy.  She’d say, “Would you stop naming nuts!” And Hubert used to be able to make the sound, he couldn’t talk, but he’d go “rrrawr rrawr” and that sounded like Macadamia nut.  Pine nut, which is a nut, but it’s also the name of a town.  Pistachio nut.  Red pistachio nut.  Natural, all natural white pistachio nut.

Then there’s Bloodhound Hubert and his Southern-sensible buddy Harlan Pepper.  Hubert is an absolutely magnificent dog in my opinion, just an amazingly beautiful hound.  Harlan, for his part, is the kind of guy that will just sit you down and tell you stories that never seem to have a point and never seem to end and just before the time he actually gets to his point he forgets to mention it and has started to blather on about something else.  He’s adorable.

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And do me a favor, will you?  Just get out one of those pepperoni sticks.  I just wanna hold it.

Miss Agnes is a Shih Tzu (the pink ribbon – the blue ribbon belongs to Tyrone, who is not a show dog), accompanied by the flamboyantly gay couple of Stefan Vanderhoof and Scott Donlan.  Scott, the shower, has some outrageous outfits and spends most of the film making aggressive innuendo at anybody in earshot.

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Leslie and I have an amazing relationship, and it’s very physical, he still pushes all my buttons.  People say “oh, but he’s so much older than you” and you know what, I’m the one having to push him away.  We have so much in common, we both love soup…and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking…and not talking.  We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about.

And finally, there’s the trophy wife/sugar gramps combo of Sherri Ann and Leslie Ward Cabot.  Leslie is dangling on the edge of suspended animation and despite her insistence to the contrary, Sherri Ann does have a much younger love interest.

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The heart and soul was what my mom did.  That was her role.  She was there for the unconditional love…and it worked for my family, you know…until my mom committed suicide in ’81.

It’s none other than the mercenary dog trainer, Christy Cummings.  Last but not least, also pictured is the standard poodle Rhapsody in White, the two-time defending champion at the Mayflower and overwhelming favorite to three-peat.

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And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten.

Well, they all finally arrive at the Mayflower to compete in their respective categories and hopefully win those to get to the final round.  No rundown of the characters would be complete without mentioning the Mayflower’s announcers, the outlandish color commentator Buck Laughlin, paired with the uneasy dog expert Trevor Beckwith.  Laughlin, for all of his over-the-top comments comes through with the best subtle joke of the movie, mentioning casually as Winky is being shown that the woman showing the Norwich looks familiar to him.  Of course, for the most part the dogs we are following breeze through their groups and make their way to the final, where the winner is…

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I didn’t ask for your opinion, I asked for a toy that you don’t have!

…Not Beatrice.

Beatrice doesn’t make it to the judging portion of her group, because in direct contrast to her normally calm demeanor she becomes very aggressive towards the judge and is immediately disqualified.  One can only imagine that her owners finally rubbed off on her.

Each of the others does make the final, however, and the winner is…

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The Norwich Terrier!

…Winky – being shown unexpectedly by two-left-footed Gerry because Cookie tripped and sprained her knee just moments beforeshe was to go on stage for the final round.  Thus Rhapsody in White is dethroned.

The end.

The second worst part of this movie is that I always want Hubert and Harlan Pepper to win.  The worst part is that I always forget that Winky wins and instead convince myself that Hubert will win.  Such a letdown.  My aunt has shown her fair share of Norwiches, and dammit, they’re nothing but “kicking dogs” to me.

The best part of this movie is…everything else.  Just a plain hilarious movie to watch from beginning to end.

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