26 July 2014

The Uncouth the Untested the Uninsured the Unreliable and the Unbelievable is a Long Preamble Before Writing a Little About The Big Lebowski

The uncouth the untested the uninsured the unreliable and the unbelievable. They all converge on the city and more’s the pity. But on go the wheels of commerce and business as usual and the straight talk about the real deal and the latest poop. Try a scoop.

I motor from one activity to the next busy as a bee and a fall that is free and descending to the depths of life that pox-ridden place that we call home and live and work in. Jerkin. I try to maneuver through the daily grind I don’t really mind.

On the bus next to a sad pot bellied middle aged man wheezing instead of breathing. Such is his lot. Too many bacon cheeseburgers and larges orders of fries and not enough time moving of his own volition — his admission. Sad faced little Asian girl with pudgy cheeks standing looking at wheezy and me and out the window of the bus and at no one nothing everyone and everything and everybody and all in all short and tall. I tried to read Thomas Wolfe but wheezy was cramping my style with his big fat legs spread and intruding into my seat space and hello claustrophobia and don’t you know I feel bad about hurting your feelings 30 years ago Sue? I used but not abused you and it was wrong of me but I knew no better. The sex the food the money and my creative bendings of truth which is what I’m calling lying. Sighing. Sorry girl. Why think of her these many years later? A chicken roost somewhere? Do I care. Why did I do the things that I did back when I was doing them and they were did and done.

And here we have gotten to the crux of the matter. Forget wheezy on the bus and all the other annoying people you commute with or all the annoying people in the gym or in stores or on sidewalks or in cars or any damn place else. They are not the point brother. You are. You and your inability to re-live the past and fix all those mistakes and do things differently and do it right. Can’t undo the did. It just is. As it was. You are here today and that’s really okay. Things ain’t so bad. Marriage kids and career and health and all. Even a friend or two and fun things to do. So you weren’t perfect. Hell so you weren’t remotely close to anywhere near to within the same ballpark or league or continent as perfect. So you fucked up royally on a lot of things and did take full advantage of all kinds of opportunities and made a mess of others and stepped on a lot of toes mostly your own and you drank and used and yourself abused. It’s what you are today and how you’ve grown and learned and become and prospered and persevered. You learned from your mistakes so you must be a genius because you made so many to learn from. Son.

Be cool about being yourself and just wallow in a little nostalgia. Now go to bed with a clear head. Fred. (That’s not my name.)

Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not "Mr. Lebowski". You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing. - The Dude.

Nor is my name The Dude. That is Jeff Bridges' character in the Coen Brothers 1998 film The Big Lebowski. I hadn't seen it since it was in theaters a little bit over 16 years ago. And truth to tell I'd forgotten most everything about it which means of course that I hadn't embraced its status as a cult classic. All this Dude Abides stuff meant nothing to me. Who knows why. So last night I watched it again at last as part of my recent Coen Brother binge.

I loved it.

What it really amounts to is a case of great story telling which is something the Coens have routinely done cinematically for 30 years now.

The Big Lebowski is a Raymond Chandleresque film noir for the pot smoking slacker free love generation. There are no restraints on language or sex and the main character is not a buttoned down cynical wise cracking private dick drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes. No he's an ultra casually dressed (think Saturday morning with a hangover watching cartoons) cynical wise cracking unemployed White Russian drinker smoking joints. And his buddy (John Goodman) is ranging gun wielding paranoid who's more trouble than help to The Dude.

Brandt: You never went to college...
The Dude: Oh, no I did, but I spent most of my time occupying various administration buildings... smoking a lot of thai stick... breaking into the ROTC... and bowling. To tell you the truth Brandt, I don't remember most of it.

It's no surprise this film has maintained such wide appeal for so long. The story is rollocking good fun with cracked characters of all variety. The dialogue is everything from witty to hilarious and far smarter than its given credit for. And most of all there is The Dude himself. If you can't relate to the character (and many can't) you certainly know or know of someone just like him, or at least pretty damn close. There is a strong familiarity about a person who doesn't work is always broke but always has booze and drug money and is always managing to sleep with pretty women and always has horrendous luck but manages to fall ass backward into good luck. These guys always have a lot of friends because they're fun to hang out with. They know a little bit about a lot of things and have odd talents and interests like The Dude who bowls in a league with Walter and their other friend Donny (Steve Buscemi). Donny is another modern archetype, the guy who never seems to know whats going on and thus endlessly annoying. Walter has no time for Donny's constant confusion and is forever shutting him up and insulting the poor lad.

What I've come to love about the Coens is the boundless joy of their film making. The brothers clearly revel in telling stories and being as creative as possible in the process. There is an enthusiasm evident to making a movie like The Big Lebowski. It bespeaks film makers who love spinning a good yarn and through everything into it. The dream sequences are like wonderful bonuses for viewers. They are post modern Busby Berkeley extravaganzas that may or may not add anything to the storyline but sure make it more fun.

The Dude: It's like what Lenin said... you look for the person who will benefit, and, uh, uh...
Donny: I am the walrus.
The Dude: You know what I'm trying to say...
Donny: I am the walrus.
Walter Sobchak: That fucking bitch...
The Dude: Oh yeah!
Donny: I am the walrus.
Walter Sobchak: Shut the fuck up, Donny! V.I. Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov!
Donny: What the fuck is he talking about, Dude?

There is also a confidence to the Coens that is evident in Lebowski. Far from ignoring risks they veritably head butt them. Whether its Brandt (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) the sycophantic assistant to the other Lebowksi -- the one who, unlike The Dude, is by appearances wealthy and mainstream -- who is always unfailingly polite proper and punctilious or the whacky German musician/assassins or the nihilist porn king or the super flamboyant pedophilic bowler Jesus (John Turturro) the Coens are not shy.

The thing is it all works. It's great fun that may occasionally teeter toward the silly and the slapstick but always rights itself. Sometimes there's a good reason a film appeals to a wide audience for a lengthy spell as The Big Lebowski has. And while encomiums are being passed out to the Coens they are also richly deserved by Bridges and the rest of the cast who rose to the script and the direction.

All this said and I never mentioned Tara Reid's turn as the nymphomaniac trophy wife or her older step daughter the experimental artist played by Julianne Moore nor the whole crazy kidnapping the rug that really set off the room until it was intentionally peed on or the sacrificed toe or the landlord's interpretive dance or Sam Elliot as The Stranger an Old West character who provides a bit of narration or....Say, did I mention that Ben Gazzara shows up in this movie?

The Dude: Yeah, well. The Dude abides.
The Stranger: The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.

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