July 11, From a plane between San Francisco and New York: Every single frame of this film is so incredibly satisfying to watch. From the opening credits set to the “Man in Me” all the way through. It’s a masterpiece of enjoyability. The dream sequences! The Jesus introduction! The everything-that-comes-out-of-Walter’s-mouth! The way that if you watch closely you can see the Dude slowly collecting conversational tidbits from other characters and deploying them in later scenes (“The Chinaman is not the issue here, man!”; “She’s a strumptet, she kidnapped herself!”)
For about a year, right around the time this film was at the height of its popularity, I lived around the corner from the Hollywood Star Lanes in LA where all of the bowling sequences were shot. It became my local bar— I’d buy bottles of Rolling Rock or Budweiser for two bucks apiece and sit in the back and wonder when Vince Vaughn was going to roll in and be super tall and loud. (Not that we ever spoke, Vince and I. But I noted his presence.) This picture (used in the 33 Project list) was taken by Jed Johnson in the back of the Hollywood Star Lanes bar.
It was heartbreaking when the city shut the bowling alley down. They argued imminent domain and took the land to build a middle school. There was a vigil in the parking lot that final night, where everyone felt the way you feel watching Donny falling down dead in the same parking lot in The Big Lebwoski. My buddy Dominic left with one of those classic “Holly Star balls” and has it to this day. A memento of a simpler time.
The argument for preserving the Hollywood Star Lanes was to designate it a cultural landmark. It seemed, on the one hand, very Angeleno to try to declare a one out of a site most people had discovered from a film released less than five years prior. On the other hand, ‘cult movie’ or not, it was clear The Big Lebowski was destined to be a cultural touchstone. I hope in thirty years time, the next time one of those AFI Top 100 movies of all time lists is released, that someone writes the post-humous essay equating the destruction of the Hollywood Star Lanes to the destruction of the original Penn Station in NYC. And that we all, at that time, recognize that The Big Lebowski might just be the greatest film ever made.
Buy this film, watch it, and walk around all the next day with “The Man in Me” in your head and a smile on your face.