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The Big Lebowski Revisited

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Mark Kermode | 10:42 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

For years now I've been saying that I don't like The Big Lebowski and you have been telling me in your droves that I'm wrong. I have now re-viewed and reassessed the film and here I give you my verdict...

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Related reviews on 5 live
True Grit
A Serious Man
Burn After Reading

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.


  • Comment number 1.

    Mark's pretty much summed up my feelings towards The Big Lebowski. Good performances, some funny moments, an eclectic collection of characters but the overall film is a big mess. Nothing more than a collection of a humourous sketches, strung together by a clumsily, meandering plot.

    Hardcore Lebowski fans would, of course, argue that this is intended and is a tongue-in-cheek parody of the confusing plots of the classic film noirs.

    But they'd be wrong.

    The Blues Brothers comparison is spot-on here.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm really glad that you did this open minded re-assessment. I personally disagree, and still think it is one of the Coen's best work. But Your re-assessment was admirable, and I'm really glad you laughed more and enjoyed it more this time round.

    I actually think the film improves greatly with repeated viewings as there is just so much to take in. A comedic masterpiece. And Mark, you are a baby step closer to realising this.

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree that it's not the Coens' best film - that would be Fargo, probably - but it is my favourite of theirs, the one I can watch repeatedly. I admit it's one of my "warm bath" movies (along with "Withnail and I" and, er, "Battle Royale") than I can always enjoy at the end of a long day.

    But I think the film has a definite structure, and one of the joys (and it took a few viewings to really get this) is the way snippets of dialogue are heard in one scene and repeated in the next - "this aggression will not stand", "in the parlance of our times", more that aren't suitable for a family website - right up to "where's the money, Lebowski?" at the start and end of the film; it's almost like a long poem that rhymes in complicated ways.

  • Comment number 4.

    Wrong, Wrong and Wrong Mark,

    Lebowski has consistent themes and ideas running throughout, only because the comedy shifts gears between the physical slap-stickery and sharper more black orientation does not make it a “mess”. And I must stick up for Burn After Reading for much of the same points, both films are for me about the relativity of intelligence across the social scale.

    Films like Fargo, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and A Serious Man adopt a more focused methodology but does not make them any better.

  • Comment number 5.

    You could read a lot into the film and say the narrative structure mirrors the life of the protagonist and that is why it is slap dash but in the end it is what it is.
    It's not the Coen's masterpiece, it's not up there with Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink and Fargo but it is a comedy that makes you laugh a lot and especially when you see the comedies released recently... that is a big thing.
    I love The Big Lebowski but I completely accept Mark's views. At least it made him laugh...

  • Comment number 6.

    I agree with you Mark - It is enjoyable but nowhere near the Coen Brothers best - I also have problems with their madcap comedies - Blood Simple - Miller's Crossing - Barton Fink - Fargo - The Man Who Wasn't There - No Country For Old Men -
    A Serious Man - True Grit - They are what I call Coen Brothers Films -

  • Comment number 7.

    It's not their best, no. But at the same time, it's still just about the best stoner comedy ever made, which is all they were doing really, making a stoner comedy? That's what i love about the Coen's. They make moves for themselves and aren't afraid to take on any genre and give their own unique take on it.

    My favourite line...

    'Obviously you're not a golfer'

  • Comment number 8.

    I agree, I'll not make a habit of it, but I do. It's an enjoyable film, one I've seen a few times but one I enjoy for all the wrong reasons. I enjoy the characters and some of the various positions they get into, but I never enjoy the film as a whole. It's one of those films I can turn off halfway through and do some other things for a couple of days yet come back to and enjoy the second half.

    As the Coens' comedies go O' Brother is 10x better, for a little off the wall Coen Miller's is a must.

  • Comment number 9.

    I definitely like it more than Mark it appears, but I must confess to being with him on the "series of moments" point. It took me a 2nd viewing to really 'get it' and enjoy it for what it is. It is a good film, with lot of interesting riffs on different film types, but it just doesn't quite flow as easily as some of their other work.

    First time around I rather thought, "Is that it?". Fargo, for example, is a far superior movie and still funny.

    I disagree a little with Mark, but he does have a point. When I think about what I like it is 'moments' (Walter smashing the car up, the rug incident, Lebowski v Lebowski etc) or quotable lines, rather than the film as a whole.

  • Comment number 10.

    The greatest " of moments" is surely Alien - a movie based on a script which according to its own co-producer David Giler "...had ONE great scene in it". Take away the undeniably arresting chestburster scene and what remains... er, some great production design?

    It's funny how some movies can get away with being that sporadic, whilst others like Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace are slated. Many would contend that without the three-way lightsaber duel there'd be nothing of note bar - like Alien - some great production design.

    I guess Alien's coming-out-of-nowhere helped it, whilst The Phantom Menace had ludicrously-high expectations to satisfy...?

  • Comment number 11.

    get that you pompous superior,"serious critic" , stick out of butt, It is a comedy, it doesn't have to be war and peace. Do all the shlocky horror film you like have a consitancy , or are the they much more a sert of scary set pieces??

  • Comment number 12.

    It seems to me that Mark's problem isn't with the movie, but with a certain type of narrative structure. The point of TBL and Raising Arizona, is that they are supposed to be anarchic and quixotic. Just because the plot is unpredictable doesn't necessarily make it "episodic", there are motifs that run through every scene and it is thematically consistent. Don Quixote is "episodic", with our hero being thrown into a series of unforeseen and anarchic situations, and it's widely regarded as the finest novel ever written. Is it as well balances as Fargo? No, but it's not supposed to be. Fargo is a movie with a conventional story arc and a clear narrative trajectory. if you knew what was coming next for the Dude, the "ride" would be spoiled and the fact that it ventures into the psychedelic, the blackly comic, the mundane and the surreal is exactly why people love it. Sorry to say you're wrong on this one Dr K.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'd have to agree it's a mess. Arguably in the same way that Blue Velvet is a mess. But they are both good. However I must take exception at everyones apparent hatred for "Burn after reading"; I thought this was one of their funniest movies. Particularly because it was about nothing and how "nothing" can have such a huge effect. Come to think of it, most films are about nothing....?

  • Comment number 14.

    Fair do's Mark

  • Comment number 15.

    Isn't the convoluted plot a direct nod to its inspiration – The Big Sleep – and as such an entirely contingent element of the film? And as character goes, it wouldn't make much sense for a man who has muddled his way through life to get on a monorail of clarity and judgement. I can't see the movie working in any other way.

  • Comment number 16.

    Are there many comedies that have tight plots? I ask generally because off the top of my head I can't name many that do.

    This is Spinal Tap is after all a series of sketches.

  • Comment number 17.

    I totally agree !

  • Comment number 18.

    A bit disappointed, Good Doctor. I can respect that you don't think it's their best work (with Fargo, Barton Fink, and No Country For Old Men under their belt, that's hardly controversial), but it sounded to me as if you did enjoy the film the second time around, and asking "is it one of the Cohen's best" sounds like you're shifting goal posts in order to try make it look like you're still right. Previously, you've said you really didn't enjoy it, and at the beginning of this clip you say you originally "disliked" it, both of which are very different to saying it's not among their best work.

    Fess up, Mark: you laughed, and you enjoyed it the second time around. It is what it is, and you were wrong to dislike it the first time.

    (For what it's worth, "it's a right old mess" because the film reflects the central character's outlook on life, and he happens to be The Dude, who is a complete and utter stoner.)

  • Comment number 19.

    I just dint think that Kermode can approach it with the right mindset. He's trying too hard to intellectualise it; and in doing so utterly missing the point of the movie.

  • Comment number 20.

    Going to have to agree, but the Coen's while having running themes through their films seem to make everyone quite indvidualistic.
    Therefore not everyones favorite will be the same, whenever the Coens come up I always argue for Millers crossing being their best work.
    But always seem to get shot down by TBL, Fargo, Barton Fink and by one very strange mate The Ladykillers.

  • Comment number 21.

    That's something I really like about Dr.K. as a filmkritik.
    He gives movies a second chance and he is willing to admit, when he was wrong about some films or at least about some aspects of certain films.
    That's also the reason why I always believe him, when he sais, that he went to see a movie with an open mind, even if he doesn't like the director or the actor, or anything about it.

  • Comment number 22.

    It's a beautiful mess.

  • Comment number 23.

    Re-watched the movie a year or so ago after seeing it when it was first released and pretty much share your initial and present assessement. Wanna know why it's so much funnier now than then? Because we've aged 20 years and understand the Dude experience (of life in general) so much better. We've seen people becoming him, we have friends who have become Walters, and we too, have been to the supermarket in our bathrobe. We understand that this is not supposed to be cool and anarchic behaviour (as we thought 20 years ago) but just one of the many regretable things life puts us through.
    I want to rewatch 'Millers Crossing' one of the few Cohen Films I really loved from the beginning, but keep putting it off - for fear that it won't hold up.

  • Comment number 24.

    The anarchy is precisely part of its charm, in the same way that The Big Sleep being a mess doesn't stop it from being one of the classic Noirs.

    Give me The Big Lebowski over the Coen's later films like No Country for Old Men or True Grit any day. True Grit may have the Coen brothers trademark technical skill, but it's an outright cheesy film with the characterisations turned way up to 11.

  • Comment number 25.

    @Ernie Stephenson
    Coen bros. comedies are always about "nothing": fake kidnappings, fake secret documents, etc. What makes Burn After Reading a lesser Coen is the fact that it relies on naff ideas, like having Clooney strut around a supermarket with his trousers way too high.

  • Comment number 26.

    I did and so love this film, encouraging to see Dr K at least warm a little to it. It has a lot to say on the importance of friendship and dismissal of consumerism and greed, themes that I would have hoped had more a positive reception with Mark. I love the Dude's resilience in the face of all manner of hassles, and more to the point the film is damn funny. Look out for the blu ray release later this month. Cheers.

  • Comment number 27.

    @Vincent Kane
    Without being deliberately controversial i think it is funnier than Fargo; Fargo is a better structured movie and a more moving story. "Burn after reading" is just plain silly. Like "Raising Arizona" it has moments of complete randomness. I suppose you can consider it the difference between a few long jokes vs. a lot of one-liners..? Saying that, one of my favourite movies is "Guest House Paradiso"; perhaps I just like stupid movies...?

  • Comment number 28.

    Gosh isn't he hot in that black suit?

    Yeah it's a mess - but then so is the dude - a lovable mess who is loved for his shortcomings as well as his triumphs.

    That's the point, it's a character piece and so the film must be be an extension of its character.

    Job done!

  • Comment number 29.

    Its in a different class to Burn After Reading, a better one to clarify.

  • Comment number 30.

    Some fair points Mark. Although I for one will be hoping that the brothers 'mess' up again soon. I, like many others, would love there to be perhaps just one more adventure for the dude.

  • Comment number 31.

    I have to disagree with you about it being a film of many parts that don't hang together. Those parts hang together perfectly well in much the same way that the parts of Pulp Fiction for example hang together well. They shouldn't really but they do because of the strength of the characters.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's a film you can watch more than once, which is a big compliment. Is it as clever as it thinks it is? No. But it's not supposed to be, is it? I thought that was the whole point...

  • Comment number 33.

    Its not a mess. The threads that hold this film together are so subtle that you appreciate it more on repeated viewing.

  • Comment number 34.

    Paul Verhoeven recently said that Fellini's 8 1/2 doesn't really have a story at all. And that movie is pretty much universally praised. I have only seen the first half of 8 1/2 (so have I seen 4 1/4?) as I couldn't get into it at all. But that doesn't change that apparently it's a good piece of work. So how is a movie with no story at all a coherent piece of work and The Big Lebowski incoherent? Surely the same can be said about Fear and loathing in Las Vegas? That movie is done in a similar fashion? Or is this all apples and oranges? Personally, I have always felt there was a method to The Big Lebowski's madness, so to speak. But I think your arguments are interesting. Maybe I'll watch it again with your blog in mind and see if I actually find myself agreeing!

  • Comment number 35.

    I would like to echo the comments of Will Chadwick (16.), Craig S (18), and full metal jackson (22.). But thanks to Mark for give it a second go and for not squirming too much about admitting that he, at least, likes it now.

  • Comment number 36.

    I greatly admire you even more now, good doctor. Not many critics, as highly opinionated and staunch in the their criticisms, would give another go at a film they just plain didnt like the first time around and have avoided for over a decade. I admire even more that you paid to see it on the big screen again (which is how films are meant to be seen)(... or do you get a discount? or critics pass?).

  • Comment number 37.

    Nice to hear I'm not alone. LEBOWSKI is way down my list of favourite Coen films. Much in the way that Walter Hill's THE WARRIORS seems so venerated, but that movie is about seventh in my list of best Hill movies.

  • Comment number 38.

    This is uncanny. I had the same first reaction as Mark the first time I saw it, saw it again, reassessed it, and had the same second reaction as Mark. I'm not saying "OMG we're so in sync" or anything - I disagree with Mark about several things (LARS AND THE REAL GIRL) - but I just felt EXACTLY the same way about TBL each time I saw it.

  • Comment number 39.

    Sorry Dr K, I think Craig S has you pegged on this one.

  • Comment number 40.

    Couldn't agree more on The Big Lebowski, Mark. Apropos of nothing, I know you don't review other reviewers, but lately I have been reading a lot of Ray Carney's film criticism. I am not sure if he is that well known in Britain but he has a bit of a polarizing reputation in America for his notoriously caustic reviews of Citizen Kane, David Lynch and Tarantino's movies among others. He claims that many directors rely too heavily on style, metaphor, linear storytelling, and pop culture references and not enough on those elements which force the audience to draw on actual "experience" rather than "passively" resonding to cues. And he argues films must "challenge" the viewer to warrant respect. While I disagree with some of his assessments I find he does make a lot of sense. Just wondering if you had any opinion on the so-called "pragmatic" school of film criticism.

  • Comment number 41.

    I'm not one of those 'hardcore Lebowski fans', but I don't think it's the mess that you think it is Mark. I also think there's a little more in the meaning of the film than you're acknowledging. I have to wonder if the 'regional' humor is something that you aren't as familiar with, so you don't find it as funny as some over here in the states do. But, at least you laughed a little more this time.
    I think the Coens have only made one 'bad' film; the "Ladykillers remake". Even Tom Hanks couldn't save that one.

  • Comment number 42.

    Strangely reading this blog has forced me to reassess my opinion of TBL, or at least come up with a better defence of it. My initial reaction to the film is close to that which Dr Kermode has now come round to (perhaps I should be smugly crowing that I was right all along, erm, sorry), that it has some great performances and moments but is a disappointing mess. Now, many above have put forward the notions that its anarchic structure is arguably intentional, mirroring the, so convoluted even R Chandler couldn't explain it, supersized Sleep, or is moot as there are plenty of great films with unkempt, missing or abstract structures. So I agree, the problem with TBL isn't that it's a mess, it's that it just doesn't work because some of the component parts just don't work. The "German nihilists", the kooky art of Julianne Moore, they're just jarringly unfunny, and really detract from the off kilter but great character based comedy we get from Goodman, Bridges, Turturro and Buscemi. There may even be a mathematical formula showing the unfunniness quotient of TBL is proportional to the distance away from the bowling alley. What you're left with is a film that has highly enjoyable, rewatchable bits in it. The kind of thing you savour in clips, or when casually catching a bit as you channel surf and it might grab you until you hit one of the crap bits, which you'll either grin and bear, zap onwards, or when format permits fast forward past.

    I'll now use an analogy that will probably alienate another subset of readers here: Spielberg / Kubrick's A.I. -- has a great film straining to get out from under the rubbish bits, most notably the Sixth Sense Beyond Thunderdome section, the Robin Williams cameo, the, um, ok pretty much all of the Jude Law parts. For a mess to work, most, if not all the moments in it have to be enjoyable or at least function in and of themselves.

    For some viewers, on balance, the great bits of TBL may let them see past the flaws, and that is a matter of taste, rendering argument pointless. Looking back, however, I'd been a huge Coen bros fan, and it was the first time they really disappointed me. I'd no idea they'd later add Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers and Burn Before Watching to their canon (and in retrospect maybe I gave them a bit of a pass on Hudsucker). On the other hand, I'd no idea at the time they'd ever do something like A Serious Man, which might actually have been about more than just how clever they are at dialogue, character, cinema literacy and the niftiest place to put the camera. The Big Lebowski perhaps made it clear that they didn't even care about the audience of film geeks, that's what made it disappointing, that sense of betrayal.

  • Comment number 43.

    Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man

  • Comment number 44.

    It's not a series of moments. Meaning of Life is a series of moments. The Big Lebowski is a series of great characters with great performances. It's a movie that is not intent on having a great plot, but about putting people and their philosophies under the microscope. It's not about who stole what and where, it's about the fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman recoils and sweats when Jeff Bridges continues to touch the artifacts in Mr. Lebowski's office, while The Dude is just doing it cause it feels cool. It's about how Walter appears to hate Donny, who doesn't appear to have done anything.
    Get a clue, Mark.

  • Comment number 45.

    I get your point,and see what your saying,but this films about love, thats LOVE,which isnt rational ,or clear. I love the Big Lebowski,i love the wonderful characters, thats why i would prefer to watch it over Barton Fink.or Millers Crossing any day of the week.I know they have a better structure,and plot but i dont care, its who`s company i want to be in that counts.The only film i love more is Fargo,which is joyous! As for plot importance i refer you to `The Big Sleep` classic Noir , but plot , i still cant follow it!!

  • Comment number 46.

    Big Lebowski is overrated tripe and Bridges aint that great in it. Tuturo us amusing though.

  • Comment number 47.

    When it comes to comedy, I would say the usual criteria for what makes a film work are less important than simply how much it makes you laugh.

    To me, The Big Lebowski is a very funny film - one of the funniest I've seen. That there isn't a coherent structure to the film, and that there are numerous elements that simply don't work and aren't as funny as intended, doesn't detract from the fact that it makes my sides split whenever I watch it.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    On the actual subject, yep I certainly never said TBL was a bad film, just that it wasn't exceptional or life-changing, in the way that it appears to be seen by others. If you ask me, I think the more recent "A Serious Man" is a far, far superior film, and one which probably won't get the sort of appreciation it deserves (probably because the main character isn't a loveable stoner.)

  • Comment number 50.

    Never understood Mark's dislike of the Coens' comedies, they're all fantastic, except Burn after Reading. and even thats not that bad. admittedly i still haven't seen their version of The Ladykillers. im scared i love the original too much. Its hard to pick a best Coens film in my opinion, but for me i think it probably comes down to Miller's Crossing, Fargo and The Big Lebowski. The Big Lebowski is certainly the funnest, the most entertaining, the most re-watchable.

  • Comment number 51.

    I would add that The Big Lebowski is a much clearer film than Miller's Crossing, which I just...can' about.

  • Comment number 52.

    Surely the chaotic structure of the Big Lebowski is the whole point. The film is an obvious homage to the hard-boiled crime fiction of Hammett, Spillane and Chandler; rambling plots, dead-ends and oddball characters are all part of that tradition. Chandler himself famously couldn't define what The Big Sleep was actually about, but that didn't matter. This kind of story is meant to be fragmented. The plot will always be secondary to the characters and twists. It hangs on whether or not you want to spend time with those characters and see where the mystery takes them.

  • Comment number 53.

    Erm, I'm somewhat confused at the removal of my above post. I have submitted an appeal to have it restored as it was in no way "likely to disrupt, provoke, attack or offend others", nor did it contain "racist, sexist, homophobic, sexually explicit, abusive or otherwise objectionable" content. Furthermore it did NOT "contain swear words or other language likely to offend."

    I think someone at BBC compliance needs a bit of "re-training", or with any luck they'll disband the department (hurrah!)

  • Comment number 54.

    In fact, how dare they do this? It's ridiculous. Someone needs a dose of common sense. Yes you, the one reactively-moderating this forum; you specifically! If you can't tell the difference between friendly, light-hearted discourse amongst forum users and abuse, then perhaps you should seek employment elsewhere.

  • Comment number 55.

    Alien has one *very* famous scene, yes, but I don't think that's what Kermode means when he says TBL is a "series of scenes". I really strongly disagree with you about it being a "movie of scenes" - the whole thing hangs together as a cohesive whole without a problem. To my mind, what's great about Alien goes so much further than "that" scene and great production design. Everything, from the casting, acting, pacing, choice of shots, soundtrack, suspense etc are spot-on; I'd go so far as to say it's an almost perfect movie (if such a thing could exist).

    Phantom Menace, on the other hand is just plain poor. Let me list the ways: a wasted cast; an pointless story with convoluted, obscure, dull plotting (space taxes and trade disputes, really?); terrible, soul-destroying dialogue; no memorable characters (as a test, try and describe the main characters of "A New Hope" without reference to their names, the way they dress or their specific roles in the film... then try the same with "Phantom Menace"); plot holes and plausibility gaps so big and numerous you could drive a fleet of trains through them (if the Jedi can run at lightning speed, why doesn't Obi-wan run through the laser gates thing at the end in order to save Quigon?); dreadful child actors; pointless CGI-based characters; over-use of CGI generally, which ultimately hinders the direction of scenes; most shots consisting of two boring people (clearly in front of green screen) walking down a big corridor talking, who then stop and talk a bit more (shot/reverse shot). Everything about it is completely uninspired, lazy, cynical and designed purely to make as much money in merchandise as possible. Phantom menace (along with the other terrible prequels) is as close to the definition of "confidence trick" as any PT Barnum-esque snake oil scam.

    All of the above is hand-waved away by apologists who say "yes but it's a kids film" as if that's a reasonable enough excuse for it to be terrible and lazy. NEWS FLASH - kids films can be well-made too!

    In fact, don't take my word for it, why not spend several hours in the company of the Mr. Plinkett for his extensive critique of each of the films - he rips the prequels to shreds in ways I could never begin to.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 56.

    I found the comments of Dr K very interesting as I found Fargo (and I expect hoots of derision here) a pile of over-rated when it came out. However, learning from Dr K has done, I will see Fargo (with an open mind) again on DVD and see if is better than I thought.

    I must say that of all the Coen Brothers movies I have seen, I have to say that I am not that impressed with them. I thought No Country For Old Men was over-rated and the only film of theirs that I have genuinely enjoyed is True Grit.

    A lot of the time film critics champon the work of the Coen Brothers and yet when you see the movies, it seems to be a lot of critical waffle about nothing.

  • Comment number 57.

    I agree Mark, it's not one of their best films. Fargo, True Grit, Barton Fink and I prefer Oh Brother, as a comedy goes there's not much better by anyone (for it's style)

  • Comment number 58.

    Congrats for fessing up. A very fair assessment. Although I probably like the film more than Mark.

    Dr K is, however, one of the few film critics who got it completely right about Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? I love the Coens - Blood Simple, Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing, No Country For Old Men (and the rest) - but that film was an incomprehensible and tedious mess.

  • Comment number 59.

    We're getting into really personal territory here. Any review of this film is bound to be overly subjective because there's a dividing line in society between those that partake and those that don't. Would we want a stoner movie that was 'disciplined and structured'...

    The more interesting question is, did they intend it to be that way or not...

    sorry for the lack of question marks - I spilt coffee on my keyboard dude...

  • Comment number 60.

    @54 Joel Cooney said:
    "In fact, how dare they do this? It's ridiculous. Someone needs a dose of common sense. Yes you, the one reactively-moderating this forum; you specifically! If you can't tell the difference between friendly, light-hearted discourse amongst forum users and abuse, then perhaps you should seek employment elsewhere."

    I've always maintained that the moderator's evil twin must take over the weekend shift or something because posts are more likely to be pulled and, we colonials have had to suffer the ignominy of "not available in your area" when it is available in our area.

    I think they employ a frightened 14 year old from Fri-Sun as a moderator and so everything goes pear shaped and then the real moderator turns up on Monday and undoes all the "not available in your area" but doesn't bother restoring the deleted posts because they hope we've been distracted by something else by then.

  • Comment number 61.

    I quite liked Burn After Reading :S

  • Comment number 62.

    Mark, you hit the nail on the head, we LOVE the mess, which you must admit seems pretty intentional?

    Congratulations for swallowing a bit of pride though!

  • Comment number 63.

    Oh for pete's sake, this is getting utterly ridiculous - now they've edited out a link (that I have posted previously, I should add) to a LEGITIMATE FILM REVIEW WEBSITE. Honestly, get a life reactive moderators ("reactionary" more like).

    Okay, for those interested, here's a link to the WIKIPEDIA ENTRY FOR THE RELEVANT WEBSITE. Readers who might LEGITIMATELY like to follow it will no doubt easily find their way to the relevant link held within.

    What a load of utter, utter nonsense.

  • Comment number 64.

    Stick your guns Dr K! The Choen's are great film makers but their comedies leave me cold. I do like Raising Arizona though. Just to be contrary.

    I've tried to watch TBL on three separate occasions and got to about 20 minutes in on the last attempt before stopping it as I was about to rake my face off with my bare hands.

  • Comment number 65.


    You're being very un-dude.

  • Comment number 66.

    All opinions are subjective, mine is that the Cohen's have done some *very* good films
    Blood Simple
    Miller's Crossing
    No Country for Old Men

    Some quite good ones; maybe not perfect, but certainly with some merit:
    The Big Lebowski
    Raising Arizona
    The Hudsucker Proxy
    Barton Fink
    O Brother, Where Art Thou?
    Burn After Reading
    A Serious Man
    True Grit
    The Man Who Wasn't There

    and they've also made a couple of real duds:
    Intolerable Cruelty
    The Ladykillers

  • Comment number 67.

    Funny that your key criticism of the film is the same as yours of Inglourious Basterds which is another film I think you really need to have another look at (dropping your Tarantino prejudices, good or bad, at the theatre door).

    PS: Also you need to reconsider your way-off-the-mark opinion of Superbad. :)

  • Comment number 68.

    Kermode can't be seen to have enjoyed it, lest his credentials with the cineastes are revoked. How can you NOT love the interplay between Walter and Donny? Or the sheer Dudeness of The Dude? Special mention also has to go to Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Huddleston and, of course, the three Nihilists.

  • Comment number 69.

    Personally, I much prefer Big Lebowski to Fargo. I found the latter irritating. I remember seeing Blood Simple when I was a kid and not being impressed; now I love it. I think Big Lebowski is my favourite Cohen Bros film. I must also confess that I was really entertained by Burn after Reading - way more than I thought I would - and I've watched it twice.

  • Comment number 70.

    I have attended Lebowski Fest a couple of times, not because I am such a fan but because I live in the city where it is held every year.

    I enjoyed the movie, but I agree is isn't as good as Fargo, Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, The Man Who Knew Too Much, or Barton Fink. I place it on part with Raising Arizona and the Hudsucker Proxy.

    It doesn't have to be that good to be fun and worth watching, though. It is a fun movie, and, for some people, it's one they can watch (and quote) over and over. That has value.

    I think Mark's assessment is accurate. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Comment number 71.

    @Full Metal Jackson re: 65

    Touché! :-)

  • Comment number 72.

    @MarkoosMuse re: Inglorious ['Fellows'] Hmmm I think Mark had it spot on with that film - Tarantino's work of late (by which I mean, ALL of his output since Jackie Brown) is in dire need of one thing: a fearless editor, willing to tell him what scenes to trim, streamline or drop altogether. Unfortunately, like a much more talented verison of George Lucas, he's surrounded by 'Yes' men who don't challenge him, meaning he now makes 'yes men films'.

    In these days of creative commons and cheap editing software, I'd *love* it if someone were brave enough to re-edit his body of work - I'd bet that a much

  • Comment number 73.

    (argh - submitted before completion).... I'd be they'd be much leaner, more cohesive, less baggy pieces of work.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm not much of a fan of Lebowski, in fact I can't stand it. But that's just because the whole stoner humour thing does nothing for me, I don't really have a problem with the structure of the film, I think considering what it's about and the characters, it is entirely appropriate.

    The Coens are an up and down kind of pair for me, generally. I love Barton Fink, O Brother Where Art Tho, and yes, I really enjoyed Burn After Reading (it's fun okay, remember fun?). However, I really didn't get the fuss about No Country for Old Men at all, it just bored the hell out of me.

    Joel_Cooney - thanks for the link to Mr Plinkett, I managed to get to that before the stupid mod removed it. Great stuff there, and spot on critique.

  • Comment number 75.

    Well I was hoping for a dramatic re-apprasal a-la 'Blue Velvet' (which I might add is a fantastic section of your book and kept me firmly planted in my local waterstones), I agree with a lot of your arguements against it, but for me TBL is like a worn dressing gown - comfy and feel good and that is a rare quality!! Personally, I think The Man Who Wasn't There is the Coens' true under appreciated work (The Big Lebowski is anything but that) and it has the best closing lines of all time.

  • Comment number 76.

    Its one of those 'X-Factor' things (not the TV show), I just can't put my finger on why it works, it just does. The Big Lebowski remains my favourite film of all time !

  • Comment number 77.

    @ MarkoosMouse
    First of all, before i even start on the whole "The Big Lebowski" debate.... Mate, you are wrong, and VERY wrong at that. Superbad is a dreadful, dreadful film. While i do understand - although cannot say i entirely agree with - Dr K's statements that TBL is "just a load of bits", at least those bits were funny! Superbad on the other hand is just utter, UTTER tripe. I even sat down to watch it a second time to see if maybe i had rushed to judgement about it upon previous viewing. Alas - i had not....
    I watched;
    10 minutes in.... No laughs.
    25 minutes in.... Surely i should've laughed by now
    32 minutes in.... SURELY!!
    1:20(ish) minutes in.... Slowly, and with a sinking heart, starting to realize that it is every bit as bad as i had first thought - if not worse... And then the credits rolled. (Thank God!)
    If anybody needs to revise their opinion about this complete and utter bedsore of a film, Sir - I'm afraid it is yourself.

    Right - now that I've got that off my chest....

    I'm afraid i also completely disagree with Dr K's opinion of "The Big Lebowski". Yes; there are parts of it that are perhaps not integral to the main strand of the plot. (Larry's homework, for examlpe.)
    But personally i think that this kind of splintered, chaotic tone that the film seems to build up as it progresses not only add's to the overall charm of the piece, but is also somewhat contrary to the character of "the Dude" himself. Only someone like he could find himself in a situation that relentlessly out of control and still find time to go bowling and sink white russian after white russian after white russian.
    Comendably re-evaluated on your part Dr K. But i still maintain my stance.
    TBL is a fine piece of work.

  • Comment number 78.

    Is 'The Big Lebowski' overrated - no, coherence is overrated. You can't really be suggesting Mark, that all films should be coherent. I'd better chuck my David Lynch collection in the bin!

    It's a film of contradictions, not least in Jeff Bridges and John Goodman's characters compounded by their use of drugs, and this is beautifully reflected in the film's anarchic 'mess'.

    A coen brothers classic that cannot really be compared to Fargo, in my humble opinion, as they exist in different comedic and structural realms; which is testament to their genius.

  • Comment number 79.

    Even if you ignore the "coherence/incoherence" debate, TBL is the very definition of "over-rated" because, when people come out with statements such as "this film changed my life" or "you HAVE to see this, it's SOO good!", or even ['A Well Known Car Manufacturer Whose Name Rhymes with "Key Hubble-dew"'] goes and makes an advert about a guy inventing a "Dude-ist" religion based on the Bridges character... it sort of suggests something monumental.

    As a result, you sit down to watch it, prepared to be bowled over...and... it just.. doesn't... happen, really. It's not a bad film technically, the performances are good and the character is loveable but it's kind of "[doesn't] add up to a whole hill'o'beans" - once you take away the superficial layers surrounding it, there's no really any substance at all, abiding-dude or no abiding-dude...

    ... and yet there's still people telling me that it's a great film. It isn't great; merely quite good.

  • Comment number 80.

    Did Kermode ever see Antonio (1973)? It has something of The Big Lebowski about it, but little or no budget.
    Yet even though The Big Lebowski is one of my favourite films ever. So is "Mouse hunt", "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" and "StarWars" the later I count how many years I've spent watching it. I am Unrepentant... Heavens to Betsey if Larry Hagman had been "The Big Lebowski" you could have doubled the laughs.

  • Comment number 81.

    Hey Mark,

    Check out this analysis of T.B.L..Interesting stuff...

  • Comment number 82.

    "Hardcore Lebowski fans would, of course, argue that this is intended and is a tongue-in-cheek parody of the confusing plots of the classic film noirs.

    But they'd be wrong."

    No, they would not.
    It captures perfectly the way those noir detective stories would bounce around with no coherence. To satirise something you have to adhere to its rules.

  • Comment number 83.

    I put The Big Lebowski alongside a film such as The Holy Grail: in which you knowingly avoid the narrative, instead embracing the individually superb moments and random plot directions. I also know that the good doctor is a fan of the Holy Grail, quoting it nearly every wittertainment episode, so why can't he accept the brilliance of The Big Lebowski?

  • Comment number 84.

    A good point well made, Sir.

  • Comment number 85.

    As a responsible adult I would not want to condone the use of illegal class-A drugs but if I should die with wishes and goals unfulfilled, I will die happy knowing I experienced watching The Big Lebowski whilst under the influence of LSD.
    The colour pallet, the strange symmetry of many of the scenes, the amazing sound track, the quirky dialogue and the odd narrative structure all combine to produce an effect on the "tripping" mind which is nothing short of astonishing.
    I have a vague memory from childhood of an older boy telling me I needed to watch Pink Floyds The Wall whilst on acid. NO,NO,NO. There is only one film worthy of being seen on acid and that film is The Big Lebowski. Like cheese and pickle, fish and chips or Ant n' Dec, they just seem like they were meant to go together.
    So, up for a third viewing Doc? You bring the acid and I'll bring the DVD...

  • Comment number 86.

    I wouldn't say I hated The Big Lebowski, far from it, but I came away from it feeling underwhelmed. Maybe all the praise everyone gives it may have given me too high expectations. I didn't find it overtly funny, I only had a few giggles during the film; but it has a couple of stand out moments though, so while I don't think it's a bad film, just feel it's a tad overrated.

  • Comment number 87.

    So how is the plot a 'big mess' in a way that the film it was largely based on, 'The Big Sleep', is not?

  • Comment number 88.

    I think there is one thing stopping you fully appreciating this film; the context of watching. Personally, I love The Big Lebowski, but I have never seen it in a cinema. The "anarchic" structure of the film is either forgiven, or I would argue actually suits, watching the film at home with a few beers and friends.

    I guess you'll argue a great film should stand up played anywhere and in any format, however, The Exorcist screened at night is surely more frightening than an early morning viewing?

    So I now request you re-re-watch it at home, with a few beers!

  • Comment number 89.

    It's never a good idea to set out to make a cult movie, but that's what "The Big Lebowski" feels like. I was dragged to it late by friends who swore it was an outrageous work, a special event, a quirky/wonderful/anarchic film. I thought it was just okay. It felt studied and straining for eccentricity. All of the Coens' films are studied (in the sense of being calculated, even their spontaneity), but "Lebowski" kept elbowing me and saying, "get it? get it?" What explains its popularity to me is that it seems to have caught on with people who haven't seen a lot of movies, and therefore think that hamburger is steak. It isn't a complete botch like "The Hudsucker Proxy" in which everybody in it is acting in a separate movie and it's overwhelmed by its own triviality. But you do get the feeling watching "The Big Lebowski" that the dailies must have been a hoot, so the filmmakers thought the finished picture would be too.

  • Comment number 90.

    Hmm. Just a strange assessment. How can anyone watch films like this and whine about 'structure'? Raising Arizona, too, is certainly a hilarious, gorgeous piece of cinema, and to claim that the Coens have a problem with structure is I think misguided. Their more outlandish comedies are purposely structured as much as their dramas; simply in a different way.

  • Comment number 91.

    Mark, I'd be interested to see you do a "Kermode Uncut" special about other movies that you didn't like the first time that us viewers think you sould take a second look at, as you have done here with Lebowski. I know I had the exact same opinion as you did the first time, that it was lesser Coen's and not all that funny, but I have since come around on it and do think it's quite funny (particularly John Goodman's performance). I have a number of films in mind that I think you might benefit from revisiting, and I'm sure others do to.

  • Comment number 92.

    This morning I watched the BluRay of Blood Simple. They still haven't topped it.

  • Comment number 93.

    Mark forgot to mention The Hudsucker Proxy when quoting examples of a ramshackle Cohen movie - but then again, maybe I shouldn't be surprised it didn't spring to mind?...


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