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The Big Lebowski is a 1998 American comedy film written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Jeff Bridges stars as Jeffrey Lebowski, an unemployed Los Angelesmarker slacker and avid bowler, who refers to himself as "The Dude".

The Dude is introduced to a multimillionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski after a case of mistaken identity. When the millionaire Lebowski's trophy wife is later kidnapped, he commissions the Dude and friends to deliver the ransom to secure her release. The plan goes awry when the Dude's friend Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) schemes to keep the full ransom sum. Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Huddleston, Julianne Moore, Tara Reid and John Turturro star in the film, which is narrated by a cowboy known only as "Stranger", played by Sam Elliott. The film's structure has been compared to Raymond Chandler's novel The Big Sleep. The original score was composed by Carter Burwell, a longtime collaborator of the Coen Brothers.

The movie was not an immediate commercial success (its budget was about US$15 million, and the film grossed US$17 million in the United States), but it received generally positive reviews from critics. The film, noted for its idiosyncratic characters, surreal dream sequences, unconventional dialogue, and eclectic soundtrack, has become a cult favorite and has been called "the first cult film of the Internet era." The film's devoted fans have spawned Lebowski Fest, an annual festival that started in Louisville, Kentuckymarker in 2002 and has since expanded to several other cities.

Plot

The film begins with a short voiceover introduction by an unnamed narrator (Sam Elliott) introducing the character of Jeffrey Lebowski as he is buying half and half from a grocery store with a check for 69 cents on September 11, 1991. The voiceover explains that Lebowski calls himself "The Dude".

After returning to his apartment in Venice, California, the Dude is roughed up by two thugs who have broken in. They are attempting to collect a debt the unmarried Lebowski's wife supposedly 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 (Reid), 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 Malibumarker. 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 " 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 police chief of Malibu, who berates and throws a coffee mug at him for disturbing 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 seduces him. During post-coital conversation with Maude, the Dude learns that she hopes to conceive a child with him but wants him to have no hand in the child's upbringing. He also 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. During this confrontation Walter accuses The Big Lebowski of not being a genuine paraplegic and tips over his wheelchair, causing The Big Lebowski to fall and cry. 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. After telling the nihilists they know that they never kidnapped Bunny and that the Big Lebowski never gave him any money, the nihilists demand all the money in their pockets. 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 Donny, including that he loved to surf and bowl, digresses into a eulogy of soldiers killed in Vietnam, 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 is a "little Lebowski on the way." The film transitions to the closing credits as Townes Van Zandt's version of "Dead Flowers" plays.

Cast and characters

  • Jeff Bridges as Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, a single, unemployed slacker living in Venice, Californiamarker, who enjoys marijuana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, White Russians, and bowling. He has a very laid-back approach to life and seems unconcerned with money, but he is not without intelligence, as he ultimately proves able to solve the mystery of Bunny Lebowski's disappearance. Jeff Bridges had heard or was told by the Coen brothers that they had written a screenplay for him. The Dude is mostly inspired by Jeff Dowd, a member of the anti-war radical group 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.
  • 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 (for whom he converted), 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 (or crowbar) 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 naïve, 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. 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, Minnesotamarker 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Malibumarker. 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. They are Germansmarker who claim to be nihilists, along with Kunkel's ex-girlfriend (Aimee Mann), and they 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.
  • 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 Hollywoodmarker 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 rather than the Spanish. "The Jesus", as he refers to himself, is a pederast and generally creepy pervert who did six months in Chinomarker for exposing himself to an 8-year old, according to Walter. 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.
  • 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, Minnesotamarker. 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 seamus" (a fellow P.I.), and offends the Dude by referring to Maude as his "special lady" and not the Dude's preferred term, "my lady friend".


Minor characters



Production

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. Dowd had been a member of the Seattle Seven, liked to drink White Russians, and was known as "The Dude." 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." Exline knew Barry Sonnenfeld from New York Universitymarker and Sonnenfeld introduced Exline to the Coen brothers while they were trying to raise money for Blood Simple. 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. 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. 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. 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.

According to Julianne Moore, the character of Maude was based on artist Carolee Schneemann, "who worked naked from a swing," and Yoko Ono. 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.

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". 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."

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."

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. 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. 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. 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". 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". 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. 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.

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". 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". 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. He wore his character's clothes home because most of them were his own. The actor also adopted the same physicality as Dowd, including the slouching and his ample belly. 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.

For the look of the film, the Coens wanted to avoid the usual retro 1960s clichés like lava lamps, Day-Glo posters, and Grateful Dead music 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. 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. 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".

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. Bill and Jacqui Landrum did all of the choreography for the film. For his dance sequence, Jack Kehler went through three three-hour rehearsals. 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.

Principal photography

Actual filming took place over an eleven-week period with location shooting in and around Los Angelesmarker, including all of the bowling sequences at the Hollywood Star Lanes (for three weeks) and the Dude's Busby Berkeley-esque dream sequences in a converted airplane hangar. 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". 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 while Sam Elliott was only on set for two days and did many takes of his final speech.

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. 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.

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 dollied 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.

Soundtrack

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. 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". 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". 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". 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".

For Joel, "the original music, as with other elements of the movie, had to echo the retro sounds of the Sixties and early Seventies". 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.

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 " – written by Mickey Newbury; performed by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition
  9. "Walking Song" – written and performed by Meredith Monk
  10. "Glück 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.
  14. "Dead Flowers" – written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards; performed by Townes van Zandt


Other music in the film



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." The film was also screened at the 1998 Berlin Film Festival before opening in North America on March 6, 1998 in 1,207 theaters. It grossed USD $5.5 million on its opening weekend, grossing US$17 million in the United States, just above its US$15 million budget.

Reviews have been mostly positive, however. The Big Lebowski currently has a rating of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes (71% 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." 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." 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." 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." 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."In a five star review for Empire Magazine, Ian Nathan wrote, "For those who delight in the Coens' divinely abstract take on reality, this is pure nirvana" and "In a perfect world all movies would be made by the Coen brothers."

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." 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." 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."

Legacy

Walter: "And so, Theodore Donald Kerabatsos..."
Walter: "And so, Theodore Donald Kerabatsos..."
The Big Lebowski has become a cult classic over the years and has been called "the first cult film of the Internet era". Steve Palopoli wrote about the film's emerging cult status in July 2002. 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 and witnessed people quoting dialogue from the film to each other. Soon after the article appeared, the programmer for local midnight film series in Santa Cruzmarker 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.

An annual festival, the Lebowski Fest, began in Louisville, Kentuckymarker, United Statesmarker in 2002 with 150 fans showing up, and has since expanded to several other cities. 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. The British equivalent, inspired by Lebowski Fest, is known as The Dude Abides and is held in London.

Dudeism, an online religion devoted largely to spreading the philosophy and lifestyle of the movie's main character was founded in 2005. Also known as The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, the organization has ordained over 50,000 "Dudeist Priests" all over the world via its website.

Entertainment Weekly ranked it 8th on their Funniest Movies of the Past 25 Years list. The film was also ranked #34 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films" and ranked #15 on the magazine's "The Cult 25: The Essential Left-Field Movie Hits Since '83" list. 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". Empire magazine ranked Walter Sobchak #49 and the Dude #7 in their "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters" poll.

John Turturro in an interview he had made with Fora.tv and that has been posted on Youtube talked about playing the Jesus character and the fun he had with him. He mentions in the video that he approached the Coen brothers on doing another film with the Jesus character getting out of prison (it was mentioned that Jesus was a sex offender), and gets a job as a school bus driver. He mentions in the Youtube video that the brothers loved the idea, but never mentions anything else about that ever being a possibility for a sequel, prequel, or spin off.

Home video

Two-disc 10th Anniversary Edition DVD cover artwork
Universal Studios Home Entertainment 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. 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". Additionally, it contains an exclusive interview with Ethan Coen about one of the most controversial elements of the movie: to whom was Walter speaking when he said "Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit"? Allegedly, John Goodman directed this line at Joel Coen when the actor thought he heard Coen yell "cut." There are both a standard release and a Limited Edition which features "Bowling Ball Packaging" and is individually numbered.

The Big Lebowski was released by Universal on the now defunct HD DVD format on June 26, 2007. The film has not yet been released on the current high definition format, Blu-ray Disc.

References

Bibliography

  • Bergan, Ronald, The Coen Brothers, (2000, Thunder's Mouth Press), ISBN 1560252545.
  • Coen, Ethan and Joel Coen, The Big Lebowski;(May 1998, Faber and Faber Ltd.), ISBN 0-571-19335-8.
  • Green, Bill, Ben Peskoe, Scott Shuffitt, Will Russell; I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You, (Bloomsbury USA - August 21, 2007), ISBN 978-1596912465.
  • Levine, Josh, The Coen Brothers: The Story of Two American Filmmakers, (2000, ECW Press), ISBN 1550224247.
  • Robertson, William Preston, Tricia Cooke, John Todd Anderson and Rafael Sanudo, The Big Lebowski: The Making of a Coen Brothers Film, (1998, W.W. Norton & Company), ISBN 0-393-31750-1.
  • Tyree, J.M., Ben Walters The Big Lebowski (BFI Film Classics), (2007, British Film Institute), ISBN 978-1844571734.
  • The Big Lebowski in Feminist Film Theory


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