Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Big Lebowski post-mortem

We're both in the same place at the same time with movies in hand for a few days so what follows is a transcript of our conversation post-movie-viewing, run-on sentences and all.

t: What did you think?
N: I don't know. . .
t: I mean, it definitely makes me laugh in parts. It's not my favorite Coen Bros--I don't get it as a movie. I don't understand the surrealist parts.
N: I mean the kind of "could be a porn" sections with Julianne Moore sort of make sense to me because he's obviously been drugged or beat over the head at the porn guy's house, I understand the strange red guys with the scissors as a castration. But I don't know which writer's fetish that is.
t: I guess it makes sense . . .
N: But it doesn't fit. There's no surrealist tie to the rest of the movie. There's blah blah blah bowling, kidnapping plot, the SURREALISM. In NEON!
N: I do understand why my dad likes it though, and wanted me to see it.
t: Why?
N: The music. The slacker guy, who's compelling and funny. John Goodman's hilarious.
t: Yeah. My dad likes it too. But when we talk about it, we never talk about the larger Lebowksi plot, we talk about what Goodman says, what the Dude says.
N: That makes sense.
t: We say nice marmot a lot.
N: Was that even a marmot? I think it was a ferret.
t: So this is very much an L.A. movie that tries to tie that mythos in with the Western mythos through Sam Elliot. Do you think that works?
N: I like the idea of Sam Elliot, but if they were going to do it, I wish he were more. I also think they tried to make noir a stoner movie.
t: Yeah, it's a weird hybrid.
N: VERY weird. An L.A. noir/stoner/Western/buddy flick.
t: And yeah. I think if you were going to see it, it would be for that reason: to try to meld an L.A. movie into a Western, since it obviously is the West, but I'm not sure it works.
N: Yeah, and the Western does not work for me. Only Sam Elliot and the weird tumbleweeds at the start, which made me think "there are no fucking tumbleweeds in L.A. . . except maybe this week." And by the time Sam Elliot showed up on screen, I had forgotten about the tumbleweeds at the start.
t: And they seem to be trying to reimagine the hero of both genres--except instead of John Wayne or Humphrey Bogart, we have The Dude--big, fat, stoned Jeff Bridges. Though he does seem to make everything right and is the moral compass even though he's passive.
N: Yeah, he tells John Goodman when to calm down, he cares more about Donnie. He cares about the girl.
t: "They're going to kill that poor woman."
N: Yeah . . . though I don't want Jeff Bridges to come save me if I've been kidnapped. Jeff Bridges in True Grit, yes, but not Jeff Bridges in that movie.
N: And I guess, depending on what rules of the book we're playing with . . . we had to watch High Sierra because it was Bogart's first big role, and this seems to be Bridges's comeback. And for that reason it's fine. I like Jeff Bridges a lot.
t: And this is the first role where he really seems to come into himself as an actor and be comfortable in his own skin. They tried to make him a romantic hero in movies like the Fabulous Baker Boys and The Mirror Has Two Faces, but there is no Crazy Heart without this movie.
N: And there is no True Grit without this movie. And this seems to be a grown-up stoner movie. You don't have to be Cheech and Chong. You don't have to be Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused. You can be semi-functional with adult concerns.
t: So so far, without watching the next two, do you think it has a place?
N: I don't dislike it. But . . . I don't know that it needs to be on the list any more than any other stoner movie. Even though they're playing with genres, that's the feel I get from it. Without it, you don't get Pineapple Express.
t: Which I'm fine with.
N: I like PE, but I don't know I need to see it before I die.
t: And if we're doing a Coen Bros auteur thing, I would see A Serious Man instead. If you want to see  hapless losers in over their head, see Raising Arizona. See O Brother. I think all of them are better.
N: And I think we're going to get into the cult argument. We're in the Pink Flamingoes trap. Lots of people have seen this. Now next time my dad brings up The Big Lebowski. I can say "Yes! I've seen it."
t: You're right.
N: Though if we're in the Pink Flamingoes trap, I'd MUCH rather it be taken off. I'm not going to talk about that with my dad.
t: No kidding.
N: So, would you keep it?
t: I find your cult argument persuasive. I mean, there are conferences about it. It's SO in the pop culture lexicon now, I think that's a reason to see it.
N: If we're putting it up against Go See Become (which we haven't seen yet) or Hurt Locker, I'd keep Hurt Locker.
t: Me too.
N: And I'm not super in love with Hurt Locker.
t: Me either.
N: But it's of more value, I think. The commentary is more valuable. Not just because it's more serious, but because in connection with TBL, it talks about war, and TBL makes specific commentary about war.
t: How do you see that working? The hero thing?
N: Specific commentary in who the heroes of war are. Not the 50s version of the guy coming home with the June Cleaver house. We've clearly got some PTSD, some anger issues, some failure to reintegrate into society.
t: And it's interesting that the villains are buffoonish, and they're nihilists. They believe in nothing.
N: Yeah, and they've done nothing. They've kidnapped no one. They've stolen nothing. They've beaten up people here and there, but so did Julianne Moore.
t: But ultimately, I don't think the movie is super interested in making that kind of commentary.
N: No, it just seems to want to show a shell-shocked 'Nam vet going off now and then.
t: Time for soup?
N: I think so.

Stay tuned for Go, See, Become, which is the addition from the 2008 edition!

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