The Dude abides as the Big Lebowski Festival returns to Steamboat
Steamboat Springs — “Yeah, well. The Dude abides.”
So said actor Jeff Bridges as Jeffery “The Dude” Lebowski in Joel and Ethan Coen’s low-budget, 1998 dark comedy, “The Big Lebowski,” which, in the almost two decades since its relatively low-profile release to largely tepid reviews, has amassed a cult following comparable to that of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
And at 7 p.m. Saturday, The Dude will once again abide in Steamboat Springs, as the Chief Theater hosts its fourth annual Big Lebowski Festival, which, for the first time this year, will be presented free of charge.
“This year, I just want as many people as possible to be here, so we’re doing it for free,” said Chief Theatre Executive Director Scott Parker, who began organizing the annual festival soon after taking over the reins of the Chief in August 2013.
“When I got hired, one of the first things I wanted to do was a Lebowski festival, and in October 2013, we had our first,” Parker said, adding that the response to that inaugural effort was nothing short of overwhelming.
“It was a huge hit,” Parker said. “People came out of the woodwork. … We had not one, but two people dressed in red suits with big scissors (from the movie’s now-famous dream sequence). We had someone dressed as a White Russian (The Dude’s signature drink); we had someone dressed as a marmot (a nod to a scene in which a ferret finds itself first tossed into a bathtub, then accused of being a marmot); we had all kinds of Lebowskis, all kinds of Maudes. People really, really got into it. I was blown away.”
Parker said the one-night festival will include two screenings of the film, a costume contest, a Wii bowling tournament and bowling ball cupcakes. And of course, White Russians will be served.
“Yeah, we bought three cases of kahlua,” Parker said.
Interestingly, Parker acknowledged he wasn’t initially a huge fan of the film.
“I remember the first time I saw it, I was not enamored with it, as were most other people,” he said. “Then, I watched it again four or five years later, and it was like a brand new movie. I don’t know why it wasn’t well received the first time. I think maybe the Coen Brothers didn’t have the rep yet.”
Whatever the case, the feeling seems to be fairly universal.
Film critic Peter Howell, of the Toronto Star, wrote in 1998: “It’s hard to believe that this is the work of a team that won an Oscar last year for the original screenplay of ‘Fargo.’ There’s a large amount of profanity in the movie, which seems a weak attempt to paper over dialogue gaps.” In 2011, Howell had changed his opinion, writing that “The Big Lebowski” “may just be my favorite Coen Bros. film.”
There’s perhaps no satisfactory explanation for how a low-budget movie made by a then-little-know sibling filmmaking team has grown into such a cultural phenomenon. It’s quoted, it’s imitated and it’s even inspired a religion, the Church of the Latter-Day Dude, which has ordained more than 220,000 “Dudeist Priests” throughout the world via its website.
Perhaps the best — if not the most illuminating — explanation comes from The Dude, himself:
“Yeah, well. The Dude abides.”
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It was a love story that brought Jason Erwin to Steamboat Springs from Nashville, Tennessee.