Tuesday, August 16, 2005


The year is 1991. On the TV, George Bush tells the American public that the "aggression will not stand". The Dude, aka Jeffrey Lebowski, an aging, slightly drug addled throwback to the 60s who loves to bowl is introduced by the films narrator as possibly the laziest man in Los Angeles (which puts him in the running for laziest man world-wide). Amusingly, after this sentence the narrator loses his train of thought.
The Dude buys some milk (for his ever present libation, the White Russian) from the grocery store while wearing bahama shorts and his bath-robe. The observative will notice he writes a cheque at the cashier for $0.69. Shortly after at this returning home, the Dude is assaulted by two thugs demanding the Million dollars that Jeffrey Lebowski's wife owes a local pornography producer. When they find out that this is the 'Dead-beat' Lebowski (unmarried, the toilet seat is up!), and not the rich Lebowski, they piss on his rug out of frustration.
At the bowling ally, the Dude tells his friends, an articulate oaf of a Vietnam vet who is a lot of a loose cannon, Walter, and a vacuous ex-surfer, Donnie, about his soiled rug. Donnie doesn't follow, but Walter cooks up the idea that the Dude should get the rich Lebowski to pay for the cleaning to his (urinated upon) rug, which "really tied the room together."
Thus begins an odyssey through the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, the most off the wall cast of characters from German nihilists, nymphomaniac trophy wives, feminist artists, fascist police chiefs, pornographers (and their henchmen), video artists, incapacitated TV show writers, and a Latino bowler named Jesus that has to be seen to be believed.

The Big Lebowski takes its structure from the Howard Hawks/Humphrey Bogart film, The Big Sleep (which had a plot so dense, even the writer was unsure of who killed one of the victims) and blending in Bubsy Berkeley style musical numbers (as acid-flashbacks naturally!) with all the hilarious goings-on for a guy who just wants his rug back.
But there is a point to all the madness, somehow the Coens manage to take a fascinating look at what it is like to be a man, and to have lived a meaningful life, and ultimately find your comfortable place in the universe. The Dude Abides.

I probably have more fun watching The Big Lebowski than any other film ever made (this is not hyperbole! For the record, several others have been shown at KBT including Ghost Busters, Bottle Rocket and The Ref, still others include A Fish Called Wanda, Clerks, Life of Brian and Dr. Strangelove). It still blows my mind how I missed this coming to the theatres in 1998 after the massive success the Coen's had with Fargo. To my shame, I remember seeing Rush Hour in the same multiplex and not even registering the film (I had a vague notion it was about bowling). Nonetheless, after I found out it was a Coen Brothers film, it had already left the theatres. Thus I was first at the video store when it finally appeared on VHS and from that point, I've probably seen it about 25 times (I purchased it on VHS and actually wore out the tape until it broke in my VCR!). The movie has spawned a regional series of Lebowski-Fests that have attracted several of the cast members which is a collection of Coen Brother regulars with a few excellent additions including an inspired performance by Jeff Bridges. The regulars: John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Peter Storemare, Joe Polito and John Turturro. The additions: Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Tara Reid and Sam Elliot.

I know how subjective comedy is, but I happen to think this is the best one ever made. Please join my celebration of this fantastic ode to cinema. Drinks @ 8, Trailers @ 8:30, showtime immediately to follow.


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