Sunday, August 5, 2012

Don't Make a Scene: The Big Lebowski

The Story:  Those who know me—and what's been happening, lately, in my life—will probably find the following in very poor taste.  

Tough noogies.  

This one has been on the on-deck circle for awhile, and now's the perfect time to put it at bat.  It's from The Big Lebowski and its origins are true and appropriate.

"Where do these things come from?"

I'm frequently asking myself that question when watching a Coen Brothers film.  What inspires the Coen Brothers to make the scenes they do?  These odd-ball combos of sweet and sour, dark and light.

Stories, really.  Just stories.

From life, truth to tell.  Which is always stranger than fiction, or anything the Coens might be able to create out of whole cloth.

Like this one.  An odd look at a YouTube video of Mel Brooks (the subject of an up-coming "Now I've Seen Everything Dept." segment) giving an interview reveals the source of this scene (and the interview is provided below).

It involves one of my favorite hyphenates, Howard Morris—performer, character actor, cartoon voice and accomplished director (in his own right).  The details are there, the remains, the coffee can (in lieu of decorative cremationry), the ash backlash...all there. 

I don't find this in poor taste.  I find it life-affirming ("Fuck it, Dude.  Let's go bowling"), humorously skewering our solemn pretensions of death, and our best intentions, and blowing away helplessness, despondency and bummers, like so much dust in the wind.

The Set-Up: Alas, poor Donnie (Steve Buscemi), killed by clumsy nihilists (aren't they all?), one of the pieces of collateral damage among the flotsam of California, all because of a case of mistaken identity, a violated rug, a missing Bunny, and your typical dysfunctional families making up El Dorado's 1% (as can be found in The Hills and Chandler mysteries).  It falls to the living—The Dude, aka Jeff Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) and Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) to gather together at the end of the world and pay their last respects.

Of course, they're going to fuck it up. 

Action, ma'an...


It is a high, wind-swept bluff.

Walter and the Dude walk towards the lip of the bluff. Parked in the background is one lonely car, Walter's.

Walter is carrying a bright red coffee can with a blue plastic lid.
When they reach the edge the two men stand awkwardly for a beat.

WALTER I'll say a few words.

The Dude clasps his hands in front of him. Walter clears his throat.
WALTER Donny was a good bowler, and a good man. He was. . . He was one of us. He was a man who loved the outdoors, and bowling, and as a surfer...

WALTER ...he explored the beaches of southern California

WALTER ...from LaJolla to Leo Carillo...and up to...Pismo.

WALTER And he was an avid bowler. And a good friend. He died--he died as so many of his generation, before his time.

WALTER In your wisdom you took him, Lord. As you took so many bright flowering young men, at Khe San and Lan Doc

WALTER ...and Hill 364.

WALTER These young men gave their lives. And Donny too.

WALTER Donny who. . . who loved bowling.

Walter clears his throat.

WALTER And so...

WALTER Theodore--Donald--Karabotsos...

WALTER accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been...

WALTER we commit your mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean...

Walter is peeling the plastic lid off the coffee can.

WALTER  ...which you loved so well.


WALTER Goodnight, sweet prince.

The wind has blown all of the ashes into the Dude, standing just to the side of and behind Walter. The Dude stands, frozen.

WALTER: ...shit

Finished eulogizing, Walter looks back.

WALTER Aw, shit, I'm sorry Dude.

He starts brushing off the Dude with his hands.

WALTER Goddamn wind.

Heretofore motionless, the Dude finally explodes, slapping Walter's hands away.

DUDE Goddamnit Walter! You fucking asshole!
WALTER Dude! Dude, I'm sorry!

The Dude is near tears.

DUDE You make everything a fucking travesty!

WALTER Dude, I'm--it was an accident!

The Dude gives Walter a furious shove.

DUDE What about that shit about Vietnam!
WALTER Dude, I'm sorry--
DUDE What the fuck does Vietnam have to do with anything! What the fuck were you talking about?!

Walter for the first time is genuinely distressed, almost lost.

WALTER Shit Dude, I'm sorry--

DUDE You're a fuck, Walter!

He gives Walter a weaker shove. Walter seems dazed, then wraps his arms around the Dude.

DUDE: Fuck, Walter!

WALTER Awww, c'mon, Dude.  Fuck it, man.

WALTER Let's go bowling.

The Big Lebowski

Words by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

Pictures by Roger Deakins and Joel (and Ethan) Coen

The Big Lebowski is available on DVD from Home Video.

Howard Morris, to whom this happened.

1 comment:

Walaka said...


And I'm up for rolling a few lines any time you are.