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The Big Lebowski: An Illustrated, Annotated History of the Greatest Cult Film of All Timeby Jenny M Jones
Synopses & Reviews
Whether contending with nihilists, botching a kidnapping pay-off, watching as his beloved rug is micturated upon, or simply bowling and drinking Caucasians, the Dude—or El Duderino if you’re not into the whole brevity thing—abides. As embodied by Jeff Bridges, the main character of the 1998 Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski is a modern hero who has inspired festivals, burlesque interpretations, and even a religion (Dudeism). In time for the fifteenth anniversary of The Big Lebowski, film author and curator Jenny M. Jones tells the full story of the Dude, from how the Coen brothers came up with the idea for a modern LA noir to never-been-told anecdotes about the film’s production, its critical and commercial reception, and, finally, how it came to be such an international cult hit. Achievers, as Lebowski fans call themselves, will discover many hidden truths, including why it is that Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) is so obsessed with Vietnam, what makes Theodore Donald “Donny” Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi) so confused all the time, how the film defies genre, and what unexpected surprise Bridges got during filming of the Gutterballs dream sequence. (Hint: it involved curly wigs and a gurney.) Interspersed throughout are sidebars, interviews with members of the film’s cast and crew, scene breakdowns, guest essays by prominent experts on Lebowski language, music, filmmaking techniques, and more, and hundreds of photographs—including many of artwork inspired by the film.
Find out why the Dude abides in this first complete, illustrated history of one of the most quotable, raucous, and hilarious movies ever made: The Big Lebowski.
The 1998 Coen brothers’ film The Big Lebowski is often ranked as the top cult film of all time for good reason. Few—if any—other movies can be said to have inspired festivals around the globe, artwork ranging from paper dolls to triptychs, names of bars and stores, and of course, incalculable amounts of quoting.
In this first complete, illustrated history of The Big Lebowski, film curator Jenny M. Jones investigates what it is that has made Lebowski such a remarkable hit, from its origins to its filming, release, and legacy. Never-been-told stories from members of the film’s cast and crew paint a vivid picture of what it was like to create a movie so unlike any other; these stories and more are accompanied by hundreds of photographs as well as sidebars and guest essays by such Lebowski experts as the founder of religion Dudeism and the owner of the Little Lebowski Shop in New York.
Jenny M. Jones is the author of The Annotated Godfather: The Complete Screenplay. She has worked in film exhibition at the Northwest Film Center in Portland, Oregon, and the late, great Oak Street Cinema and the Walker Art Center, both in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the Walker, she helped organize a complete 35mm retrospective of the work of Joel and Ethan Coen and an onstage conversation with the brothers. Like Ethan, her work history also includes a brief stint at the legendary Embers Restaurant. She currently resides in St. Paul, Minnesota, with her daughter Madeline.
What do you do for recreation? If your answer is that you bowl, drive around, and have the occasional acid flashback, you are probably the Dude, the hero of the Coen brothers’ ingenious 1998 film The Big Lebowski.
If your answer is instead, “I watch The Big Lebowski,” then this book is for you. This is the first comprehensive, illustrated history of the film, complete with never-been-told stories from members of the cast and crew, sidebars on everything from the Dude’s drink of choice (the White Russian, or, as he calls it, the “Caucasian”) to Marty the Landlord’s interpretive dance, and guest essays by such Lebowski experts as the founder of the religion of Dudeism and the owner of the Little Lebowski Shop in New York. Richly illustrated throughout, this book is funny, insightful, and will make you appreciate Lebowski on a whole new level.
Trust us when we (the royal “we,” you know, the editorial) say that this book will really tie your room together.
About the Author
Jenny M. Jones (Minneapolis, MN), author of The Annotated Godfather, is currently in the film/video department of the Walker Art Center, where she helped organize a complete 35mm retrospective of the work of Joel and Ethan Coen and an on-stage conversation with the brothers. Like Ethan Coen, her work history also includes a brief stint at the fabled Embers Restaurant (featured in A Serious Man).
Table of Contents
B.L.: The Coens before Lebowski
The Coen Brothers: The Early Years
Blood Not So Simple
The Early Filmmaking Career of the Two-Headed Director
The Seeds of Production: Origin of The Big Lebowski, an L.A. Story
A Rug That Tied the Plot Together
Welcome to the Hotel California: The Lebowski Characters as Elements of L.A.
His Dudeness. Duder. El Duderino.
The Three Faces of Walter Sobchak
Maude Lebowski and the Fluxus Movement
The Lebowski Cycle, by Joe Forkan
The Anti-Hollywood: The Pornographers
The Nihilists: Believing in “Nossing”
Pot Culture and the Dude
The Dude Rolls
Evolution of the Style: The Retro Look of Brunswick Bowling and Googie Architecture
The Wide World of Bowling Sports
The Jetsons Styling of Googie Architecture
Pulling the Disparate Pieces Together
The Making of The Big Lebowski
Wordsmithing the Script
Casting the Principal Players (The League)
Jeff Bridges: The Elite Everyman, by Gail Levin
The Lebowski Family Tree
The Big Lebowski Production and Postproduction
Scene Scrutiny: Micturating Thugs, Flying Carpets, and Dancing Landlords
Roll Scenes I: The Dude’s Bungalow
Cast Stories from the Bungalow Scenes
Roll Scene II: The Thief of L.A.
Roll Scene III: The Dance Moderne / Marty the Landlord’s “Cycle”
The Big Lebowski as Period Piece
The Dude’s Seinfeldian Lexical World, by Mark Peters
The Big Lebowski as Musical
What Happens When Kafka, Busby Berkeley, and Kenny Rogers Meet in a Bowling Alley
The Big Dance Number
On Music in The Big Lebowski, by Todd Martens
The Big Lebowski as Western
Once upon a Time in the Western: A Brief History of the Horse Opera, Oater, or Cowboy Picture
Out of the Past: A Cowboy Dude
The Big Lebowski as Noir
The Muse: Raymond Chandler
The Big Sleep-owski
The Precursor: The Long Goodbye
The Big Lebowski as . . . The Wizard of Oz?
The Release and Its Aftermath
Initial Audience and Critical Reception
The Rise of the Cult of The Big Lebowski
A Superfan’s Story, by Roy Preston
What Have You
Rolling On, and On, and On
Are You A Lebowski Achiever?: Awards and Acclaim
Effect on Cast and Crew: Recognition, Résumés, and Renown
What Makes a Cult Classic?
Repeated Viewings: Am I Wrong? Am I Wrong?
The Gospel According to the Dude: How The Big Lebowski Inspired a Religion, by Oliver Benjamin
A.L.: The Coens after Lebowski
About the author
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