Updated: May 3
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
“Lebowski’s” Three Wise Men: The Dude (Jeff Bridges), Donny (Steve Buscemi) and Frank (John Goodman).
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“THE BIG LEBOWSKI: 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1998; R for pervasive strong language, drug content, sexuality, and brief violence; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple/iTunes (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: “The Dude Abides: ‘The Big Lebowski’ Ten Years Later”
“SOMETIMES, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.”
And so begins the story of The Dude. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
Except that The Stranger, the folksy cowboy played by Sam Elliott who spins this Coen brothers’ yarn, got it wrong. “The Big Lebowski” may be set in the early ‘90s, but clearly The Dude is a man for this time and place, too. Maybe for all time and every place.
No? Then run, don’t walk to wherever you buy movies and get this 20th-anniversary edition. Not only will you agree that The Dude transcends, you’ll feast on the wonderful 4K Ultra HD do-over. More on that later.
(1&2) The Dude turns on the charm when he meets Bunny. Tara Reid plays Bunny, the supposedly kidnapped trophy wife of The Big Lebowski. (3) David Huddleston, doing his best FDR, is The Big Lebowski and Philip Seymour Hoffman is his assistant, Brandt. (4) A ransom spells out what it will cost to get Bunny back: $1 million.
Now, if you came in late (and shame on you): The Dude (Jeff Bridges), who may be the heir to the Rubik’s Cube fortune, is mistaken for another Jeffrey Lebowski who is being extorted by a porn king/loan shark. Seems the trophy wife of The Big Lebowski (David Huddleston) has a few adult movies on her resumé. Anyway, the porn king/loan shark sends his goons to The Dude’s apartment and, after rinsing his face in the toilet, soil his carpet.
That’s important, because it really tied the room together.
Aided, sort of, by his bowling buddies – Walter (John Goodman), a Vietnam vet/Jewish convert with serious anger issues, and good-natured Donny (Steve Buscemi) – The Dude tracks down his namesake and is offered a job: Bunny has been kidnapped (maybe) and he needs a bagman. No spoilers, but there are complications.
This being a Coen brothers move – it followed “Fargo” and preceded “O Brother, Where Art Thou? – it’s not that simple. In fact, John Turturro, who plays icky rival bowler Jesus Quintana, says in the feature “The Dude Abides” that he had to watch it four times before he got a bead on this … comic noir (?)
We also hear from Bridges, who says a Zen master friend told him that The Dude is a Zen master; Buscemi, who says Donny’s death scene is his fave; Julianne Moore, who’s a hoot as The Big Lebowski’s no-nonsense artist daughter Maude; and Goodman, who says folks are always ready to flip out a line from the movie. “The lines are very flippable,” he says,
All of the extras are on the Blu-ray disc and have been picked up from the 10th-anniversary edition. They include a very cool interactive map, a making-of feature, another about the dream sequences (Joel Coen calls them “Kafka” breaks) and another about the photo book that Bridges made for the cast and crew. He’s as skilled with a camera as he is in front of it.
(1) Frank insists that Smokey, played by alt-country icon Jimmie Dale Gilmore, enter a 0. (2) Jesus Quintana, the creepy bowler played by John Turturro, gets ready to roll. (3) Julianne Moore is The Big Lebowski’s no-nonsense daughter, Maude. (4) The Dude examines a severed toe, believed to be Bunny’s, that was sent to The Big Lebowski.
Hats off to the folks at Universal Studios for pulling off a top-notch remastering. The original 35mm camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) was scanned in 4K, extracting detail and colors never seen before. The natural film grain — not evident on the previous Blu-ray — dances across the screen as it should, while the HDR contrast levels are striking and bold. Shadows are deep and dark, without losing detail, and the highlights are bright and controlled. Thank goodness there’s no sign of the digital noise reduction and edge enhancement that plagued the Blu-ray and DVD versions.
The expansive color palette orchestrated by the Coen brothers and cinematographer Roger Deakins – their fourth collaboration – is bathed in warm, rich tones from the bowling alley to the home of The Big Lebowski and the greenish-blue Pacific Ocean could hardly be more soothing as Walter and The Dude prepare to dump Donny’s ashes from a bright red coffee can. A classic Cohen brothers moment.
The previous six-channel DTS-HD soundtrack has been upgraded to DTS:X, slightly pushing effects and music cues to height speakers. The rest is nicely balanced between dialogue and the music score from Carter Burwell (“Three Billboards Outside Edding, Missouri”) and vivid tracks from the Sons of the Pioneers (“Tumbling Tumbleweeds”), Bob Dylan (“The Man in Me”), Nina Simone ( “I Got it Bad (and That Ain’t Good)” and the Eagles (“Peaceful Easy Feeling”). The Dude, of course, hates the Eagles. He’s a Creedence man – CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” sounds great, too.
Convinced? Good. We’ll close with more insight from The Stranger, and this time he’s right on the money:
“The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners.”
– Craig Shapiro and Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Sam Elliott is The Stranger, who spins the tale of The Dude. (2) The Dude shows Maude the finer points of bowling during a dream sequence. (3) After setting fire to The Dude’s 1973 Ford Gran Torino, the Nihilists are ready to rumble. (4) Frank goes Mike Tyson on the ear of a Nihilist when they have a run-in outside the bowling alley. (5) The Dude and Frank say their goodbyes to Donny. (6) The ocean wind blows the ashes of Donny into The Dude’s face at the end of an impromptu memorial for his bowling buddy.