'The Dude' hitting the screen at the BamaBy Nathan Proctor | 04/04/2012 11:10pm
“Way out west, there was this fella that I wanna tell ya about. A fella by the name of Jeff Lebowski,” Sam Elliot says during the opening scene of “The Big Lebowski.”
Bo Hicks of wellthatscool.com and his cohorts share this wish with Elliot and will be reintroducing Jeff Lebowski, or The Dude, to Tuscaloosa with Tuscaloosa Abides.
Wellthatscool.com will screen the 1998 comedy “The Big Lebowski” at the Bama Theatre on Saturday, with festivities beginning at 6:30 p.m. and the screening at 8:30 p.m.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the film follows aimless slacker and recreational bowler The Dude, played by Jeff Bridges, around Los Angeles. Though not a box office success, something about the film’s off-the-wall plot and characters earned it its label as a cult classic by The Wall Street Journal in 2006 and has shown continued popularity through scores of Lebowski screenings and festivals across the country every year.
Started in 2009 by the Druid City Drinking Club, which produced wellthatscool.com in 2008, the Tuscaloosa-based Lebowski showing was brought back last year under the direction of wellthatscool.com.
“It’s a movie that’s infinitely quotable,” Hicks said. “So many people like it, it has so many memorable characters, and it lends itself well [to such an event].”
According to Hicks, this year’s showing will feature a costume contest run by Mama Dixie of the Pink Box Burlesque, a sponsor of wellthatscool.com, games of Wii bowling and a special on The Dude’s drink of choice: the White Russian.
Through a more organized effort and hints at more interesting Lebowski-themed prizes, Hicks said he hopes the costume contest will grow in size and enthusiasm and that Tuscaloosa Abides could grow into something akin to the wild showings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
“Every year, we learn things that we could do better,” said Hicks. “I think this is another one of those things where each year, things will get smoother and smoother.”
Hicks expressed excitement over the turnaround of the collegiate segment of Tuscaloosa, which provides a steady stream of young adults excited about local culture and events and ready to be exposed to The Dude.
Hicks said Lebowski’s cult following was something sparked by a quirky humor that gets laughs from any age group but is mostly just a bit different from anything else. Though young and unaware of the film at the time of its release, it was a movie that hit home immediately for Hicks when he saw it years later, an experience he said he hopes to share not just with the people of Tuscaloosa, but someday his young daughter, Audrey.
“There are always going to be bowling alleys, and there will always be odd movies,” said Hicks. “In my opinion, it needs to be seen across generations.”
Mama Dixie, matron of the Pink Box Burlesque, Tuscaloosa’s burlesque troupe, will be overseeing the costume contest for her second year in a row. Though the voting is determined by the audience, she issued a challenge to this year’s costumed participants.
“There were a lot of Dudes, of course — [last year], the entire bowling team was represented in one way or another,” said Dixie. “I want it to be bigger and better. I want to see more Dudes. I want to see bowling teams actually have bowling balls.”
Dixie shared Hicks’ enthusiasm for the film and said she believes it is a movie still best experienced in the theater.
“I’ve sat next to 75-year-old people and sat next to high school kids laughing and loving it,” Dixie said. “It’s a very Americana film, and it’s nice to see an Americana film in a house that screened some of the originals.”
Hicks said he intends to continue screening the cult classic for as long as he can possibly manage, or at least until he’s “too old to know what’s cool.”
“Some people throw out things like ‘Citizen Kane or ‘Gone With the Wind’ as the greatest movie of all time,” said Hicks. “But for us, ‘The Big Lebowski’ is our ‘Citizen Kane.’ It’s our Rosebud.”