As my conversation with Jeff Dowd, the inspiration for the The Dude in "The Big Lebowski" winds its way toward its end, Jeff elaborates on why the film remains a classic and how its fans differ from Trekkies. As to why the film abides…
JD: It's the friendship aspect, it's the brilliant filmmaking and the acting by Joel, Ethan and all the great actors they have in there and it's the Holy Fool type stuff and all that. And it's just damn fun and damn different and that damn difference is why it didn't work at first and I was there for a lot of the premieres, you know, Sundance and L.A. and all that kind of stuff and it's just, we're so used to being manipulated by a movie in a certain way that if things don't happen, you know, there aren't, the third act isn't a traditional, sets you up and does all that from the character's arc and all that stuff, it's not like that at all.
And they even had plot things that didn't get rounded out, like the whole bowling thing and stuff like that, but that's why in rediscovering it, you know when you have an expectation from one thing that's slightly different, it bothers you. If you're expecting, you know, somebody who plays Jazz and it ends up being a great rock band, you go, oh God, I wanted to hear Jazz, I really wanted to hear Jazz, I thought we were going to hear Jazz.
JD: So, that was the thing. There was an expectation and it was so different in a certain way that it couldn't be categorized, but then people started catching up to it and going, wow, this is pretty good, it's got a great cast with Jeff Bridges (more chewing and kitchen noises). Whoa it's on Showtime, boom. It happened with me. I look and go wow, you know.
Half those guys that started Lebowski Fest, they didn't love it the first time. Then you get into it and, you know, it kinda grows on you. And they have the whole thing of the "Bone," you know, T-Bone Burnett, picking some great tunes and Burwell doing his stuff, too, brought him down.
And then you got the quotable lines and that's where it's also done, you know, there's not a sports or business column out there that doesn't, I mean, just Google that, I mean, every, when you're writing a daily column, you gotta have some witty lines in there sometimes and so the, I betcha if you went, "Over the Line, BP" and Googled that right now, it's just a wild guess, you'll find that that's been written, "BP, you're over the line." Maybe not, maybe it's too heavy to joke like that, but they do that as it's become iconic, you know, lines that fit into the present circumstance, present conversation so that becomes another appeal.
So basically, the truth of the matter is Joel and Ethan Coen are just damn great writers, you know. And that brings the actors and the other artists, you know, Roger Deakins, cinematographer and everybody else and the guys who came in with the music, something to put (your fork around???) but it starts with the story, then, in their case, it's not a great story-story story, you know, you couldn't sit around trying to describe the story. There are certain movies where you can tell the plot. Like my friend, Joe Kelly, could, with movies he hadn't even seen, he could get us all enthralled 'cause he'd heard about it and stuff, but that's the story. This is a story that's about the acting within the scene, not the story, but I guess you could tell it right, but, so I think that at the end of the day, you know you're going to feel a lot better after watching "The Big Lebowski" than you did when you walked in. We're they showing it as a print in that theatre?
NoDef: No, it's a digital theatre.
JD: Because for those who've never seen it as a print, I'll tell you another thing, if you've never seen it with an audience, it is the greatest script and most people have only seen it with four or five friends or ten, fifteen friends or family people in a house, you know, they're having a good time while they're doing it but—
NoDef: Well, I've seen it in the theatre, I've seen it in my house and you can bet I'll be there for the midnight showing at the Prytania (earlier this year).
JD: Yeah, well it's a lot of fun and the people who tend to see Lebowski, you know the first time I went, they invited me and I thought, oh Shit, this is going to be one of those famous William Shatner moments like on Saturday Night Live. You ever see that?
NoDef: With the Trekkies.
JD: Get a life, remember that? There's all the Trekkies there and it's all anti-social and everything and Shatner goes, why don't you ever go out with girls? Right? And it's like girls, huh girls? But with this thing, with Lebowski Fest, first off, they're all hip enough to get Joel and Ethan's ironic, hip sense of humor and the satire, but they're also social people. The Trekkies, in a sense, are asocial people for the most part whereas the Lebowski people are the kind of people who like to hang out and party and talk. And talk.
JD: And talk. Another long lost art form in modern America. Even more long lost when there's texting.
JD: I don't know how I would have ever gotten laid if we didn't have the gift of gab back in the day, you know?
JD: I mean really, the ability to hang in there, entertain, buzz, look like you're smart, I mean, how do you do that on a text? You could be cool with a couple of words on texting, but your ability to charm anyone, where's the charm, you know? How can you charm a woman by texting her, you know? It's no fun out there for these kids.
Next week, The Dude concludes with summations on the oil spill, the economy and government as well as some words of encouragement. It's a happy ending!