Movies of 1998 Bracket Game: There’s Something About Mary Vs. The Big Lebowski
1998 is right in the middle of an era in cinema that I have great affection for. The success of former video store employee Quentin Tarantino had been hugely influential and motivated a general expanded interest in independent film and in the value of both movie trivia and the expertise of your local hole-in-the-wall movie rental clerk. Many of the bigger studios had scrambled to put together projects and promote filmmakers who would help to bolster their street credibility and make them seem in tune with the times. While at moments this resulted in some movies that only had the markers associated with the sort of stuff they thought we wanted to see, but none of the genuine connection with the material that had made it interesting to begin with, I’d say the overall result was positive. Creative and idiosyncratic efforts were more likely to get the green light, and I consider that to be a good thing. At the same time, we were still getting a lot of very mainstream movies with pretty varied results, which served to remind us both of the value of earlier studio approaches and of the corporate malaise that independent films were in part a reaction against. It was a fine time to be a movie fan.
It wasn’t until I had the bracket set that I realized There’s Something About Mary is kind of a rom-com. Well, the Dude has Maude Lebowski, right? Let’s take a gander at these two zany comedies made by brothers about characters in over their heads.
Yesterday’s rom-competition resulted in what I considered a surprisingly easy win for Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer. He and the rest of the sweet cast will be facing the winner of today’s match in the second round.
There’s Something About Mary is the signature movie made by the Farrelly brothers, Bobby and Peter. The pair made a name for themselves based on the success of their first movie Dumb and Dumber, for which they inexplicably received no on-screen credit. By the time they were making There’s Something About Mary, the brothers were well-known enough that there was little resistance to getting the movie made apart from football player Steve Young turning down a role due to the lewd nature of some of the rest of the material in it. Young was memorably replaced by Brett Favre, and they even got an extra joke out of it. Critics who had been split on Dumb and Dumber were much more enthusiastic this time around, perhaps because they knew what they were in for before walking into the screening. Both Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel were complimentary toward the movie, with the latter actually including it in his list of the top ten movies of the year. The moviegoing public appeared to agree with them, because There’s Something About Mary steadily built on word of mouth and eventually became the number one movie at the box office in its ninth week of release, staying in the top ten for a remarkable fourteen weeks. It helped boost its stars Ben stiller and Cameron Diaz into the ranks of bankable leads, and honestly should have done more for Matt Dillon, too. It’s one of those rare silly, tasteless, and raunchy comedies that a ‘serious’ lover of cinema can admit to enjoying without being judged. Even now, I’m regretting that I might have to vote against it here in the first round. This is a tough one.
The first time I saw The Big Lebowski I thought it was a mildly entertaining trifle, but by the time I’d completed a second viewing I was already fully devoted to its madcap world of losers and misplaced egos. Joel and Ethan Coen’s spoof of traditional Los Angeles-based noir was not initially a hit with movie-goers, but once it hit video, The Big Lebowski began to become one of those movies that is extremely beloved and personalized to its biggest fans. Just four years after the film’s release, an annual “Lebowski Fest” began being held in Louisville, Kentucky and has since expanded to other cities, including a similar “The Dude Abides” event held in London, England. These events bring together fans from all over for bowling tournaments, trivia contests, costume contests, and other social gatherings. In 2005, fans of the movie even began a faux religion based around the philosophy of the Jeff Lebowski character, called “Dudeism” which draws some of its parodic strength from sounding a little like “Taoism.” The film is popular enough that a spinoff movie based entirely on the pederast character played by John Turturro has been filmed without the Coen’s participation and appears to currently be in post-production. In addition to being an expansion on the Jesus Quintana character, the film will be a remake of and share the title of Bertrand Blier’s 1974 movie Going Places, which was centered around the story of three sexually depraved characters. Although this new film will not include any other characters from The Big Lebowski, the cast does feature well-known actors Bobby Cannavale, Audrey Tautou, Susan Sarandon, and Sonia Braga.
Which set of seriously flawed goofs still live in your head and which are going to be getting an eviction notice? Vote right here and then hash out your decision in the comments section!