May 1st, 2008

Whale fluke

A False Wakefulness

Up earlier than expected. I hope I got enough sleep -- sleep including a dream set in what felt like the Mississippi Delta, but with docks loaded with Colonial-era tall ships that I think you're more likely to see in New England than Louisiana -- but I spent just over an hour awake in bed, staying restful and hoping that maybe I'd get a little more shuteye. Didn't happen.

At least the dream was soothing. For much of it I was with many people on a wide-bodied boat sailing through these wide expanses of water; the boat moved very quietly, almost ghost-like, past the trees and small islands. The people onboard were quiet as well, transfixed by the scenery gliding past. Then our ship arrived at the port with the docks and the other, more incongruous ships, and then things got noisier. (One tall ship was being moved through a tight maze of docks, bumping against them. This was presented as normal.)

What I'm feeling now feels like a false wakefulness, like parts of me aren't yet as awake as the rest of me. Part of me was fine with opening my eyes at 4:11 a.m., very early for me; another part of me did so under some protest.

Well, I'm awake now. And the dream's been noted. Time to really wake up, to the point where I can be useful.
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Fourth Big Lebowski thought of the week: My original review

My original Big Lebowski review, published March 31, 1998

(written after seeing the film in a mostly empty Richland, Wash. screening room:)

You know, this film should be seen twice before being reviewed – ’cause, like any other self-respecting Coen Brothers film, it leaves you going “now what the heck just happened?”

You see, The Big Lebowski is shot through a haze o’ pot smoke, the way a bowler/drug addict calling himself “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges, a smart actor who’s great here as a stoner) sees his world. The plot makes little sense, events don’t flow, characters come and go without much obvious purpose (especially one sick puppy of a bowler played by John Turturro) – but despite all the bad road and heavy profanity leading up to the end, The Big Lebowski still has a happy ending. Well, maybe not happy, but The Dude has moved on from the freakish events we saw earlier. And one gag late in the show threw me into a full-force laughing fit; I was glad I didn’t have people sitting right next to me, or I’d’ve bumped into them repeatedly.

Here’s the story: It’s L.A., early 1991. The Dude is mistaken for a rich man – the Big Lebowski himself – and is roughed up by punks before they realize they’ve made a mistake. It turns out The Big Lebowski is in dire straits: his trophy wife, a porn film star, has been kidnapped, and he tells The Dude he needs someone to make the ransom drop – and that someone (ta daa!) is The Dude.

During The Dude’s mission, our hero – no, the guy who’s in front of the camera the most – stumbles onto a child molester, black-clad German nihilists (including Peter Stormare from Fargo and Armageddon), a 15-year-old alleged thief, an old man in an iron lung, a severed toe, a private detective, and the Big Lebowski’s artist daughter Maude (the gorgeous and stylized Julianne Moore), who’s interested in The Dude for her own purposes. The Dude’s bowling buds (friends, I mean friends!) John Goodman and a dead-and-dumb-looking Steve Buscemi – who’s always bumming bowling shirts off of others (each of his shirts has a different name on it) – are dragged along for the ride.

The movie doesn’t make sense, but it avoids making sense in a way that makes sense. (Did that make sense?) A lot of this film is an indulgence of this filmmaking brother team, and self-indulgence is not necessarily bad here. They can throw in anything – like The Dude thinking Saddam Hussein is handing him his bowling shoes in one insane dream sequence – and it doesn’t have to have meaning. And when the plot is solved, it’s pretty much by accident and still leaves a bunch of loose ends…but The Dude lives on.

This is not a great film, partly since it is so hard to make an Important Film about stupidity and vacuity – the same problem the otherwise good and entertaining To Die For ran into. But The Big Lebowski knows this, and just goes with its own flow, which is kind of refreshing.

And it gives people like me who’ve never even had a beer a vague sense of what it must be like to spend your life stoned. Cool.


Still never stoned (though I do allow myself to drink now),

This Street, That Man, This Life...

A minute-and-a-half from one of the best shows of the Nineties, Homicide: Life On the Street: Frank Pembleton (Andre Braugher) returns to the squad after his stroke, in a scene scored with "This Street, That Man, This Life" by the Cowboy Junkies: