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November 15, 2013

Movies You Missed & More: The Achievers: The Story of Lebowski Fans

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 10.37.28 AMThis week in movies you missed: This very night, Seven Days is calling all Achievers to a party at Champlain Lanes called the Big LeBOWLski.

In honor of the event, I watched this 2009 documentary about The Big Lebowski fan phenomenon.

What You Missed

In 1998, Joel and Ethan Coen put out a movie called The Big Lebowski, a shaggy-dog story involving crime, bowling, White Russians and rugs that really pull the room together. It was not one of their hits.

Over the years, certain people discovered The Big Lebowski on video and started quoting it. Obsessively. They found one another on internet forums and began calling themselves "Achievers," after the "Little Lebowski Urban Achievers" briefly referenced in the movie. They got together at bowling alleys to celebrate their fandom like a more mellow version of Trekkies.

So was born the first Lebowski Fest, in Louisville, Ky., in 2002. Today, it happens all over the nation and the world. Eddie Chung's documentary takes us to several Lebowski Fests, including an LA event where star Jeff Bridges showed up to perform and mingle with fans (wearing his jellies, of course).

We also get to meet annual participants in the costume competition, who dress as the Dude, Bunny and far more obscure characters (anything mentioned in the film is fair game); a Midwestern housewife who is obsessed with winning the trivia contest; and a few fan spouses who admit they just don't get it.

Why You Missed It

Made by and for fans, this low-budget documentary doesn't seem to have gotten much mainstream play, but you can catch it on Netflix Instant.

Should You Keep Missing It?

Confession: I have seen The Big Lebowski once. One time. So a lot of the jokes in this movie flew right over my head, but it did instill a desire to watch the flick again.

Because this is a fan-made documentary, it doesn't dwell long on the most obvious question: why? Why The Big Lebowski? It's fun, oddball and highly quotable, but so are a lot of Coen brothers movies. What is it about this one that speaks to a certain swath of the global population and makes them want to hang out in bowling alleys and say, "Shut the fuck up, Donny?"

I would have loved to see the Coens meditate on this question — but they aren't in the documentary. So the analysis falls to Peter Exline, a script consultant and friend of the Coens who takes credit for telling them the true story that inspired the movie. He seems bemused by the fan phenomenon, to say the least, and suggests that the Achievers might be into "alternate realities."

But the weirdest thing about the hardcore Achievers is that they all seem pretty normal. Not nerdy enough for an SF fandom or a truly obscure cult, they appear more inclined toward hanging out, drinking with buds and cracking wise than learning Klingon or Elvish. The Dude's approach to life is theirs.

So perhaps the Achievers have simply taken it on themselves to combat the modern phenomenon of "bowling alone." Or maybe the doc's lesson is that, in the internet era, everybody will have a cult of their own.

Verdict: not a great documentary, but worth a look for all the colorful characters featured therein. And, you know, the Dude abides. (Did I get that right?)

This Week in Theaters

Rejoice, o fans of three-hour, graphic lesbian love stories in French! Blue Is the Warmest Color is at the Roxy.

Meanwhile, All Is Lost spreads to the Palace. 12 Years a Slave joins the Redford flick at the Savoy, while continuing at the Roxy. The Best Man Holiday brings Christmas early to the Essex.

This Week on Video

Frances Ha, Blackfish, Turbo, Man of Steel, Barbara, Ip Man: The Final Fight, and "Dexter," the oft-mocked final season.



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