March 15, 2020
SPECIAL REVIST OF: The Big Lebowski 1998 Review with Talking Flick Podcast Appearance!
The Big Lebowski (1998) Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore Written and Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
“Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism but at least it’s an ethos.” John Goodman (Walter Sobchak)
Legendary Writer/Directors Joel and Ethan Coen have a resume that is nearly second to none. Their films maybe aren’t always great, but you can be sure they are always interesting. These two auteurs have plenty of signatures in their films (same actors, anti-heroes, strong soundtracks, and weird endings to name a few), but despite those signatures, try describing their films, it isn’t an easy task. In today’s IP world Hollywood is trapped in, the Coen’s are a needed juxtaposition to the modern blockbuster. I can’t help but wonder what Joel and Ethan’s Batman would look like. How does a Coen brothers Dr. Strange film end? They likely will never get the keys to some comic/IP franchise like that (and probably don’t want them), but if we have to have these blockbusters 10-20 times year, why not let the Coen’s figure out how to Rise a Skywalker?
Trying to describe the Coen brothers 1998 masterpiece The Big Lebowski is only going to get you in trouble (perhaps with the religion the film inspired-Dudeism). Maybe it’s a Western, maybe it’s a Noir film, in all actuality it doesn’t matter man, (mind if I smoke a J?). Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart, White Squall) in a life-altering role, stars as Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a man who is mistakenly taken for Jeffrey “The Big” Lebowski (played perfectly by David Huddleston), and because of this The Dude gets caught up in a potential kidnapping/ransom plot, all while trying to roll his way past the semi’s in a local bowling tournament. He is not alone on this journey (though he is rather brilliantly in every scene of the film, in true noir fashion), John Goodman (Argo, 10 Cloverfield Lane) plays brilliantly Walter Sobchak (perhaps the greatest sidekick of all time, for all the wrong reasons), and Steve Buscemi plays the hapless and soft spoken Donnie, the opposite of his chatty Fargo character (Carl Showalter). The misguided adventure takes us all over L.A. (you know near the In n Out) and gives great actors wonderful dialogue to chew on. Julianne Moore shows up mid-film to steal a few scenes and the great Sam Elliot (playing a character dubbed The Stranger, but we think it may just be Sam playing Sam) adds a nice narration. The Coen’s themselves don’t think their movie’s plot matters much and neither do I, that said the more I watch this film (and I’ve seen it now nearly 30 times) the more I appreciate the rather linear story and the cool little easter eggs to previous Coen films. Frequent Coen collaborator Roger Deakins frames a beautiful looking film that changes style several times over and Carter Burwell and T Bone Burnett add an awesome soundtrack and vibe to the film. One scene in particular has always stood out to me, John Turturro’s character Jesus Quintana (who is getting his own film The Jesus Rolls) dance sequence to the Gypsy Kings cover of the Eagles Hotel California, it may be some of the most memorable cinema I have ever seen. The Big Lebowski is so layered in nonsense and hijinks that it was born to be a rewatchable film. For that reason, it has earned MUST SEE status and comfortably sits in my Top 25 films of all time. SEE IT, BUY IT, it will really tie your movie collection together.
(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) An amazing ensemble, a near flawless screenplay that is amazingly quotable, an awesome soundtrack, and perfect cinematography all add up to not only the best Coen film of all time (though I know they would disagree), but one of the best films of all time. It has a well-deserved spot in the Library of Congress and is certainly worthy of an 8.5 on The Shawshank Scale. Do yourself a favor, put on the jellies, order a White Russian, and enjoy.
Ranking the Top 10 Coen Brother movies of all time (cause why not!):
1. The Big Lebowski
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. No Country for Old Men
4. Miller’s Crossing
5. Burn After Reading
7. True Grit
8. Raising Arizona
9. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
10. Barton Fink