Sunday, December 02, 2007

Book Review: I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski: Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You, by Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, and Scott Shuffitt

The Big Lebowski is the funniest movie ever. For those of you still reading, you’re either aghast in horror at such a statement, coffee now spat out on your computer screen, or you’re an Achiever (fan of the movie) in total agreement who’s busy sucking down White Russians and reciting lines from the movie like “The Dude abides,” “This is not Nam, this is bowling, there are rules,” or many of the more-obscenity-laced quotes from the movie (“First of all Dude, you don’t have an ex. Secondly, this a f—king show dog, with f—king papers. You can’t board it, it gets upset, its hair falls out. The f—cking dog has f—cking papers”).

For those Achievers for whom the movie offers an ethos, catharsis against the daily grind, or Zen philosophy for how to live, I’m a Lebowski, You’re A Lebowski is the book we’ve been waiting for. Written by four Lebowski fans (and Lebowski Fest founders) with both a fierce dedication to the movie and an apparent abundance of available free time, this humorous book offers enough Lebowski ins and outs to satisfy even the most rabid fan.

The book is logically divided into chapters that each take a specific approach related to the movie, and even includes a forward by Jeff Bridges (the Dude himself…er, the movie version of the Dude, anyway). The various chapters cover everything from ways to “Dude-ify” your life, to playful yet informative interviews with the movie’s actors (major roles like John Goodman and minor roles like Jim Hoosier, who played Jesus Quintana’s bowling partner and didn’t even have a single line of dialogue), to a tidy analysis of how The Big Lebowski became a cult classic, to various Lebowski tidbits, including the number of F-bombs dropped in the movie (281 according to the authors. I still count 279, and yes, I clearly need professional psychiatric help).

The most revealing chapter of the book contains interviews with the real-life people upon whom the movie versions of the Dude, Walter, and Little Larry Sellers were based. To a certain amount of horror, we learn that there really was an incident in which a junior high kid was confronted in his home by two men who claimed the kid had stolen the Dude’s car. One of the men even produced the kid’s homework, extracted from the seat of the stolen car, encased in a plastic baggie as if it was some sort of evidence bomb.

A question that runs throughout the book is why exactly some people like this movie so much. This is a good question, especially since on the surface the movie is little more than the story of a hapless unemployed hippie who only wants to replace a rug in his “home” that was, uh, pissed upon. Many theories are mentioned by people ranging from the actors themselves to celebrity fans of the movie. Some of the more interesting theories include:

The movie is very quotable, and it’s incredibly fun and obnoxious to annoy non-Achievers with these quotes. Personal recommendation: saying “I can get you a toe by three o’clock this afternoon,” as Walter says to the Dude, is the perfect way to end any awkward or unwanted conversation.
Through his unemployment, laziness, and pacifism, The Dude possesses a certain Zen understanding of the world that people in the real world envy.
It’s the perfect buddy movie. Maybe this explains why it seems that men are more inclined to like this movie than women.
The writing is funny, perceptive, and insightful. In addition, each scene in the movie has something memorable.
Plenty of people think the movie is stupid, ridiculous, and a waste of film, which makes its appeal that much greater for people who already like it.
The movie sports a great collection of characters, including a pornographer, several nihilists, a reactionary police chief, a giggling video artist, a female artist whose work “has been commended as being strongly vaginal,” a stonewalling teenage kid, a purple-jumpsuit-wearing-pederast bowler named Jesus, and an Uzi-toting Vietnam veteran who’s largely responsible for most of the Dude’s troubles throughout the movie, among others. For many people, this reminds them of their last family reunion.
Some people smoke the hippy lettuce and this is the perfect movie to accompany such an activity.

The cult of Lebowski doesn’t yet rival that of Star Wars or Star Trek; however, it’s far less nerdy and shouldn’t pose a major hindrance when trying to get laid. Even if we Achievers are walking a tightrope between eclectic taste and total, all-out dweebiness, it’s nice to finally have a book that documents what we’ve known for years.

1 comment:

Bob Andelman said...

You might enjoy this audio interview with "Lebowski Fest" founders Will Russell and Scott Shuffitt.