Big Lebowski “Achievers” Pay Homage to The Dude
Crowds rally at Lebowski Fests nationwide
The Big Lebowski (aka: "The Dude") stays true to himself
It’s hard not to love the hero in a movie when he strolls onto the big screen wearing a bathrobe, shorts and slippers in the grocery store. There is something about “The Dude” in Ethan and Joel Coen's masterpiece, The Big Lebowski, that has us rooting for him from the start. His world is inexplicably chaotic and he works dutifully trying to understand the madness that surrounds him. As you watch the film you wonder whether to be confounded or exhilarated. Jeff Lebowski (a.k.a. "The Dude") doesn’t know what to think either, but he stays true to himself in spite of it at all, a feat only his dudeness could so coolly navigate.
Devotees of the film would argue that the 90s could be defined by the life of this dude named Jeff Lebowski. The narrator (Sam Elliot) introduces the concept to open the film:
“Sometimes there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude, in Los Angeles. And even if he's a lazy man—and "The Dude" was most certainly that—sometimes there's a man taken it easy for all of us sinners. I don’t know about you, but I take comfort in that.”
One of the rallying points of The Big Lebowski for its core Generation X audience is the irreverence towards the established beliefs of their industrious parents. Jeff Lebowski’s life disproves industrialist Richard Crane’s notion that “the only men entitled to happiness are those who are useful.” The dude strolls through life without the constraints of a job or serious relationship, but with an abundance of bowling, White Russian cocktails and marjiuana, and he does so without apprehension.
(The Dude meets the older Lebowski: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq0QJOLbl2E)
Jeff Bridges says "The Dude" is his favorite role
Actor Jeff Bridges, who plays "The Dude" in the film, says the magic that attracts such a strong following is contained in the script. “What’s great about (it) is how it says it all without really saying anything. Maybe that’s the one reason people dig the movie and are able to watch it over and over again. It’s like picking up a kaleidoscope. You see something new each time.” Pundits believe the movie must be watched a minimum of three times to begin to fully understand the exceedingly hilarious nuances of each character.
The root the Coen brothers used for their inspired Jeff Lebowski character is Jeff Dowd (born November 20, 1949). He is an American film promoter and political activist best known as a member of the "Seattle Seven." He met the Coen brothers while they were promoting their first film, "Blood Simple." He describes his life in that period as a lot of “heavy hanging” while drinking White Russian cocktails (a drink made with Kahlua, vodka and cream over ice). The Coen brothers used his anarchist ramblings to craft a very entertaining study of the man who would preferred to only be called the “Dude.” It’s not surprising the original dude is currently hanging out at Occupy LA rallies.*
(View a video of the real Dude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpGuziCxPI0&feature=related)
The cresendo of a cult film
The Big Lebowski has spawned what is considered to be the largest active cult film following in the world today. One of the common threads in the definition of a cult film is the poor revenue performance when the film opens. The Wizard of Oz, A Wonderful Life, Blazing Saddles, Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Big Lebowski all share the distinction. The Big Lebowski barely covered its original $15 million budget in its initial release on March 6, 1998. It has since exceeded that in T-shirt sales and White Russian cocktails alone.
For the devoted cult-worshipping fans every word of dialogue becomes meaningful and every scene delivers impact. Film critics also agree many of the scenes in The Big Lebowski hold up as vignettes of brilliant filmmaking, by the Coen Brothers and the classic performance by Jeff Bridges. The fans attending the celebrations call each other “Achievers.” These events are called Lebowski Fests and they have drawn huge crowds at more than 20 cities across the United States and England.
A Lebowski Fest virgin
It was good that my first Lebowski Fest experience was a satellite event of the original, larger festival in Louisville, Ky. The Columbus, Ohio, event was held in a huge ballroom behind a kitschy bar in a bohemian area of the city. Lebowskifests all feature a combination of up-and-coming rock bands, bowling tournaments, a dude look-a-like contest and many gallons of half-and-half, vodka and Kahlua.
The central Ohio event opened with an imaginative and musically gifted band (the Phantods) costumed as a bowling ball and pins. The friend who traveled with me to witness this curious event was also thoroughly entertained by the theatrics and temperament of the crowd even though he had never seen the movie. The cheer that erupted when "The Dude" appeared on the screen for the first time was the loudest display of affection either of us had ever witnessed. We found ourselves bursting with laughter at the outrageousness of these unbridled fans. We both agreed it was one of the most amusing nights in our recent memory.
The satellite Lebowski Fest was an excellent precursor for the mecca of dudedom that is held every year in Louisville. The first Lebowski Fest was cofounded by Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt and held October 12, 2002. It attracted a small crowd of 150 devotees. Russell and Shuffitt were pleasantly surprised by the amount of fans who showed up at the first event. Over the next 10 years the event grew into thousands of achievers. The cofounders attribute the shows continued success to the Dude’s ability to resonate with us on a personal level. Russell believes, “We all have a little bit of the Dude in us… sitting right there next to that little bit of Elvis.”
The crowd gathers every year in a field on the outskirts of Louisville next to the Executive Strike and Spare, which is one of the largest bowling alleys in the region (68 lanes). It felt more like a rock concert than a film festival with the crowd of twenty- and thirty-somethings spread out on blankets with kids, beer, bowling trophies and The Big Lebowski memorabilia. Frisbee throwing was the sport of the day.
The first thing about the crowd that bowled me over was how genuinely kind and gracious everyone was. It was the kindest and most mellow large crowd I’ve ever been in. I thought the crowd was reacting to me because I was older than most of them and a bit overdressed. But then I realized it was my expression of shear joy as I walked in this field of cool to which they were reacting. Nearly every person smiled and nodded at me and many gave me high fives as if they knew I was entering the hallowed ground for the first time. We were all sharing our love of "The Dude."
There is probably a collected consciousness in all gatherings of this ilk. This gathering felt like a group of Trekkies who were on their way to see the Dalai Lama. There was definitely a feeling of worship for this hapless leader of a bowling team whose greatest talent was just showing up as himself wherever he arrived.
You can experience this unusual event yourself. The 11th Annual Lebowski Fest is happening in Louisville on July 20-21, 2012. (www.lebowskifest.com)
A General Description of The Big Lebowski: A string of unlikely events
"The Dude," whose real name is Jeff Lebowski, is mistaken for another older businessman with the same name. He is accused of kidnapping and trying to extort money and finds himself caught in the middle of a crime he had no hand in (or toe for that matter). The plot swirls around the older wheelchair-bound businessman named Lebowski, his wealthy daughter, his young estranged wife (Bunny), a gang of Niolists and a pornographic movie producer. All of whom are trying to retrieve Bunny or the ransom money that has been offered for her safe return.
"The Dude," who has nothing to do with any of the hijinks, is unjustly accused, ridiculed and drugged and used as a pawn in the caper. He and his friends (and bowling team members) eventually figure out that the entire episode is a scam designed to extort money from the Lebowski daughter’s foundation (except for the porno producer who just wanted the girl).
The movie contains all the elements of a popular screenplay by the Coen brothers with sex, drugs and money at the center of the plot. But the brilliance of the movie is the dialogue between "The Dude" and the other characters as they haphazardly investigate the crime that makes it a cult favorite. It is a study in how people are so caught up in their own story they can’t experience the fullness of the world around them. The exception to this self-absorbed behavior is our hero, "The Dude." Through the haze of White Russians and roaches he stays true to himself and is always trying to discover the truth in the world around him.
Here’s an extended trailer from 1998 (CAUTION: rough language): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHuyjYJCCOA&feature=related
While the other characters in the film are after money, sex or power, "The Dude" is doing what is right. He’s a man who stays true to his beliefs and his semi-consciousness. It’s a way of life we could all abide by.
Top Ten Lebowski Quotes
“This aggression will not stand, man”
“F*#k it Dude, let’s go bowling.”
“This is not ‘Nam, there are rules.”
“Say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos.”
“The rug really tied the room together.”
“In the parlance of our times”
“You want a toe, I can get you a toe.”
“Fortunately I’m sticking to a pretty strict drug regiment to keep my mind limber.”
“Is this your homework, Larry?”
“That creep can roll, man.”
“The Dude abides.”
"I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski," Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt, Bloomsbury USA, New York 2007
“www.dudespaper.com ” First church of the later day dude - "get ordained"
www.lebowskifest.com See when Lebowski Fest may be coming to your area