Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What Say You? The Big Lebowski


I'm starting a new idea.

I'm young in this blogging business and have big dreams for Lazy Eye Theatre. Big dreams, I tell you. And aside from a few commentary debates, there's been very little chitty chatty on the old blog. Maybe that will come with time, but I'm impatient. And like I've said before, I'm needy. So I'm starting something new, titled What Say You? where I create a debate topic and then let the cards fall where they may.

My first topic is one that seems to create some debate whenever I bring it up. It's about The Big Lebowski. I'm a big fan of the Coen Brothers but I think they missed the boat on this one. Whenever I tell friends I don't like it, I get blank stares (I think I actually go down a couple of notches on the old friendship meter) and then I'm told to watch it again. I think I've seen it three times now and still haven't found what makes it so great. But maybe I'm an idiot.

So here goes.

The Big Lebowski: Comedy gold or a blight on the Coen's resume.

WHAT SAY YOU?

25 comments:

Bird Flu said...

Lebowski: Comic Gold.
The Coens have done much worse for themselves. This is probably in the Top 3 Coen movies on my list. Miller’s Crossing and Raising Arizona being the other two. As far as you not liking it, it’s just not clicking for you. You can watch it again and again and again but all you’ll get is the “Wardrobe effect”. You never see it if your looking for it. It has to surprise you to have it’s effect. I’d suggest watching the movie on a loop. Watch it so many times it becomes background noise. Then, in a year or two, when you least expect it, out of nowhere, a phone will ring. And you will think to yourself: “You phone’s ringing Dude”.

Burbanked said...

Sorry to be wishy-washy, but if Fargo and Raising Arizona are to be considered Coen Gold, I wouldn't rate Lebowski anywhere near them.

But neither would I call it a cinematic blight.

It's good, not great. It's solid Coen Material to be sure, but I've always thought that it paled in comparison to many of their others. Still, Bridges turns in a typically wonderful, nuanced, unheralded performance that is truly inspiring.

The way it boils down for me is this: Coen Material is already better than a lot of other crap. So while it might not be gold, it's still pretty frigging good; just not REALLY good for them.

Seth said...

Piper. we’ve always seen eye to eye on most things. However, there are a few simple popular culture truths that I could never get you agree with: 1. Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter of our time. 2. The Big Lebowski is a nearly perfect film. And 3. Everybody Loves Raymond is a hideously bad TV show that bears a large portion of responsibility for the dumbing down of our country, and may even be responsible for the Bush presidency. But let’s keep it to Lebowski, since that’s what you’re asking about. Here are a few general details that elevate this film to the status of classic.

1. The writing. This is the Coens at the absolute top of their game. Even if you ignore the numerous quotable soundbites that must annoy nonbelievers such as yourself, you’re left with a script where every line either helps advance the story, adds depth and color to the characters or does both. I won’t advise you to watch the movie a fourth time as proof. Read the script. See how well-realized the vision of this movie is in black and white.

2. The Structure. A character-driven comedy loosely based on Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Come on…in the mostly barren wasteland of films with no idea behind them, this is truly original. When you combine the amazingly solid execution of the idea with that original premise, you’re left scratching your head when confronted with smart people like yourself who “just don’t get it.”

3. The moments. Even if they weren’t surrounded by a seamless, well-crafted film, the following moments would be worth an admission ticket. Meeting the other Jeffery Lebowski. The Magic Carpet Ride dream. Jesus Quintana in the bowling alley. The Nihilists. Jackie Treehorn’s party. And the scene with the marmot in the bathtub is one of the funniest moments in film history. Period. Oh yeah, and it has Julianne Moore naked.


But these are just the details. What really makes me love this story is how it can grab me any place, any time. I was flipping channels in a hotel room in LA a few weeks ago, and stumbled on the movie. Even though I hadn’t sat down and really watched it in some time, I was immediately drawn in to the story. It was about 2/3 the way through, around the time The Dude gets taken to Jackie Treehorn’s party, and it was amazing how quickly all the details flooded into my mind. This really is a movie that gets better every time I see it. The seamless way every character is realized is too rare, and should be appreciated. But then again, what do I know? I’m the only one who doesn’t love Raymond.

Adam Ross said...

No matter how much I wish I could figure out movies once and for all, there will always be people's opinions that completely baffle me. A good example is a friend of mine in college who said "Bringing Out the Dead" was his favorite movie (and he owns over 1,200 DVDs, he's no slouch). I couldn't even put into words how much I disagreed with him since I came close to walking out on it, and also I had to respect his opinion since it was, well -- HIS.

I've gotten to the point with Big Lebowski where I laugh at almost every inch of dialogue. But at the same time I can see how people can be on the other side of the fence. I'm the same way with "The Magnificent Ambersons," did I watch the same movie as everyone else?

Piper said...

Okay,

How come no one mentions John Goodman, the one bright shining star of this fiasco of a movie?

To me, the movie felt indulgent. Look at where they started. Blood Simple, Raising Arizona and Fargo. Blood simple and Fargo are subtlety at its best and even Raising Arizona asks you to put the pieces together. I felt like with The Big Lebowski, the Coens were drinking their own kool-aid which means they were drinking their own urine.

Here's where it falls out for me.

Fargo
Raising Arizona
Millers Crossing
O Brother Where Art Thou
Blood Simple

I'll give you that The Big Lebowski tries to do something and to call it a blight was more for effect than an accurate statement because it's not like I'm comparing it to something like Benchwarmers. Don't even get me started on that.

All good arguments.

Bird flu and Seth, nice to have you around. I think that maybe I'll just loop it like Bird flu says then it will creep into my mind and I'll love.

Because that's the problem. I want to love it. It feels like I should love it, It's got Julianne Moore in for godsakes, but then when I watch it I cringe.

And here's the other thing I hate about it, while I'm at it. The F Bombs. I love F Bombs, but there were too many. It felt lazy like they couldn't have thought up anything better.

Piper said...

Seth,

I don't care what you say, Everybody Loves Raymond is good. I'll take it over another Friends episode any day.

Damian said...

You are a brave soul indeed, Piper, to be critical of The Big Lewbowski one of the most beloved of the Coen brothers' films. However, I admire your courage and respect your opinion because I am more or less sympatehtic to it. I actually do like The Big Lebowski but cannot agree with fellow film-lovers who consider it "comic gold." Neither, however, do I consider it a blight on the Coens resume. In fact, aside from The Ladykillers, I don't think the Coen brothers have made a bad movie yet.

Still, if you were to ask me what their "worst" film was (prior to seeing Ladykillers of course) I would've said Leboswki. It's the one movie they've done that I think is just a little bit overrrated (I hate to use that word but there you have it).

Piper said...

Here, here Damian

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piper said...

Moviezzz????

Why ya gotta hate O' Brother?

pacheco said...

I think deep down, I've been afraid to say that I didn't totally adore Big Lebowski as much as everyone else did.

But as others said, I wouldn't call it blight. It's a solid movie, and perhaps even beyond. Some things didn't totally fit for me, particularly Julianne Moore (and I LOVE Julianne Moore!). Her character seemed very out of place.

When I think back on the movie, I don't think about wanting to see the movie again, I think about wanting to see certain parts, like the constant reference to the rug, or some Jesus scenes, or anything with Steve Buscemi, Jeff Bridges, and John Goodman in it all at the same time. But I never have the desire to watch it all the way through again.

Some say, "Well, that happens with every movie you like. You want to skip to the best parts." But I would argue that that's what happens after you've seen the movie a bunch of times. But I've only seen Lebowski once. Most times after I see a great comedy, I'll remember special parts, but want to see the whole thing again. Not with this one.

There's a bunch of stuff that I could take or leave. But maybe I SHOULD watch it all the way through again, and see what I think (I saw it years ago, before my enlightened years....).

Bird Flu said...

One thing you can't say about Lebowski is that it's over-rated. It was a bomb when it was released. It was one of those films that gained popularity after it's exit to VHS, truly a cult following film. To say it's over-rated it to say that the people who like/love the movie are wrong about liking/loving it.

By the way, Seth is completely right about everything he wrote concerning the movie.

* (asterisk) said...

I like The Big L a fair amount. And it is waaay better than O Brother.

Fargo is overvalued, in my opinion, but is still good. Blood Simple is great, but it's not comedic in the same way as so much of the Coens' stuff.

That said, their latest stuff is truly awful: Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty... Really appalling, both.

The Man Who Wasn't There was a return to form, but again not comedic.

So, IMO, The Big L is the last of the Coens' great funny movies.

Aimee Mann, Buscemi's ashes, the Jesus, the massive mobile phone... What's not to love?

Paul said...

I'm in the camp of good but not great. But you have to give the movie credit for some truly golden scenes.

Jesus Quintana's introduction via the Gypsy Kings' Hotel California and the whole Folgers can scene are two that come to mind.

We wouldn't have those if we didn't have Lebowski.

Sheamus the... said...

Fargo and Lebowski are my faves of the Coens. I also really like O Brother and Miller's Crossing. Hudsucker wasnt too bad either. As far Lebowski goes...it took me to watch it three times and it was important to watch it with people who really love it. It can be contagious.

Tony Tanti said...

Comic Gold for me, I love the Dude.

Comedy is like that though, often people either love a comedy or hate it, there's not much room for indifference in the genre.

So if this movie's not up your alley that's fine. I've been told lately by a lot of people that they don't get Wes Anderson movies and I say; Gaaa! But there's no sense in trying to understand it.

I disagree with you but respect your courage in admitting you don't find the Big Lebowski funny.

All the same, Raymond is not that funny to me either (it's this generation's Full House) so we must differ widely on comedy choices. Also Bob Dylan is the greatest ever.

Piper said...

Who can't get Wes Anderson? Blasphemy.

I wouldn't call Wes Anderson comedy. Seems too simple. His movies are something else.

Thanks for everybody's participation thus far. I'm far less needy now.

I will give The Big Lebowski one more view and see if time has changed me any. Who knows?

Damian said...

One thing you can't say about Lebowski is that it's over-rated. It was a bomb when it was released. It was one of those films that gained popularity after it's exit to VHS, truly a cult following film. To say it's over-rated it to say that the people who like/love the movie are wrong about liking/loving it.

Since I was the one who called it "overrated" (again, a term I don't particfularly like to use and thus don't so do very often) I'd like to elaborate on my statement if I may.

First of all, I realize that Lewbowski was not a terribly successful film upon it's initial release, but I think a person can still legitimately consider a film, any film, "overrrated" if they feel that whatever praise the film receives (whether during its initial theatrical run or during some subsequent "revisionist" period) is more than it deserves. Films like Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, Blade Runner and Shawshank Redemption also did very poorly when they were first in theatres but have gone on to become incredibly beloved and highly praised. Yet, there are people that consider these films "overrated" and can intelligently defend their position.

I wouldn't neceessarily say that people are "wrong" for liking/not liking The Big Lewbowski, but I do think there is a fairly sizable portion of its "fan base" (particularly college-age males) that like it for the "wrong" reasons: namely, because of its drug humor. I find that for many audiences, all one has to do to make a film appealing is to have a "stoned" character. They could really care less about the Coen brothers' brilliant satirical inversion of the traditional Raymond Chandler/film noir formula. They just dig that the dude smokes hash.

Anyway, like I said before, I don't dislike The Big Lebowski. Not at all. I just think it's far from the Coens best movie. Then again, the movie that I think may very well be their best work (Fargo), I've heard many other people call "overrrated." So, there you go.

Piper said...

Who says Fargo is overrated? Those sum bitches.

Bird Flu said...

Fargo is pretty over-rated.


I kid. It's tied in the 4th postion with O Brother on my Coen Bro. list.

Joseph B. said...

I have to toss a vote towards "comedy gold". And, besides comedy, "The Big Lebowski: is certainly in my top 15 or 20 favorite films of all time. Everytime I watch it.. and I mean every time... I find something new to laugh at, whether its a muttered line of dialogue or a prop placed in the back of the frame. That's the example of a truly wonderful film- one that grows and evolves with each viewing.

I think the real conversation piece of the Coen Brothers ouevre should fall on "The Man Who Wasn't There", which is my second fav. It seems to have been lost in the cracks and no one mentions it when they reference the Coen Brothers diverse career.

* (asterisk) said...

I mentioned The Man Who Wasn't There in my comment above, so it hasn't passed me by. Indeed, i think it might be one of the Coens' best pictures.

Piper said...

I guess I'm embarrassed to say that I have not seen The Man Who Wasn't There but need to check it out.

Also, I'm completely open to What Say You topics so feel free to e-mail them to me under the subject of What Say You.

James said...

Late to the party, but I'm in the Comedy Gold camp. This is my "go-to" movie when me and my wife don't know what we feel like watching. It always cheers us up and makes us laugh. It's just brilliantly written, and we quote different bits all the time. My favourite films are definitely ones whose dialogue I can remember, and Lebowski is a winner by that measure.

By the way, if you're a Coen brothers fan, get thee to a theatre soon to see No Country for Old Men. Completely different than Lebowski, but an amazing return to form and a potential masterpiece.

Emit said...

I am with you; I totally hate The Big Lebowski. For years people have been telling me I have to see it, so I finally watched it tonight, and the entire experience just pissed me off. Putting "man" or "Dude" at the end of every sentence does not make that sentence funny.