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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Jeff Bridges

'The Big Lebowski': It's an art show, man

September 29, 2011 | 12:26 pm


The movie "The Big Lebowski" left a definite imprint on popular culture, spawning everything from an online religion called Dudeism to a surge in White Russian cocktail orders. Now Orange County artist Joe Forkan is unveiling a particularly high-minded tribute to the Coen brothers' 1998 film.

Forkan's "The Lebowski Cycle" is a series of 14 paintings and drawings inspired by two sources -- masterpieces of Western art and the Coens' comedy about an avid bowler named the Dude (Jeff Bridges), who is a victim of mistaken identity.

Forkan's painting above depicts a scene from the film in which the Dude and his bowling buddies, played by John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, try to decide how to handle the loss of a favorite throw rug that "really tied the room together." The piece takes as its thematic inspiration a 1784 painting by French artist Jacques-Louis David, "Oath of the Horatii," in which three Roman brothers are also forging a plan.

"In the movie, they play it like it's a drama," said Forkan, who is an associate professor of art at Cal State Fullerton. "There’s no mugging for the camera. Everything has this level of seriousness. In the 'Oath of the Horatii' they’re talking about the future of Rome. In the film they’re talking about a rug that got peed on, but they’re as serious about that as the characters in the painting were. I liked that level of drama in these images that were also loaded with humor."

PHOTOS: Joe Forkan's 'Big Lebowski' paintings

Forkan will be discussing the paintings in the series -- and the classical works that inspired them -- in a gallery talk tonight at 7 at Orange Coast College's Frank M. Doyle Arts Pavilion, where the paintings are on display until Oct. 28. For a closer look at Forkan's work, check out our slideshow.


'The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans' explores The Dude phenomenon

'The Big Lebowski' reunion

--Rebecca Keegan


Image: "Oath of the Horatii (After David)." Credit: Joe Forkan

Preview review: Jeff Bridges ditches the cowboy hat for 'Tron: Legacy'

March 9, 2010 | 12:57 pm


In the newly released trailer for December's "Tron: Legacy," the long-awaited sequel to the 1982 cult classic, it's at first a bit jarring to see Jeff Bridges in such a fast-paced, futuristic setting. Bridges has, after all, spent the past few months on the awards circuit inhabiting the laid-back cowboy attitude of "Crazy Heart's" Bad Blake.

But once you get past that, you get the sense that the movie is a fanboy's dream, with a world that will look pretty fantastic in 3-D, what with hi-tech Recognizer vehicles, neon game-warrior suits and, of course, the beloved Bridges. 

In the trailer, we're immediately introduced to newcomer Garrett Hedlund, a.k.a. Sam Flynn, the son of computer programmer Kevin Flynn, the protagonist from the first film and a role that Bridges reprises here. Sam is told by old "Tron" pro Alan Bradley that some new information about his father, who disappeared 25 years ago into the digital world of Tron, has surfaced. He hops on his Ducati and heads over to Flynn's arcade, whose many games are now covered in dusty cobwebs and plastic tarps.

What he uncovers there catapults him into Tron, a dark, ominous world with menacing skies and neon lights where he will be reunited with his father and try to save him from the Tron program. (For a deeper analysis, check out this awesome play-by-play on our sister blog Hero Complex.)

Over the weekend at the Indie Spirit Awards, Olivia Wilde -- who plays Sam's friend Quorra in the film -- told us that though the sequel seems like a big-budget adventure flick, many fans don't realize that the original film was seen as risky.

Continue reading »

Why can't the Oscars get Americans to see dramas?

March 3, 2010 |  4:43 pm

Even more than they love than ice cream and puppies, people love an Oscar bounce. The bounce -- that phenomenon in which the very fact of a nomination gets audiences buying tickets -- is loved by studios because it validates all the money they spent trying to get a nomination. The Oscars love the bounce, because it validates the event's importance as more than just a bunch of people in penguin suits handing trophies to each other. And audiences, well, OK, audiences don't necessarily care about them. But they are affected by them.

The past few years have brought a fair share of Oscar bounces, as films like "Juno," Million Dollar Baby" and "Chicago" earned $80 million or more after their nominations. Last year brought one of the superballs of Oscar bounces, "Slumdog Millionaire," which earned $97 million after the nominations were announced, a number that constituted more than two-thirds of its domestic total.

But this year has brought nothing on this order; indeed, there have been deflated basketballs with more bounce than awards movies. Blockbusters like "Avatar" didn't need (or get) one. The dark dramas needed one, but couldn't come up with the goods "An Education" and "Precious" barely could scrounge up more than $1 million or $2 million after they landed on the shortlists Feb. 2. Other films, like "The Hurt Locker" and "A Serious Man," didn't even try; they'd left theaters by the time nominations were announced and hoped to reap whatever benefit they could on DVD.

There's one notable exception in "Crazy Heart." Scott Cooper's country-ditty of a film wasn't even supposed to come out this year -- Fox Searchlight moved it up from the spring when it realized it would lose Jeff Bridges and his promotional efforts to the set of "True Grit." And yet the movie's earned nearly $20 million of its $25-million total since the nominations came out. The film's still going strong, widening this weekend to 1300 theaters three months after it was first released.

Part of this success has to do with the distribution savvy of Fox Searchlight, which is behind some of the bigger bounces of the past few years (including "Juno" and "Slumdog"). The company understands the map of the United States like an FBI on a manhunt, pinpointing exactly which areas to zoom in on, and when. ("Crazy Heart" has also helped offset the struggles the company had with two films earlier in the fall, "Amelia" and "Whip It").Crazy

But at least some of the "Crazy Heart" performance is due to a more specific reason -- older Americans. The company has seen spikes in places with older populations like performance in cities in Florida. Even though the R-rated movie concentrates on a  washed-up alcoholic who's near made a mess of his life, there's something about the pacing of the film, the story of redemption and Bridges himself that's resonating with he AARP set -- confounding the expectations of Searchlight itself.

 “Bridges is sort of an antihero in the movie, and he’s smoking and drinking, so we weren’t sure how it would play with audiences over [the ages of] 50 or 60,” Fox Searchlight president Stephen Gilula says. "But there’s so much good will for Bridges and his filmography. This is an actor who has been working for four decades. I think a lot of older people want to see his achievement in this film.”

As for the other movies, box office experts have given plenty of reasons why the pictures failed -- the movies opened too soon, the field was too crowded, audiences found too many quality blockbusters. But it's an odd trend. For years we heard that people were paying less attention to he Oscars and its movies because the field didn't feature the crowd pleasers. Now that it does, we're told, people aren't paying attention to some of the more upscale awards movies because they're distracted by the blockbusters. A rising tide, apparently, provides no bounce.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photos (top). Mo'Nique in "Precious." Credit: Lionsgate. Jeff Bridges in "Crazy Heart." Credit: Lorey Sebastian/Fox Searchlight


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