Big Awful Friday: 'Big Lebowski' still rocks after hundreds of viewings

By Ed Robertson, Special to the Tri-City HeraldOctober 5, 2012 

I've seen The Big Lebowski more than any other movie on Earth.

If you count all the times I've had it on while doing other things, I've seen it well over 100 times. I've seen it so much that for a long time, I thought it wasn't worth writing about because surely everyone else on the planet has already seen it too.

But maybe there's a little Lebowski out there who hasn't. Well, I'm here to make lives better, people, with the power of movie-yammering. So if you haven't seen it, get to 1998's The Big Lebowski post-haste.

Jeff Bridges is the Dude, an amiable Los Angeleno who just wants to bowl and get by. But when violent loan sharks mistake him for a much wealthier man of the same name, Bridges is sucked into a world of thugs, frauds, pornographers and misidentified Pomeranians.

The first time I saw The Big Lebowski, I didn't like it at all.

I thought it was plotless. Weird. Just sort of meandering and full of scenes that didn't really go anywhere. I was only in high school, but I was already a fan of the Coen brothers -- I'd seen Fargo and Miller's Crossing, anyway -- and I thought it didn't measure up. It didn't really seem to have a point.

A hundred viewings later, I'm still not sure what the point or the plot is. But I do know it's one of the funniest things I've ever seen. A lazy, shaggy dog story set in '90s Los Angeles, it's a bit like if a Raymond Chandler novel spent all day hotboxing. Sometimes the plot seems to get up and forget why it went into the kitchen.

That's part of what makes it so great. Virtually everyone in the movie is incompetent. Even Bridges, our sandal-wearing hero, spends most of his time crashing his car, setting his crotch on fire and misidentifying members of the weasel family. With this crew of characters bumbling around, it's no wonder nothing ever goes according to plan.

Again, though, it's not the plot. It's the characters, the dialogue, the little details -- like when Bridges post-dates a check written for less than a dollar. All the things that don't pop out at you right away, that only emerge later, rewarding and demanding you return to them time and again.

Look at me, I'm rambling again. I can't do The Big Lebowski justice. Just go watch it. If you don't like it, try it again somewhere down the trail. Bet you'll see why it's the biggest cult movie of the last 20 years.

* Contact Ed Robertson at edwrobertson@gmail.com.

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