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You Haven’t Seen The Big Lebowski Until You’ve Seen It On 35mm.
The cult classic returns to the Clinton Street Theater on 35mm for the holiday season. Catch a million little details you missed the first fifteen times you watched it.
By Walker MacMurdo
Among stoner cousins, ponytailed uncles and second-wave coffee-shop enthusiasts, Ethan and Joel Cohen's 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski is an infinitely rewatchable tale about a heroic everyman who embodies a live-and-let-live ethos in a hostile world. This week, the Clinton Street Theater is playing the cult classic on 35 mm for achievers and squares alike.
Set in early-’90s Los Angeles, unemployed slacker Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) returns from a trip to the supermarket to find two goons hiding in his apartment, shaking him down for money they think his wife (he’s not married) owes around town, and micturating on his rug. The Dude’s simple life unravels into a mess of German nihilism, private eyes and porn barons.
For 11 years—or maybe 13, Clinton Street owner Lani Jo Leigh has lost count—the 102-year-old theater has shown the film for a week around Christmas. There’s a local tradition around it, including Leigh’s own “Rice Russians” a sake-based take on the White Russian cocktail the Dude imbibes throughout the film.
Ask a fan and they’ll tell you the best thing about The Big Lebowski is all the little details—hidden nuggets and visual gags that refer to earlier or foreshadow later parts of the film. And no matter how many times you’ve watched it on DVD, until you’ve seen the scum on the Dude’s toilet as he gets his head dunked in 35 mm, you haven’t really experienced the scene.
Last week, we watched the test run of the print. Here are the things we noticed for the first time.
They Call Los Angeles the City of Angels…
• In his adventure, the Dude gets dragged almost 100 miles across the sprawling Los Angeles metro, almost circumnavigating the city. It’s a 35-mile trip from his apartment in Venice to Pasadena—about the distance from Portland to McMinnville—just to meet the Big Lebowski (David Huddleston).
• The Compton-based Ralphs is the Dude's supermarket of choice. It's where we're introduced to him, and later the Dude's rewards card is his only form of ID.
• Bunny offers to fellate the Dude for $1,000—that's $1,772.05 in today's money. If the Dude had found a cash machine, and if Brandt (Philip Seymour Hoffman) wanted to watch, it would have cost him $177.20 in today's money.
• When you see the Dude, Walter and Donny(Steve Buscemi) enjoying their burgers from the In-N-Out on Camrose, the colorful paper cup Walter drinks soda from is definitely not an In-N-Out cup, which are white with a distinctive red palm tree pattern.
• On Maude Lebowski’s (Julianne Moore) coffee table, there’s what appears to be a copy of LA Weekly. We asked two people at LA Weekly to identify the issue, without success. LA Weekly did a Lebowski-themed issue in 2013 but didn’t mention it.
Fuck It, Let's Go Bowling
• All of Donny’s embroidered bowling shirts are named—Austin, Art and a few more—but not a single one of them with “Donny.”
• The stars affixed to the wall of the bowling alley (the now-closed Hollywood Star Lanes) are the same that appear in Lebowski’s second dream sequence.
• The restroom sign behind pederast-turned-creep who can roll Jesus Quintana (John Turturro) reads “Hit the Head.”
• The Dude does not wear socks with his rented bowling shoes.
• The only time the Dude doesn’t order or fix himself a White Russian in the film is in the final scene, in which he orders “oat sodas” (beers) for himself and Walter.
See, Let Me Tell You a Little Something About the Dude…
• In the film's first scene, Lebowski pays for his 69-cent carton of milk with a whale-themed personal check. The date is 9/11/91. That's exactly 10 years before 9/11 and the day that George H.W. Bush gave his famous "New World Order" speech following the Gulf War.
• The Dude might look like a bum, but he has upper-class taste. His Pendleton sweater retails for $240 and his Vuarnet 1307 sunglasses go for $200.
• The Dude mentions he was a member of the Seattle Seven “with six other guys,” the real-life members of the anti-Vietnam Seattle Liberation Front who were charged with “conspiracy to incite a riot” following a violent protest.