Last night I was on Broadway and 103rd street buying flowers for the wife before I got on the train. Who should come out of the bodega but an old friend. My cousin’s best friend for more than forty years (this is my cousin, the film editor, who was responsible for hooking me up with my first job in the movie business). The two of them told me about “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and took me to see “Valley Girl” when I was a kid, a big deal because it was a rated R movie; I covered my eyes every time there was a nude scene.
I remembered seeing that movie with them just a few days ago and now here was my cousin’s friend in front of me. I don’t remember the last time I’d seen her.
We caught up and made plans to get together. Then a woman I worked with in the movie business walked up to us.
My cousin’s friend said goodbye and now I was talking to another old friend. We’d worked together on “The Big Lebowski.” I was in the picture department and she was in the music department. We too caught up on old times–she still works in sound editing, is getting married next month–and when it came time to say goodbye I quoted her favorite line from “Lebowski,” a line we used to say to each other all the time during the post-production of that show.
I started down the subway steps and said, “Gave the Dude a beeper.”
And she said, “Gave the Dude a deeper.”
I was halfway down the steps when I heard a male voice, guy walking down the street, say, “Gave the Dude a beeper.”
How odd yet cool to have worked on a movie that became a cult hit. And how wonderful to have a New York Minute with old friends.
[Photo Credit: digger-cb]
“The Big Lebowski” like you’ve never seen it before, compressed into a single image like a bar code. There’s plenty more of them, here. Man, there’s all sorts of curious and weird things on the Internet, eh?
There’s an assumption that the Yankees will use prospect Jesus Montero to acquire someone to fill the Lee-sized hole they see at the front of the rotation. They traded Montero once, remember, agreeing to a deal with Seattle for Lee himself back in July before the Mariners decided to trade him to the Rangers instead. The idea that the Yankees will use Montero, who compares to Mike Piazza both offensively and defensively, to get Zack Greinke has been in play for some time, but it’s not a particularly good fit. Greinke is a very good pitcher, but he’s signed through just 2012. If the Yankees are determined to trade Montero, who is one of the top five prospects in baseball, they should target less-obvious candidates who can contribute for more than 70 starts — even if it seems like these pitchers will, or should, be untouchable.
…The Yankees were unable to use their money to add a frontline starter, because the situation wasn’t entirely in their control. What they do with Montero is entirely in their control, however, and their disposition of this fantastic young hitter will tell us a lot about the Yankees’ creativity and imagination in solving problems that writing checks can’t fix.
Your move, Cash.
I lived in Los Angeles for a little over four months when I was working for the Coen brothers on The Big Lebowski. An old college pal was good enough to let me crash on his couch in Santa Monica. We spent many weekends down at another college friend’s crib in Venice, hanging out on the balcony, checking out the scene on the boardwalk by the beach.
A record by a group named Sublime was on heavy-rotation at the time. It wasn’t the kind of record I usually go for, or even have the opportunity to hear for that matter, but there was something catchy about their pop, surfer sound, and it seemed entirely fitting to that time and place. So the record is forever linked to my memories of L.A. and the beach. I never did buy it–though later found out that my wife (who has some of the most finicky musical tastes of anyone I’ve ever met) loves it.
Here’s one of the tunes that brings me back to the beach with a smile:
Because I just can’t get me enough of Jeff Bridges, here’s some more on the favorite to win the Best Actor Oscar next weekend…from Manohla Dargis in the Sunday Times:
In the early and mid 1970s he played a wide-eyed boxer, a sly con artist, a moonshiner turned car racer, a squealer turned suicide, a thief and a cattle rustler, working with veterans like John Huston (“Fat City” in 1972) and newcomers like Michael Cimino, who, for his 1974 debut, directed Mr. Bridges alongside Clint Eastwood in the crime story “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” The critics had started to pay attention. “Sometimes, just on his own,” Pauline Kael wrote of his performance as a stock-car racer in “The Last American Hero” (1973), “Jeff Bridges is enough to make a picture worth seeing.” Notably, she also compared him to Robert De Niro, who was about to set fire to screens in Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets.”
“He probably can’t do the outrageous explosive scenes that Robert De Niro brings off in ‘Mean Streets,’ ” she wrote. “But De Niro — a real winner — is best when he’s coming on and showing off. Jeff Bridges just moves into a role and lives in it — so deep in it that the little things seem to come straight from the character’s soul.”
I worked as an assistant film editor on The Big Lebowski which was cut on film and not a computer. During the shoot, our main responsibility in the cutting room was to mark-up the sound track and the picture and synch the footage that was shot the day before–these are called “rushes” or “dailies”, which would be screened for the directors later that day. We’d check the synch by screening the footage on a Steenbeck.
Watching Bridges work was a revelation–he simply was the Dude. Some actors need a bunch of takes before they really hit their stride but Bridges was that character, and in each take he gave a subtle variation on a line reading or a physical gesture. You could tell that he had a background in TV and film and not the theater. His approach and rhythm was different from most everyone else in the movie. He was so natural and extremely intelligent, providing the directors with all the material they’d need to piece together a winning performance.
Back to Dargis now, writing about Lebowski:
Whether shuffling around in a bathrobe or dropping a lighted joint in his lap, Mr. Bridges’s timing is brilliant. But it’s his ability to convey a profound, seemingly limitless sense of empathy that elevate the Dude beyond the usual Coen caricature. By facing every assault — repeated beatings, a friend’s death, the theft of a rug — with little more than an exclamation (“Man!”) and a toke, he and the Dude affirmed that an American hero doesn’t need a punch, just a punch line, something that Judd Apatow’s merry band of potheads know well.
In some respects “The Big Lebowski” was Mr. Bridges’s “Raging Bull,” a defining movie. He never established a long working relationship with a director as Mr. De Niro did with Martin Scorsese. Mr. Bridges has worked with significant filmmakers, just not necessarily in their finest hour. He has made questionable choices, but he has had a breadth of roles that should be the envy of most, and a depth few achieve. And he has staying power. It takes nothing away from his work in “Crazy Heart” to note that the film’s success and profile probably owe something to “Iron Man,” the 2008 blockbuster in which he pulled a Lex Luthor to play the villain and which gave him his highest-profile role in years. He was hilarious, absurd, necessary, and to watch him in that movie as well as in “Crazy Heart” is to be reminded yet again of how he abides.
Dargis singles-out Cutter’s Way (pictured above) and that’s a movie worth watching if you’ve never seen it. Terrific-look. The only drag is watching John Heard chew-up the scenery, but otherwise, it’s a good movie.
Finally, my boy Joey La P, sent me a link to this interview with Bridges on KCRW.
Yes, it has come to this: the Eggheads take on the Dude and The Big Lebowski.
Speaking of Bridges, check out this L.A. Times piece about the music for his new movie, Crazy Heart.
And dig this: the Film Society at Lincoln Center is hosting an evening with Jeff Bridges on Saturday, January 9th. An interview with the actor will be followed by a screening of The Last Picture Show.
A Year with the Coen Brothers
I wasn’t prepared for how overwhelming the return to New York would be. I had gotten accustomed to the wide open spaces, and the freedom it gave my mind to wander. Immediately, New York was an assault on that sense of liberty. The greys (from the sidewalks and streets) and browns (from the brick buildings) were binding. It was still cold, and it would take my eyes some time to adjust to the beauties that can be found in the harsh angles and imposing structures of the city. It was great to be walking the streets again, especially since I wasn’t in the slightest way weighed down by the winter malaise; I floated through pedestrian traffic with a permanent smile, feeling both at home and broadened. I had a perspective now that distanced me from the eye-for-an-eye squabbles I could see festering in others; I didn’t take any of it seriously.
And though this grace period would eventually expire, I felt like the experience of being away for so long had given me a confidence, a sense of myself, that would have been impossible to achieve had I never left. I had much catching up to do with family and friends, and for the first few weeks it was like a homecoming. Inertia did set in, however, and I found myself in a position of re-evaluating relationships, and just how I planned to live my life. The lightness of living out of a bag for five months was a great training ground for the serious work I now had to attend to at home, where the gravity of old patterns soon returned. But I continued to draw and paint and that helped the transition plenty.
My former employers, Joel and Ethan Coen, have a new movie out today. The New York papers gave “Intolerable Cruelty,” a screwball comedy featuring George Clooney and Cathering Zeta-Jones, glowing notices. I’ve seen the ads for the movies, and it hasn’t really looked too great from what I can tell. They sure aren’t billing it as a Coen Brother film, just like Woody Allen’s latest wasn’t marketed as a Woody Allen movie. But looks can be deceiving, as Times film critic Elvis Mitchell confirmed in his review:
Between a lethargic trailer propped up by “Gimme Some Lovin’ ” and the mainstream-sentimentalist producer Brian (“A Beautiful Mind”) Grazer’s name on the credits, there’s plenty of reason for an involuntary recoil toward the Coen Brothers’ fearsomely titled new movie, “Intolerable Cruelty.” But the film is not shudder-worthy. Instead, it’s something not seen in movie theaters for a long time: an intelligent, modern screwball comedy, a minor classic on the order of competent, fast-talking curve balls about deception and greed like Mitchell Leisen’s “Easy Living” and Billy Wilder’s “Major and the Minor.”
The last time the boys tried to make a commerical film—”The Hudsucker Proxy”—it bombed. Ethan used to say that maybe 1,000 people actually paid to see it in the theater. So what did they do next? They were going to make “The Big Lebowski”—the movie I eventually worked on–but John Goodman was unavailable at the time. So they went ahead and made a low-budget crime caper about sad sack criminals in North Dakata.
I remember one of their old friends telling me that he emplored the guys not to make “Fargo.” “You guys just had a major flop and now you are going to make a movie that exactly twelve people are going to want to see.” Of course, “Fargo” turned out to be a fluke smash, and since then, I think Joel and Ethan make whatever movie they can get financed (they usually have at least a half a dozen scripts which they’ve penned, to choose from).
I hope the new one is good. The boys are currently in L.A. filming a remake of the Alec Guiness comedy “The Ladykillers,” which stars Tom Hanks.
STRONG MEN ALSO CRY, SIR
When I first went to work for the Coen brothers in the fall of 1996, they had already cast Jeff Bridges as “The Dude” for their next movie, “The Big Lebowski.” For the first couple of weeks I was with them, they agonized over who would play “Lebowski.” The trouble was, most of the actors on their wish list were dead: Fredy Gywnne, Raymond Burr, Orson Welles. Ultimately, it came down to two actors, one of whom was British. I thought the Brit was the better choice, but for Joel and Ethan it was important that the actor was American, preferably of the midwest variety.
Thinking back on it, George Steinbrenner would have been an ideal choice. I was reminded of this after reading that Boss George got all choked up in front of a group of stunned reporters after yesterday’s exciting win over the Red Sox. As Lebowski would say, “Strong men also cry.” Veteran New York reporters Bill Madden and Joel Sherman were genuinely surprised at Steinbrenner’s reaction. That is saying something. Jack Curry reports in the Times:
The tears were visible beneath his sunglasses soon after Pride delivered for the second straight game. Steinbrenner depicts himself as a tough guy and a tough owner, a man who has avoided tears after winning some World Series titles. But on this emotional day in an emotional rivalry, when two of his best players wound up at a hospital for X-rays, Steinbrenner turned softer than pudding.
“I’m just proud of the way Mussina pitched,” Steinbrenner said. “You know, I’m getting older. As you get older, you do this more.”
According to Madden:
With a security guard behind him looking on in astonishment, Steinbrenner briefly excused himself from the group of reporters that had surrounded him in the press box as the Yankees were loading the bases against the new Red Sox closer, Byung Hyun Kim, with none out in the ninth. Moments later, as jubilation reigned from the 55,000 fans exiting the Stadium and Sinatra was kicking into “New York, New York,” Steinbrenner came back, still teary-eyed, only this time with a tone of defiance to his voice.
“Did you think Martinez was deliberately throwing at your guys?” he was asked.
“I have no idea what’s going on in his head,” Steinbrenner said, “except that it didn’t look too good to me. Two hitters? One of whom, Soriano, is on his way to the All-Star Game. … If he did deliver a message, he delivered the wrong — message!”
…Of course the Yankees found a way to win by a 2-1 score, and when it was over Niagara Falls took up residence on Steinbrenner’s face. The Boss bawled some serious tears of joy. Seriously. He was really crying. When it comes to this rivalry, there is never any need to make things up. Fact has been kicking Fiction’s butt now for nigh onto nine decades.
Ryan points out how the Red Sox wasted a great opportunity to take the series with Martinez pitching and the Yankees fielding their B (or C?) team.
The journalistic temptation is to get melodramatic when discussing the ceaseless Red Sox fan frustration against the Yankees, but how can you not when you see games like this? Losing this game, and falling back to the same situation the team was in when it arrived here in the wee smalls Friday (i.e. four games behind), on a day when they were playing the junior varsity and your team was suiting up the full varsity is, what? Galling? Humiliating? Exasperating? Oh, God forbid, and worst of all, predictable? Was there a seasoned Red Sox fan out there who didn’t know with 1 trillion percent certainty in his or her heart of hearts that as soon as Giambi’s single tied the game off Martinez that this game was a lost cause and more than likely would end in some messy fashion?
What did we have in the ninth? We had two singles on two-strike pitches, a hit batsman to load the bases with none out, and a botched grounder that had inning-ending 4-2-3 written all over it.
And then we had George opening up the facial faucet.
When the subject matter is the Red Sox and their ongoing battle to slay the big, bad dragon from the Bronx, no mere sportswriter is equal to the task. But Homer is dead, and we are all you’ve got.
Weep on, George. History remains on your side.