The Big Lebowski
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The film begins with a short voiceover introduction by an unnamed narrator (by Sam Elliott) introducing the character of Jeffrey Lebowski as he is buying half and half from a grocery store in 1991. The voiceover explains that Lebowski calls himself "the Dude".

After returning to his apartment in Venice, California, two thugs break in and rough up The Dude. They are attempting to collect a debt Lebowski's supposed wife owes to a man named Jackie Treehorn. After realizing they were looking for a different person with the same name, they leave, but only after one of the thugs urinates on the Dude's rug. At the instigation of his friend and bowling teammate Walter Sobchak (Goodman), the Dude decides to seek compensation for his urine-soaked rug from the other Jeffrey Lebowski. The next day, the titular "Big" Lebowski, a wheelchair-bound millionaire, gruffly refuses the Dude's request. After craftily stealing one of the Big Lebowski's rugs, the Dude meets Bunny Lebowski, the Big Lebowski's nymphomaniacal trophy wife on his way off the property.

Days later, the Big Lebowski contacts the Dude, revealing that Bunny has been kidnapped. He asks him to act as a courier for the million-dollar ransom because the Dude will be able to confirm or deny their suspicion that the kidnappers are the rug-soiling thugs. Back at his apartment, the Dude naps on his new, stolen rug, only to have a new set of criminals burgle his apartment. The criminals knock him unconscious. Following a musical dream sequence, the Dude wakes up on his bare wooden floor, his new rug missing. Soon after, when Bunny's kidnappers call to arrange the ransom exchange, Walter tries to convince the Dude to keep the money and give the kidnappers a "ringer" suitcase filled with dirty underwear. The Dude rejects this plan, but cannot stop Walter. The kidnappers escape with the ringer, and the Dude and Walter are left with the million-dollar ransom. Walter seems unperturbed by this turn of events, and takes the Dude bowling. Later that night, the Dude's car is stolen, along with the briefcase filled with money. The Dude receives a message from the Big Lebowski's daughter, Maude. She admits to stealing back the Dude's new, stolen rug, as it had sentimental value to her. At her art studio, she explains that Bunny is a porn starlet working under producer Jackie Treehorn and confirms the Dude's suspicion that Bunny probably kidnapped herself. She asks the Dude to recover the ransom, as it was illegally withdrawn by her father from a family-run charitable foundation for orphans. She offers him a finder's fee in exchange for his services.

The Big Lebowski angrily confronts the Dude over his failure to hand over the money. The Dude claims that he made the pay-off as agreed, but the Big Lebowski responds by handing the Dude an envelope sent to him by the kidnappers which contains a severed toe, presumably Bunny's. The Dude is enjoying a relaxing bath when he receives a message that his car has been found. Mid-message, three German nihilists invade the Dude's apartment, identifying themselves as the kidnappers. They interrogate and threaten him for the ransom money. The Dude returns to Maude's studio, where she identifies the German nihilists as Bunny's friends (including her pornographic co-star Uli Kunkel AKA "Karl Hungus"). The Dude picks up his car from the police, and based on evidence he finds in the front seat, he and Walter track down the supposed thief, a teenager named Larry Sellers. Their confrontation with Larry is unsuccessful, and the Dude and Walter leave without getting any money or information.

Jackie Treehorn's thugs return to the Dude's apartment to bring him to Treehorn's beach house in Malibu. Treehorn inquires about the whereabouts of Bunny, and the money, offering him a cut of any funds recovered. After the Dude tells him about Larry Sellers, Treehorn drugs the Dude's drink (a White Russian) and he passes out. This leads to a second, more elaborate dream sequence in which "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" By Kenny Rogers and The First Edition is playing. Upon awakening once again, the Dude finds himself in a police car and then in front of the sheriff of Malibu, who berates and strikes him with a coffee mug for ruining the peace. After an abbreviated cab ride home (in which he is thrown out of the cab by an Eagles-loving driver), the Dude arrives home and is greeted by Maude Lebowski, who hopes to conceive a child with him. During post-coital conversation with Maude, the Dude finds out that, despite appearances, her father has no money of his own. Maude's late mother was the rich one and she left her money exclusively to the family charity. In a flash, the Dude unravels the whole scheme: When the Big Lebowski heard that Bunny was kidnapped, he used it as a pretense for an embezzlement scheme, in which he withdrew the ransom money from the family charity. He kept it for himself, gave an empty briefcase to the Dude (who would be the fall guy on whom he pinned the theft), and was content to let the kidnappers kill Bunny.

Meanwhile, it is now clear that the kidnapping was itself a ruse: While Bunny took an unannounced trip, the nihilists (her friends) alleged a kidnapping in order to get money from her husband. The Dude and Walter arrive at the Big Lebowski residence, finding Bunny back at home, having returned from her trip. They confront the Big Lebowski with their version of the events, which he counters but does not deny. The affair apparently over, the Dude and his bowling teammates are once again confronted by the nihilists, who have set the Dude's car on fire. They are still demanding the million dollars, despite the fact that the Dude does not have the money and Bunny has not even been kidnapped. Walter viciously fights them off, going so far as to bite off one nihilist's ear. However, their third teammate, Donny, suffers a fatal heart attack.

After a disagreement with the funeral home director over the cost of an urn for Donny, Walter and the Dude go to a cliff overlooking a beach to scatter Donny's ashes from a large Folgers coffee can. Before opening the can's lid and haphazardly shaking out Donny's remains into the wind, Walter remembers what little he knew about Donnie, including that he loved to surf and bowl, then quotes a line from Hamlet: "Goodnight, sweet prince." After an emotional exchange, Walter suggests, "Fuck it, man. Let's go bowling." The movie ends with the Dude in the bowling alley and meeting the narrator at the bar. The narrator tells the Dude to take it easy and the Dude responds by stating, "the Dude abides". The narrator briefly comments on the film to the audience, saying that although he "didn't like to see Donny go", he hints that there's a "little Lebowski on the way." The film transitions to the closing credits as Townes Van Zandt's version of "Dead Flowers" plays.

[edit] Cast and characters

Left to right:
The Dude (Jeff Bridges), Donny (Steve Buscemi) and Walter (John Goodman).
  • Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "the Dude" Lebowski, a single, unemployed slacker living in Venice, California, who enjoys marijuana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, White Russians, and bowling. He has a very laid-back approach to life and seems unconcerned with money. Jeff Bridges had heard or was told by the Coen brothers that they had written a screenplay for him.[1] The Dude is mostly inspired by Jeff Dowd, a member of the Seattle Seven (The Dude actually mentions during the film that he was one of the Seattle Seven), and a friend of the Coen brothers, Pete Exline, a Vietnam War veteran, who actually found a twelve-year old's homework in his stolen car.[2]
  • John Goodman as Walter Sobchak, a Vietnam War veteran, and the Dude's best friend and bowling teammate. Walter runs his own security firm, Sobchak Security, and places the rules of bowling second in reverence only to the rules of his adopted religion, Judaism, as evidenced by his strict stance against 'rolling' on Shabbos. He seems to have been quite dominated by his now ex-wife (he converted for her), and still quickly does whatever she commands him to do. He is unstable, has a violent temper, and is given to pulling out a handgun in order to settle disputes. He says the Gulf War was all about oil and claims to have dabbled in pacifism. He constantly mentions Vietnam in conversations. He is based on screenwriter John Milius, who is a friend of the Coen Brothers, and Lew Abernathy, a friend of Peter Exline.
  • Steve Buscemi as Theodore Donald "Donny" Kerabatsos, a member of Walter and the Dude's bowling team. Charmingly na�ve, Donny is an avid bowler and frequently interrupts Walter's diatribes to inquire about the parts of the story he missed or did not understand, provoking Walter's abusive and frequently repeated response, "Shut the fuck up, Donny!" This line is a reference to Fargo, the Coen Brothers' previous film, in which Buscemi's character was constantly talking.[3] Donny bowls only strikes the entire movie, the only exception being the scene before he dies of a heart-attack.
  • David Huddleston as Jeffrey Lebowski, the "Big" Lebowski referred to in the movie's title, is a wheelchair-bound multi-millionaire who is married to Bunny and is Maude's father by his late wife. He lost the use of his legs in Korea and seems to despise the Dude, whom he calls "a bum".
  • Julianne Moore as Maude Lebowski, the Big Lebowski's daughter. She is a feminist and an avant-garde artist whose work "has been commended as being strongly vaginal". She is good friends with video artist Knox Harrington (David Thewlis), and is possibly the person who introduced Bunny to Uli Kunkel (Peter Stormare), the nihilist, porn star, new wave musician and would-be kidnapper.
  • Tara Reid as Bunny Lebowski; born Fawn Knutsen, she is the Big Lebowski's "trophy wife". She ran away from her family's farm in Moorhead, Minnesota and soon found herself making pornographic videos (such as 'Logjammin') under the name "Bunny LaJoya". According to Reid, Charlize Theron tried out for the role of Bunny.[4]
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Brandt, a sycophant and loyal assistant to the Big Lebowski, who tries to please everyone. Hoffman auditioned for the film and had to do the scene where Brandt shows the Dude around Jeffrey Lebowski's office.[5]
  • Sam Elliott as The Stranger, the film's narrator, who sees this story unfold from an unbiased perspective. His narration is marked by a thick, laid-back Western accent.
  • Ben Gazzara as Jackie Treehorn, a wealthy pornographer and loan shark who lives in Malibu. He employs the two thugs who assault the Dude in his home at the beginning of the movie.
  • Peter Stormare, Torsten Voges and Flea play The Nihilists, composed of Uli Kunkel (aka "Karl Hungus"), Franz and Dieter respectively. Three Germans who claim to be nihilists, they, along with Kunkel's ex-girlfriend (Aimee Mann), pretend to be the ones who kidnapped Bunny. The character of Uli originated on the set of Fargo between Ethan Coen and Stormare, who would often speak in a mock German accent.[6]
  • John Turturro as Jesus Quintana, an opponent of the Dude's and Walter's team in the bowling league semifinals match. This eccentric, Latino, trash-talking North Hollywood resident speaks with a thick Cuban-American accent, and often refers to himself in the third person, insisting on the English pronunciation of his name (GEE-zus) rather than the Spanish (Heh-SOOS). "The Jesus", as he refers to himself, is a pedophile and generally creepy pervert who did six months in Chino for exposing himself to an eight-year old. Turturro originally thought that he was going to have a bigger role in the film but when he read the script, he realized that it was much smaller. However, the Coen brothers let him come up with a lot of his own ideas for the character, like shining the bowling ball and the scene where he dances backwards, which he says was inspired by Muhammad Ali.[7]
  • Jon Polito as Da Fino, a private investigator hired by Bunny Lebowski's parents, the Knutsens, to entice their daughter back to their farm in Moorhead, Minnesota. Da Fino, who drives a battered blue Volkswagen Beetle (in reference to the Coen Brothers' first film, Blood Simple), mistakes the Dude for a "brother shamus" (a fellow P.I.), and offends the Dude by referring to Maude as his "special lady" and not the Dude's preferred term, "my fucking lady friend".

[edit] Minor characters

[edit] Production

[edit] Origins

The Dude is mostly inspired by Jeff Dowd, a man the Coen brothers met while they were trying to find distribution for the feature film Blood Simple.[2] Dowd had been a member of the Seattle Seven, liked to drink White Russians, and was known as "The Dude."[8] The Dude was also partly based on a friend of the Coen brothers, Pete Exline, a Vietnam War veteran who reportedly lived in a dump of an apartment and was proud of a little rug that "tied the room together."[9] Exline knew Barry Sonnenfeld from New York University and Sonnenfeld introduced Exline to the Coen brothers while they were trying to raise money for Blood Simple.[10] Exline became friends with the Coens and, in 1989, told them all kinds of stories from his own life, including ones about his friend Lew Abernathy (one of the inspirations for Walter), a fellow Vietnam vet who later became a private investigator and helped him track down and confront a high school kid who stole his car.[11] As in the film, Exline's car was impounded by the Los Angeles Police Department and Abernathy found an 8th grader's homework under the passenger seat.[12] Exline also belonged to an amateur softball league but the Coens changed it to bowling in the movie because "it's a very social sport where you can sit around and drink and smoke while engaging in inane conversation," Ethan said in an interview.[13] The Coens met filmmaker John Milius when they were in Los Angeles making Barton Fink and incorporated his love of guns and the military into the character of Walter.[14]

According to Julianne Moore, the character of Maude was based on artist Carolee Schneemann, "who worked naked from a swing," and Yoko Ono.[15] The character of Jesus Quintana was inspired, in part, by a performance the Coens had seen John Turturro give in 1988 at the Public Theater in a play called Mi Puta Vida in which he played a pederast-type character, "so we thought, let's make Turturro a pederast. It'll be something he can really run with", Joel said in an interview.[13]

The film's overall structure was influenced by the detective fiction of Raymond Chandler. Ethan said, "We wanted something that would generate a certain narrative feeling � like a modern Raymond Chandler story, and that's why it had to be set in Los Angeles ... We wanted to have a narrative flow, a story that moves like a Chandler book through different parts of town and different social classes".[16] The use of the Stranger's voiceover also came from Chandler as Joel remarked, "He is a little bit of an audience substitute. In the movie adaptation of Chandler it's the main character that speaks off-screen, but we didn't want to reproduce that though it obviously has echoes. It's as if someone was commenting on the plot from an all-seeing point of view. And at the same time rediscovering the old earthiness of a Mark Twain."[17]

The significance of the bowling culture was, according to Joel, "important in reflecting that period at the end of the Fifties and the beginning of the Sixties. That suited the retro side of the movie, slightly anachronistic, which sent us back to a not-so-far-away era, but one that was well and truly gone nevertheless."[18]

[edit] Screenplay

The Big Lebowski was written around the same time as Barton Fink. When the Coen brothers wanted to make it, John Goodman was taping episodes for the Roseanne television program and Jeff Bridges was making the Walter Hill film, Wild Bill. The Coens decided to make Fargo in the meantime.[14] According to Ethan, "the movie was conceived as pivoting around that relationship between the Dude and Walter", which sprang from the scenes between Barton Fink and Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink.[17] They also came up with the idea of setting the film in contemporary L.A. because the people who inspired the story lived in the area.[19] When Pete Exline told them about the homework in a baggie incident, the Coens thought that that was very Raymond Chandler-esque and decided to integrate elements of the author's fiction into their script. Joel Coen cites Robert Altman's contemporary take on Chandler with The Long Goodbye as a primary influence on their film in the sense that The Big Lebowski "is just kind of informed by Chandler around the edges".[20] When they started writing the script, the Coens wrote only 40 pages and then let it sit for a while before finishing it. This is the normal writing process for them, because they often "encounter a problem at a certain stage, we pass to another project, then we come back to the first script. That way we've already accumulated pieces for several future movies".[21] In order to liven up a scene that they thought was too heavy on exposition, they added an "effete art-world hanger-on", known as Knox Harrington, late in the screenwriting process.[22] In the original script, the Dude's car was the one Dowd used to have � a Chrysler LeBaron but it was not big enough to fit John Goodman so the Coens changed it to a Ford Torino.[23]

[edit] Pre-production

Polygram and Working Title Films, who had funded Fargo, backed The Big Lebowski with a budget of $15 million. In casting the film, Joel remarked, "we tend to write both for people we know and have worked with, and some parts without knowing who's going to play the role. In The Big Lebowski we did write for John [Goodman] and Steve [Buscemi], but we didn't know who was getting the Jeff Bridges role".[24] In preparation for his role, Bridges met Dowd but actually "drew on myself a lot from back in the Sixties and Seventies. I lived in a little place like that and did drugs, although I think I was a little more creative than the Dude".[9] The actor went into his own closet with the film's wardrobe person and picked out clothes that he had that the Dude might wear.[1] He wore his character's clothes home because most of them were his own.[25] The actor also adopted the same physicality as Dowd, including the slouching and his ample belly.[23] Originally, Goodman wanted a different kind of beard for Walter but the Coen brothers insisted on the "Gladiator" or what they called the "Chin Strap" and he thought it would go well with his flat-top haircut.[26]

For the look of the film, the Coens wanted to avoid the usual retro 1960s clich�s like lava lamps, Day-Glo posters, and Grateful Dead music[27] and for it to be "consistent with the whole bowling thing, we wanted to keep the movie pretty bright and poppy", Joel said in an interview.[28] For example, the star motif featured predominantly throughout the movie started with the film's production designer Richard Heinrichs' design for the bowling alley. According to Joel, he "came up with the idea of just laying free-form neon stars on top of it and doing a similar free-form star thing on the interior". This carried over to the film's dream sequences. "Both dream sequences involve star patterns and are about lines radiating to a point. In the first dream sequence, the Dude gets knocked out and you see stars and they all coalesce into the overhead nightscape of L.A. The second dream sequence is an astral environment with a backdrop of stars", remembers Heinrichs.[28] For Jackie Treehorn's Malibu beach house, he was inspired by late 1950s and early 1960s bachelor pad-style furniture. The Coen brothers told Heinrichs that they wanted Treehorn's beach party to be Inca-themed with a "very Hollywood-looking party in which young, oiled-down, fairly aggressive men walk around with appetizers and drinks. So there's a very sacrificial quality to it".[29]

Cinematographer Roger Deakins discussed the look of the film with the Coens during pre-production. They told him that they wanted some parts of the film to have a real and contemporary feeling and other parts, like the dream sequences, to have a very stylized look.[30] Bill and Jacqui Landrum did all of the choreography for the film. For his dance sequence, Jack Kehler went through three three-hour rehearsals.[1] The Coen brothers offered him three to four choices of classical music for him to pick from and he settled on "Pictures at an Exhibition". At each rehearsal, he went through each phase of the piece.[31]

[edit] Principal photography

Actual filming took place over an eleven-week period with location shooting in and around L.A., including all of the bowling sequences at the Hollywood Star Lanes (for three weeks)[32] and the Dude's Busby Berkeley-esque dream sequences in a converted airplane hangar.[16] According to Joel, the only time they ever directed Bridges "was when he would come over at the beginning of each scene and ask, 'Do you think the Dude burned one on the way over?' I'd reply 'Yes' usually, so Jeff would go over in the corner and start rubbing his eyes to get them bloodshot".[33] Julianne Moore was sent the script while working on The Lost World: Jurassic Park. She worked only two weeks on the film, early and late during the production that went from January to April 1997[34] while Sam Elliott was only on set for two days and did many takes of his final speech.[35]

Deakins described the look of the fantasy scenes as being very crisp, monochromatic, and highly lit in order to afford greater depth of focus. However, with the Dude's apartment, Deakins said, "it's kind of seedy and the light's pretty nasty" with a grittier look. The visual bridge between these two different looks was how he photographed the night scenes. Instead of adopting the usual blue moonlight or blue street lamp look, he used a very orange sodium-light effect.[36] The Coen brothers shot a lot of the film with wide-angle lens because, according to Joel, it made it easier to hold focus for a greater depth and it made camera movements more dynamic.[37]

To achieve the point-of-view of a rolling bowling ball the Coen brothers mounted a camera, "on something like a barbecue spit", according to Ethan, and then dolly it along the lane. The challenge for them was figuring out the relative speeds of the forward motion and the rotating motion. CGI was used to create the vantage point of the thumb hole in the bowling ball.[34]

[edit] Soundtrack

The Big Lebowski: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack by Various artists
Released February 24, 1998
Genre Rock, classical, jazz, country, folk, pop
Length 51:43
Label Mercury
Producer T-Bone Burnett, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Professional reviews
Coen Brothers film soundtracks chronology
The Big Lebowski
O Brother, Where Art Thou?

The original score was composed by Carter Burwell, a veteran of all the Coen Brothers' films. While the Coens were writing the screenplay they had Kenny Rogers' "Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was in)", the Gipsy Kings' cover of "Hotel California", and several Creedence Clearwater Revival songs in mind.[39] They asked T-Bone Burnett to pick songs for the soundtrack of the film. They knew that they wanted different genres of music from different times but, as Joel remembers, "T-Bone even came up with some far-out Henry Mancini and Yma Sumac".[40] Burnett was able to secure the rights to the songs by Kenny Rogers and the Gipsy Kings and also added tracks by Captain Beefheart, Moondog and the rights to a relatively obscure Bob Dylan song called "The Man in Me".[39] However, he had a tough time securing the rights to Townes Van Zandt's cover of the Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers", which plays over the film's closing credits. Former Stones manager Allen Klein owned the rights to the song and wanted $150,000 for it. Burnett convinced Klein to watch an early cut of the film and remembers, "It got to the part where the Dude says, 'I hate the fuckin' Eagles, man!' Klein stands up and says, 'That's it, you can have the song!' That was beautiful".[39] Burnett was going to be credited on the film as "Music Supervisor" but asked his credit to be "Music Archivist" because he "hated the notion of being a supervisor; I wouldn't want anyone to think of me as management".[40]

For Joel, "the original music, as with other elements of the movie, had to echo the retro sounds of the Sixties and early Seventies".[15] Music defines each character. For example, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" by Bob Nolan was chosen for the Stranger at the time the Coens wrote the screenplay, as was "Lujon" by Henri Mancini for Jackie Treehorn. "The German nihilists are accompanied by techno-pop and Jeff Bridges by Creedence. So there's a musical signature for each of them", remarked Ethan in an interview.[15]

[edit] Soundtrack album track listing

  1. "The Man in Me" � written and performed by Bob Dylan
  2. "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles" � written and performed by Captain Beefheart
  3. "My Mood Swings" � written by Elvis Costello and Cait O'Riordan; performed by Costello
  4. "Ataypura" � written by Moises Vivanco; performed by Yma Sumac
  5. "Traffic Boom" � written and performed by Piero Piccioni
  6. "I Got It Bad & That Ain't Good" � written by Duke Ellington and Paul Francis Webster; performed by Nina Simone
  7. "Stamping Ground" � written by Louis T. Hardin; performed by Moondog with orchestra
  8. "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" � written by Mickey Newbury; performed by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
  9. "Walking Song" � written and performed by Meredith Monk
  10. "Gl�ck das mir verblieb" from Die tote Stadt � written and conducted by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; performed by Ilona Steingruber, Anton Dermota and the Austrian State Radio Orchestra
  11. "Lujon" � written and performed by Henry Mancini.
  12. "Hotel California" � written by Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Don Felder; performed by The Gipsy Kings
  13. "Technopop (Wie Glauben)" � written and performed by Carter Burwell. The character Uli Kunkel was in the German electronic band Autobahn, a homage to the 1970s band Kraftwerk. The album cover of their record Nagelbett (nail bed) is a parody of the Kraftwerk album cover for The Man-Machine and the group name Autobahn shares the name of a Kraftwerk song and album.[41]
  14. "Dead Flowers" � written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; performed by Townes van Zandt

[edit] Other music in the film

[edit] Reception

The Big Lebowski received its world premiere at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 1998 at the 1,300 capacity Eccles Theater. Reportedly, there were a few walkouts and Peter Howell, in his review for the Toronto Star, wrote, "It's hard to believe that this is the work of a team that won an Oscar last year for the original screenplay of Fargo. There's a large amount of profanity in the movie, which seems a weak attempt to paper over dialogue gaps."[42] The film was also screened at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival[43] before opening in North America on March 6, 1998 in 1,207 theaters. It grossed USD $5.5 million on its opening weekend, grossing $17 million domestically, just above its $15 million budget.[44]

Reviews have been mostly positive, however. The Big Lebowski currently has a rating of 77% on Rotten Tomatoes (58% for their "Cream of the Crop" designation). Todd McCarthy in Variety magazine wrote, "One of the film's indisputable triumphs is its soundtrack, which mixes Carter Burwell's original score with classic pop tunes and some fabulous covers."[45] USA Today gave the film three out of four stars and felt that the Dude was "too passive a hero to sustain interest", but that there was "enough startling brilliance here to suggest that, just like the Dude, those smarty-pants Coens will abide."[46] In his review for the Washington Post, Desson Howe praised the Coens and "their inspired, absurdist taste for weird, peculiar Americana � but a sort of neo-Americana that is entirely invented � the Coens have defined and mastered their own bizarre subgenre. No one does it like them and, it almost goes without saying, no one does it better."[47] Janet Maslin praised Bridges' performance in her review for The New York Times: "Mr. Bridges finds a role so right for him that he seems never to have been anywhere else. Watch this performance to see shambling executed with nonchalant grace and a seemingly out-to-lunch character played with fine comic flair."[48] Andrew Sarris, in his review for the New York Observer, wrote, "The result is a lot of laughs and a feeling of awe toward the craftsmanship involved. I doubt that there'll be anything else like it the rest of this year."[49]

However, Jonathan Rosenbaum wrote in the Chicago Reader, "To be sure, The Big Lebowski is packed with show-offy filmmaking and as a result is pretty entertaining. But insofar as it represents a moral position�and the Coens' relative styling of their figures invariably does�it's an elitist one, elevating salt-of-the-earth types like Bridges and Goodman ... over everyone else in the movie."[50] Dave Kehr, in his review for the Daily News, criticized the film's premise as a "tired idea, and it produces an episodic, unstrung film."[51] The Guardian criticized the film as "a bunch of ideas shoveled into a bag and allowed to spill out at random. The film is infuriating, and will win no prizes. But it does have some terrific jokes."[52]

[edit] Legacy

The Big Lebowski has become a cult classic over the years and has been called "the first cult film of the Internet era".[53] Steve Palopoli wrote about the film's emerging cult status in July 2002.[54] He first realized that the film had a cult following when he attended a midnight screening in 2000 at the New Beverly Cinema in L.A. Palopoli witnessed people quoting dialogue from the film to each other.[55] Soon after the article appeared, the programmer for local midnight film series in Santa Cruz decided to screen The Big Lebowski and on the first weekend they had to turn away several hundred people. The theater held the film over for six weeks which had never happened before.[56]

An annual festival, the Lebowski Fest, began in Louisville, Kentucky in 2002 with 150 fans showing up, and has since expanded to several other cities.[57] The Festival's main event each year is a night of unlimited bowling with various contests including costume, trivia, hardest- and farthest-traveled contests. Held over a weekend, events typically include a pre-fest party with bands the night before the bowling event as well as a day-long outdoor party with bands, vendor booths and games. Various celebrities from the film have even attended some of the events, including Jeff Bridges who attended the Los Angeles event.[57] The British equivalent, inspired by Lebowski Fest, is known as The Dude Abides and is held in London.[58]

Entertainment Weekly ranked it 8th on their Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years list.[59] The film was also ranked #34 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films"[60] and ranked #15 on the magazine's "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" list.[61] The Big Lebowski was voted as the 10th best film set in Los Angeles in the last 25 years by a group of Los Angeles Times writers and editors with two criteria: "The movie had to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience, and only one film per director was allowed on the list".[62] Empire magazine ranked Walter Sobchak #49[63] and the Dude #7 in their "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters" poll.[64]

[edit] DVD

Two-disc 10th Anniversary Edition DVD cover artwork

Universal Studios released a "Collector's Edition" DVD on October 18, 2005 with extra features that included an "Introduction by Mortimer Young", "Jeff Bridges' Photography", "Making of The Big Lebowski", and "Production Notes". In addition, a limited edition "Achiever's Edition Gift Set" also included The Big Lebowski Bowling Shammy Towel, four Collectible Coasters that included photographs and quotable lines from the movie, and eight Exclusive Photo Cards from Jeff Bridges� personal collection.[65] Also, the Polygram Filmed Entertainment 'Icarus' Logo originally seen at the beginning of the film was plastered with the current Universal Studios Logo. A "10th Anniversary Edition" was released on September 9, 2008 and features all of the extras from the "Collector's Edition" and "The Dude's Life: Strikes and Gutters ... Ups and Downs ... The Dude Abides", Theatrical Trailer (from the first DVD release), "The Lebowski Fest: An Achiever's Story", "Flying Carpets and Bowling Pin Dreams: The Dream Sequences of the Dude", "Interactive Map", "Jeff Bridges Photo Book",and a "Photo Gallery". There are both a standard release and a Limited Edition which features "Bowling Ball Packaging" and is individually numbered.[66]


[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Green, Bill; Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, Scott Shuffitt (2007). "I'm A Lebowski, You're A Lebowski". Bloomsbury. pp. 27. 
  2. ^ a b Green 2007, p. 90.
  3. ^ Coen, Joel (Writer, Director) and Ethan Coen (Writer, Producer). (2005-10-18). 'The Big Lebowski (Collector's Edition) [DVD]. Universal Studios. Retrieved on 2007-12-17. Event occurs at (Special Feature Interview).
  4. ^ Green 2007, p. 72.
  5. ^ Green 2007, p. 49.
  6. ^ Green 2007, p. 57.
  7. ^ Green 2007, p. 44.
  8. ^ Green 2007, p. 91-92.
  9. ^ a b Bergan, Ronald (2000). "The Coen Brothers". Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 188. 
  10. ^ Green 2007, p. 97-98.
  11. ^ Green 2007, p. 99.
  12. ^ Green 2007, p. 100.
  13. ^ a b Bergan 2000, p. 195.
  14. ^ a b Bergan 2000, p. 189.
  15. ^ a b c Ciment, Michel; Hubert Niogret (May 1998). "The Logic of Soft Drugs". 'Postif': pp. 156. 
  16. ^ a b Levine, Josh (2000). "The Coen Brothers: The Story of Two American Filmmakers". ECW Press. pp. 140. 
  17. ^ a b Ciment 2000, p. 169.
  18. ^ Ciment 2000, p. 170.
  19. ^ Robertson, William Preston; Tricia Cooke (1998). "The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film". W.W. Norton. pp. 41. 
  20. ^ Robertson 1998, p. 43.
  21. ^ Ciment 2000, p. 171.
  22. ^ McCarthy, Phillip (March 27, 1998). "Coen Off". Sydney Morning Herald. 
  23. ^ a b Green 2007, p. 93.
  24. ^ Woods, Paul A (2000). "Joel & Ethan Coen: Blood Siblings". Plexus. 
  25. ^ Carr, Jay (March 1, 1998). "The Big Easy". Boston Globe. 
  26. ^ Green 2007, p. 32.
  27. ^ Robertson 1998, p. 95.
  28. ^ a b Bergan 2000, p. 191.
  29. ^ Robertson 1998, p. 91.
  30. ^ Robertson 1998, p. 77.
  31. ^ Green 2007, p. 64.
  32. ^ Wloszcyna, Susan (March 5, 1998). "Another Quirky Coen Toss Turning Their Sly Style to Lebowski". USA Today. 
  33. ^ Bergan 2000, p. 195.
  34. ^ a b Arnold, Gary (March 6, 1998). "Siblings' Style Has No Rivals". Washington Times. 
  35. ^ Green 2007, p. 46.
  36. ^ Robertson 1998, p. 79.
  37. ^ Robertson 1998, p. 82.
  38. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Big Lebowski (Original Soundtrack)". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-08-19. 
  39. ^ a b c Greene, Andy (September 4, 2008). "Inside the Dude's Stoner Soundtrack". Rolling Stone. Retrieved on 2008-09-08. 
  40. ^ a b Altman, Billy (February 24, 2002). "A Music Maker Happy to Be Just a Conduit". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-04-30. 
  41. ^ "Projects - The Big Lebowski". Retrieved on August 11. 
  42. ^ Howell, Peter (January 19, 1998). "Coens' latest doesn't hold together The Big Lebowski is more sprawling than large". Toronto Star. 
  43. ^ "Berlinale 1998: Pix in official selection". Variety. February 9, 1998 � February 15, 1998. 
  44. ^ "The Big Lebowski". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  45. ^ McCarthy, Todd (January 20, 1998). "The Big Lebowski". Variety. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  46. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (March 6, 1998). "The Big Lebowski: Coen humor to spare". USA Today. 
  47. ^ Howe, Desson (March 6, 1998). "The Big Lebowski: Rollin' a Strike". Washington Post. 
  48. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 6, 1998). "A Bowling Ball's-Eye View of Reality". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  49. ^ Sarris, Andrew (March 8, 1998). "A Cubist Coen Comedy". New York Observer. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  50. ^ Rosenbaum, Jonathan (March 6, 1998). "L.A. Residential". Chicago Reader. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  51. ^ Kehr, Dave (March 6, 1998). "Coen Brothers' Latest is a Big Letdownski". Daily News. 
  52. ^ "Meanwhile, The Big Lebowski should have stayed in the bowling alley ...". The Guardian. April 24, 1998. 
  53. ^ Russell, Will (August 15, 2007). "Hey Dude: The Lebowski Festival". The Independent. Retrieved on 2007-08-17. 
  54. ^ Palopoli, Steve (July 25-31, 2002). "The Last Cult Picture Show". Metro Santa Cruz. Retrieved on 2008-04-10. 
  55. ^ Green 2007, p. 129.
  56. ^ Green 2007, p. 130.
  57. ^ a b Hoggard, Liz (July 22, 2007). "Get with the Dude's vibe". The Guardian.,,2131837,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  58. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (May 11, 2005). "Dude, let's go bowling". The Guardian.,,1481323,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-01-04. 
  59. ^ "The Comedy 25: The Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. August 27, 2008.,,20221235_17,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-08-27. 
  60. ^ "The Top 50 Cult Films". Entertainment Weekly. May 23, 2003. 
  61. ^ "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83". Entertainment Weekly. September 3, 2008.,,20221982_10,00.html. Retrieved on 2008-09-04. 
  62. ^ Boucher, Geoff (August 31, 2008). "The 25 best L.A. films of the last 25 years". Los Angeles Times.,0,70218.htmlstory. Retrieved on 2008-08-31. 
  63. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire. Retrieved on 2008-12-02. 
  64. ^ "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters". Empire. Retrieved on 2008-12-02. 
  65. ^ Foster, Dave (August 27, 2005). "The Big Lebowski CE in October". DVD Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-04. 
  66. ^ Foster, Dave (April 6, 2008). "The Big Lebowski 10th AE (R1) in September". DVD Times. Retrieved on 2008-06-04. 

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] External links


Is The Big Lebowski a cultural milestone?
By Finlo Rohrer BBC News Magazine
It's 10 years since the release of The Big Lebowski, a film that split cinema audiences down the middle but created a strange cult. Is The Dude a slacker prince for our times? Not everybody likes The Big Lebowski. The Big Lebowski is a cult film. That is to say, not everybody likes it but those who do, in the main, have a special relationship with it. One of the dream sequences (photo courtesy of Universal Pictures) When it was released, as the follow-up to the Coen brothers' well-regarded and academy-impressing Fargo, many critics found themselves underwhelmed. Fargo was a film that hung together well - tightly paced and plotted, full of dark humour and moments of pathos. The Big Lebowski, on the other hand, could be viewed as two hours of wild self-indulgence, packed to the gills with bowling, White Russian cocktails, and swearing. Variety said it "doesn't seem to be about anything other than its own cleverness", while the LA Times moaned that the "story line is in truth disjointed, incoherent and even irritating". Even its staunchest fan would have to say the plot, a pastiche of a Chandler or Hammett mystery, takes a little decoding. The central character is Jeff Lebowski, aka The Dude, who has his rug urinated on by thugs, setting off a complicated chain of events. Power of quotability In 1998 the film failed, initially at least, to set the box office on fire.

QUOTABLE LINES The Dude: Nice marmot Careful man, there's a beverage here This aggression will not stand, man That rug really tied the room together Walter Sobchak: This is not Nam, this is bowling, there are rules You're entering a world of pain I did not watch my buddies die face down in the mud... Chinaman is not the preferred nomenclature You want a toe? I can get you a toe... hell, I can get you a toe by three o'clock this afternoon, with nail polish The flicks were then being bestrode by Titanic, a big sentimental monster of a replica-ship melodrama. The ordinary cinemagoer preferred Celine Dion's heart going on, and Kate Winslet threatening to jump to a watery grave, to the antics of a bearded slacker in Los Angeles. But while The Big Lebowski did not initially put bums on seats, it was not a total turkey and proved something of a very slow-burn hit, particularly on DVD. It became a popular choice for midnight screenings. Fans liked to go along and quote the dialogue. It was perhaps not surprising when four years after its release, it spawned Lebowski Fest, a chain of conventions, centred on Louisville, Kentucky, celebrating the film. There have even been Lebowski celebrations in the UK. "The first night we watch the movie, the second night we become the movie," says Will Russell, who describes himself as "co-founding dude" of the Lebowski Fest. At the annual events, fans dress up as the Dude himself, or as crazed Vietnam veteran Walter Sobchak, German nihilists, purple-clad Jesus Quintana, bowling pins, Valkyries and even as the dancing landlord. Then they read quotations to each other, much as might be seen at a Monty Python convention. Will Russell (right) with another co-founder, Bill Green "It is fun to drink and bowl," says Mr Russell, co-author of I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski.

And they are all united into one temporarily tight-knit community by their love of the film. "The characters are so loveable and it is a really quotable movie. Not everybody gets it. A lot of people see the movie and they don't like it. Other people fall in love with it." It's a key element in cult appeal. Not just loving something, but also relishing the fact that not everybody does. "It was considered a flop at the time. Titanic was in its 20th week and it still beat the Big Lebowski. US Marshals beat it." But neither have the quotability of The Big Lebowski. At the festival the "achievers" - as the fanatics of the film call themselves, after the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers mentioned in the movie - shout "nice marmot" or "careful man, there's a beverage here". John Goodman's character, Walter Sobchak, provides many of the most glorious lines with his preposterous ruminations on his experiences in Vietnam such as: "This is not Nam, this is bowling, there are rules." Regular swearing The fans love the glorious level of deadpan wit. In one scene the two protagonists enter a house and see a famous TV writer ensconced in an iron lung, his laboured breathing audible across the room. "Does he still write?", they ask the woman who answers the door. "No, no, no, he has health problems," she replies. Fans regard Jesus Quintana as one of the great movie cameos And then there is the swearing. Mr Russell estimates the F-word is used 281 times. Lou Harry, author of the as-yet-unpublished Behind the Screen: The Big Lebowski, says the film's appeal lies in its "compulsive rewatchability". "It is in a line of Coen Brothers films - it has the same quirkiness and unexpected 180 degree turns until you have seen it 17 times. It does that in a way that is satisfying."

With a marijuana-smoking burned out hippie as the protagonist, it's easy to place The Big Lebowski as one of the forerunners of today's wave of slacker comedies like Knocked Up, Pineapple Express and The Wackness. But its place is really in the line of under-appreciated-at-time-of-release cult films - a list featuring everything from Tod Browning's Freaks to Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The Big Lebowski is of an era where fanatics find it easier to discover the shared nature of their fanaticism thanks to the internet and now, to social networking. The result is the continuance of the concept of "cult".
Below is a selection of your comments.

You could say that the movie is still a relevant social commentary. The two main characters are polar opposite of each other: the Dude, a liberal, slacker, anti-establishment guy; Walter a conservative, war veteran, law-and-order guy. This is juxtaposed against Donny the ill-informed and out of touch middle ground. All three coexist in a fragile harmony that is in conflict with the issues of the day of uncheck aggression, under the table deals and moral debauchery. With the death of Donny, they realise their personal angst is just not that important and what matters is having civility and pursuing what makes you happy. I still will not bowl on the Sabbath.

-Maude, Jacksonville, Florida

The Big Lebowski is a good film. No more and certainly no less. That alone makes it interesting and somewhat of a rarity. Is it a cult film? Well, it certainly provides fuel for one of the most irritating manifestations of cult status - that of quotability. This basically means a few people shouting lines from a film at each other in sad displays of one-up-manship and "insider" knowledge [aka elitism]. The fact that one of the fans seems to revel in the idea of other people not liking the film is very revealing and not in a good way. This kind of behaviour is actually a bad advert for a decent film. The bottom line is we could all join in but most choose not to.

-Brian, Bristol

The soundtrack alone puts this film up there as one of the greats. Having Sam Elliott as the narrator pushes it into the top 10. Jesus threatening to pull the trigger until it goes click eases it into the top 5. But Steve Buschemi as the thing you only appreciate when it's gone nails it firmly at number 1. Is it bad form to wish for Lebowski 2: Abide Harder? Olav, Sidcup It is one of the funniest and most charming films ever. Can you think of another movie where the Barry White-voiced narrator loses his train of thought in the opening two minutes, and lets the viewer just work it out himself? Or where even the most miniscule character - such as Brandt the secretary - is drawn in loving detail? You could make a whole movie about ANYBODY in this film, and it would be wonderful. It's a joy. Russell Jones, Manchester, UK Repeated watchings of The Big Lebowski have just got me through a difficult four-day labour... I just hope my son will like the film as much as I do! Lisa, Swansea At last, the BBC has lent its unique authority to my quest to convince non-believers of the importance of this film (or at very least justify my white-Russian-soaked annual home Lebowski Fest with fellow achievers to my wife). I like your style, dudes.

-Mike, Chicago Dude Living in London

My best man organised a Big Lebowski themed stag night consisting of dressing up as The Dude, bowling and drinking copious amounts of White Russians. It dawned on me whilst I was there that maybe not everybody had seen this classic movie when a fellow bowler asked why we were all dressed in pyjamas (even though we had Bermuda shorts, shades and dressing gowns on - who sleeps in that?). I felt like saying "Obviously you're not a golfer" but thought the quote may be lost on them.

-Andy Robinson, Manchester

Without parallel my favourite film of all time. The Dude typifies someone we all want to be associated with. A carefree relaxed person, who speaks his mind and does what he likes to. We need to revive the UK Lebowski Fest which I missed in Edinburgh two years ago.

-Amit Aggarwal, Cambridge, England

 I discovered this film on VHS when it went to rental. At 16 years old, bits probably went over my head, but I instantly took to dressing gowns and White Russians (milk, Kaluha and vodka went down far easier than those baby steps into cheap larger). The habit only gathered pace when I started university as I rejoiced in the 'bum' lifestyle. This film is a stonewall classic and I've been saying it for years. When you come across someone who agrees with you, it's instant respect. You can entertain yourselves for a wonderful 15 minutes as you exchange quotes and then, like waking up next to a stranger, there's an awkward silence as nothing else seems half as funny afterwards. Jesus... you said it man.

-Ben Williams, Manchester



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