March 17, 1998
2016 Update: I honestly don't understand the cult appeal of this movie. It's full of oddball characters, eccentric fantasy sequences, and the dialog is quotable, but the meandering self-indulgence is maddening. I appreciate the concept of a Chandler-style detective noir but remade as a San Fernando stoner epic, but the movie lost my patience around the time the Dude and his friends attend the dance recital with the little guy prancing around like a wood nymph.
What is the point of Jesus? He contributes zero to the movie. His whole character, voice, costume, and backstory feel like they let John Tuturro make up a flamboyant caricature turned up to 11 with all the subtlety of a bowling ball to the gut.
God, I could go on with a half-dozen other tertiary roles that could be cut out completely with zero impact on the film. My complaints make me sound like some kind of ascetic who insists films focus like a laser on plot plot plot but that's not the case- For example, Boogie Nights (released four months earlier) is another self-indulgent epic set in San Fernando Valley, also with a retro vibe and a hundred minor characters (both with Phillip Seymour Hoffman), but Boogie Nights is fascinating, powerful, and focused. Lebowski is just a goof, and a waste of time for everyone involved. I'd love to cut 30 minutes out of this movie (which would be easy, by the way) just to see if the result were any better or worse.
I really enjoyed all the previous Coen brothers' films, so it was a real letdown when I first saw it in 1998. When the Coen brothers' next feature was released, O' Brother, Where Art Thou?, I skipped it. Too bad for me: when I finally saw O' Brother on home video in 2001, it was one of my favorite films of the year.
March 6, 1998
A fine old-school yet contemporary L.A. noir. Great score from Elmer Bernstein, and a real pleasure watching a wonderful cast: Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, and Susan Sarandon, with supporting performances from Stockard Channing, James Garner, Giancarlo Esposito, Liev Schreiber, John Spencer, and M. Emmet Walsh. Did I mention that 22-year-old Reese Witherspoon is in it and she's naked?