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The Big Lebowski (1998)


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Finally took another step out of the darkness of pop cultural illiteracy. Saw THE BIG LEBOWSKI.

Pretty funny. Fun performances.

At a certain point, I was trying to think what the movie reminded me of. Couldn't, so I said out loud "I've never seen a movie like this."

But not long after that The Dude arrived at the police chief's office, and I realized we were watching the Coens turn Chandler inside out. It's THE BIG SLEEP (and probably lots of other Philip Marlowe novels); Los Angeles, rich father hires dick to find nympho-porno daughter, blackmail, knotted plot.

Loved that final shot, the two monologues framed with strikes. Wonder how many takes? Depends how good the bowler was.

Love to hear what people make of this. There's more going on than meets the eye.

But how much more? It's seemed to me over the years that Christians make much of this movie. Surely it's not just because one of the bowlers is named Jesus. Or is there something going on with that that's eluding me? And it seems like there's something here about contrasting the rich and poor Lebowskis - one making a fetish of success and ambition (though in a wheelchair, living off his wife's money), the other mostly, well, just chilling. Sabbath stuff thrown in the mix. And that strange cowboy character, who's glad there's somebody out there like The Dude, "for all us sinners" (or something to that effect). Makes me think of the Marlowe character in Chandler's books, a "good man" in a mean world: is The Dude a similar sort of tarnished innocent?

Has anybody decoded this? Seems like a hodge-podge to me, but I'm willing to be enlightened.

Ron

P.S. And lest you think I'm making this stuff up, here's an excerpt from a CT piece related to THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST that I liked. But now I'm wondering how LEBOWSKI fits with BREAKING THE WAVES or MAGNOLIA (and how LOST IN TRANSLATION fits with any of them, for that matter).
 

Madeleine L'Engle writes wittily that God "chooses his artists with as calm a disregard of surface moral qualifications as he chooses his saints." If God uses anyone he pleases to tell his stories, we never know when or where he is going to show up. We never know when a door might open to the numinous, and so we must be alert to all art.

In fact, we might pay attention to "secular" films even more for this reason. L'Engle continues, "If I cannot see evidence of incarnation in a painting of a bridge in the rain by Hokusai, a book by Chaim Potok or Isaac Bashevis Singer, in music by Bloch or Bernstein, then I will miss its significance in an Annunciation by Franciabigio, the final chorus of the St. Matthew Passion, the words of a sermon by John Donne." To translate this into modern, filmic terms: if we are unable to see hints of incarnation in Lars Von Trier's Breaking the Waves, Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, the Coen Brothers' Big Lebowski, P.T. Anderson's Magnolia�we are likely to miss the truth in Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ.



P.P.S. The conclusion of Chandler's "The Simple Art Of Murder";
 

In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption.
It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But
down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.
The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor � by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things.


He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks � that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.


The story is this man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.



P.S. The above entry originally said "THE BIG CHILL" instead of "THE BIG SLEEP." Gratitude to Mr T'shuvah for pointing out that rather misleading - and slightly embarassing, for a Chandlophile such as myself - error.

I've posted a couple hundred of my Soul Food Movies write-ups at letterboxd

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Is that The Big Chill, or The Big Sleep? Wouldn't want to mistake Chandler for Kasdan. ;)

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Casting about for insight into this crazy movie, I checked out Overstreet, who's pretty convinced the film adds up to nothing, but does note

I suppose it is worth noting that in this bizarre landscape, the one who seems somewhat "heroic" is the one who treats people with common decency and an easygoing "cool" rather than prejudice, manipulation, and greed.

The Marlowe Effect.

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there was a brief discussion about this film in another thread that you may be interested in visiting. i think it was a generic Coen Brothers thread with a poll about fave Coen films.

"There is, it would seem, in the dimensional scale of the world a kind of delicate meeting place between imagination and knowledge, a point, arrived at by diminishing large things and enlarging small ones, that is intrinsically artistic" - Vladimir Nabokov

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  • 9 months later...

Zen and the art of Dudeliness

Jeff Bridges on the Big Lebowski

The Guardian, July 27

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The ultimate stocking stuffer for The Big Lebowski fan in your life...

af_lebowski_vinyl_set_L.jpg

I guess that this is actually a three character package... if you look closely, it also includes Donny! Too bad it doesn't include The Dude's rug... that really would have tied this set together.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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  • 7 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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falsani1.jpg

I met Cathleen Falsani, the author, at the Calvin festival of faith and writing a couple of weeks ago, and it was a pleasant surprise. I've been reading her work here and there for years. (She's a Religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.) after being a fan of her work for a long time. She approached me after my Through a Screen Darkly lecture to tell me that she was glad I'd brought up No Country for Old Men in the presentation, and went on to tell me about the book. It sounds very cool, but she's got another one coming out right now called Sin Boldly that looks interesting too. Can't wait to read either one of them.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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  • 1 month later...

I don't know if this Rabbi is for real or not. If he is, then God Bless him for having the cajones to write the following. It is one of the funniest responses I've ever read from a man of the cloth.

Warning!!!! This post contains extremely explicit language! If you are a fan of The Big Lebowski, then you'll know what to expect. All others beware.

Alan, if you need to give me a warning about this post, I'll completely understand.

QUOTE (RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL:JEWISH CONVERSION: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

EmailWritten by rabbiasegal on May-17-08 2:01pm

From: rabbiarthursegal.blogspot.com)

RABBI ARTHUR SEGAL: JEWISH SPIRITUAL RENEWAL:JEWISH CONVERSION: THE BIG LEBOWSKI

Shalom:

I received the below email with a simple question in it. While 99.99% of me felt I was being made the butt of a joke and having my time wasted, for the 0.01% I answered the question politely . Mishna Pirkie Avot 2:19 tells us : Rabbi Elazar said:" Know what to respond to a heretic.". You never know when you can turn someone's head back around toward God and to Torah. In a message dated 5/16/2008 6:54:18 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, chrism_3388@yahoo.com writes:

''Can you unconvert me and reject my pidyon haben.''

Dear Chris M:

Judaism is not a bondage religion. If you were converted to Judaism as a baby and your father did the ancient ritual of pidyon ha ben to a Cohen or a rabbi of a coin, and now as an adult, you would prefer to be another religion, there is no de-conversion or an exist ceremony. The same is true if you converted to Judaism as an adult. Once you convert to the new religion of your choice you will be of that religion. However that Gates of Repentance are always open, and your conversion to Judaism is always valid. If you decide to return, no oath is required, just begin practicing as Jew again, as Bob Dylan did. If you decide to leave Judaism and not convert to something else, you will be one of many people who are just non- practicing or non- believing Jews. However Judaism is not like a vending machine and if you're unhappy with it, there is no one to apply to for getting your father's coin back. Rather than quoting Talmud, or Torah to you, let me quote you some modern Midrash, from the great Jewish Philosopher, Walter Sobchok, the friend of Jeffery [the Dude] Lebowski.

WALTER

I told that fuck down at the league

office-- who's in charge of

scheduling?

DUDE

Walter--

DONNY

Burkhalter.

WALTER

I told that kraut a fucking thousand

times I don't roll on shabbas.

DONNY

It's already posted.

WALTER

WELL THEY CAN FUCKING UN-POST IT!

DUDE

Who gives a shit, Walter? What about

that poor woman? What do we tell--

WALTER

C'mon Dude, eventually she'll get

sick of her little game and, you

know, wander back--

DONNY

How come you don't roll on Saturday,

Walter?

WALTER

I'm shomer shabbas.

DONNY

What's that, Walter?

DUDE

Yeah, and in the meantime what do I

tell Lebowski?

WALTER

Saturday is shabbas. Jewish day of

rest. Means I don't work, I don't

drive a car, I don't fucking ride in

a car, I don't handle money, I don't

turn on the oven, and I sure as shit

don't fucking roll!

DONNY

Sheesh.

DUDE

Walter, how--

WALTER

Shomer shabbas.

WALTER

I'm saying, I see what you're getting

at, Dude, he kept the money, but my

point is, here we are, it's shabbas,

the sabbath, which I'm allowed to

break only if it's a matter of life

and death--

DUDE

Walter, come off it. You're not

even fucking Jewish, you're--

WALTER

What the fuck are you talking about?

DUDE

You're fucking Polish Catholic--

WALTER

What the fuck are you talking about?

I converted when I married Cynthia!

Come on, Dude!

DUDE

Yeah, and you were--

WALTER

You know this!

DUDE

And you were divorced five fucking

years ago.

WALTER

Yeah? What do you think happens

when you get divorced? You turn in

your library card? Get a new driver's

license? Stop being Jewish?

DUDE

This driveway.

AS HE TURNS:

WALTER

I'm as Jewish as fucking Tevye

DUDE

It's just part of your whole sick

Cynthia thing. Taking care of her

fucking dog. Going to her fucking

synagogue. You're living in the

fucking past.

WALTER

Three thousand years of beautiful

tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax--

YOU'RE GODDAMN RIGHT I LIVE IN THE

PAST! I--Jesus. What the hell

happened?

If you decide to stick with your conversion, like Walter, and have some serious questions about making your Jewish experience a real spiritual and joyous one, please write back. RabbiASegal@aol.com .

Shalom, Rabbi Arthur Segal

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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  • 3 months later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I could put Chris Orr's ranking of all the Coen Brothers films in any of the related threads, but since this one was right near the top of the "Film" threads today, I choose to place it here. The placement gives me license to highlight Orr's take on the (still, to me) inexplicably well loved Lebowski

And yes, yes, yes, I know: I rated Lebowski twenty spots too low. My failure to appreciate its genius calls into question my judgment on the Coens, on cinema, and on life generally. You will not be the first person to tell me this, nor the twenty-first. In defense of such indefensible heresy, I can only say that while there is a lot I love in Lebowski--starting with Walter Sobchak, one of the best characters to appear onscreen in the last 30 years--I nonetheless find its randomness disappointing. The nihilists, the dream sequences, the cowboy narrator, Julianne Moore's performance-art heiress eager to be impregnated by a layabout--though the elements are individually clever, there's little or no logic to them; they fit together mostly just because the Coens tell us they do. (And, yes, I understand this is a satire of a sprawling, unruly, Chandlerian plot.) Call it the "Family Guy" conundrum: When writers give themselves license to go anywhere for a joke, regardless of context or consistency, I tend to find the resulting jokes less funny. :

Great list overall, with some follow-up comments from Orr to the factions who want to argue his placement of various Coens films.

Best thing about the list: He gets the Top 2 right, although I might reverse them on any given day. It was good to come across this list today, as I was planning to sit down for a second viewing of No Country in the next day or two. In the dedicated No Country thread, I mentioned after seeing it that it's the only Coen film that rivals Miller's Crossing for the top slot.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Wow, I really, really disagree with that list. I must value very different things about their films. And, since I'm compelled to post a Coen list any time I see a Coen list I disagree with...

MASTERPIECES

1 - Raising Arizona

2 - Barton Fink

3 - Fargo

4 - Miller's Crossing

NEAR-MASTERPIECES

5 - The Hudsucker Proxy

6 - The Big Lebowski

7 - No Country for Old Men

INSPIRED, BUT FLAWED

8 - Blood Simple

9 - O Brother, Where Art Thou?

10 - The Man Who Wasn't There

11 - Burn After Reading

12 - Intolerable Cruelty

MISGUIDED

13 - The Ladykillers

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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I agree with the top three, but then would leapfrog down to the bottom half and bring several of those titles up.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I can only say that while there is a lot I love in Lebowski--starting with Walter Sobchak, one of the best characters to appear onscreen in the last 30 years--

Yes, the only reason worth watching this movie multiple times. I commented in the Burn After Reading thread about how Goodman single-handedly rescues any appreciation I have for the Coens via Walter. The way he brings actual depth to Sobchak in the "scattering the ashes" scene is startling. He becomes timid, vulnerable, one point of believable authenticity in a film with an excess of caricature. Takes us right back to the authenticity of characters in Raising Arizona. For once all the little ironic details they pile on characters pan out here in Walter, and he transcends the tiny little determined channel the Coens have planned for him. If you can't tell, I pretty much exactly agree with Orr here on Lebowski.

Wow, I really, really disagree with that list. I must value very different things about their films. And, since I'm compelled to post a Coen list any time I see a Coen list I disagree with...

MASTERPIECES

1 - Raising Arizona

2 - Barton Fink

3 - Fargo

4 - Miller's Crossing

If I were permitted to put The Man Who Wasn't There in the number three slot, this would be my list as well. They do well at genre imitation, and this is picture perfect noir. Barton Fink is a wonderful take on the creative process.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I thought this had been referenced, I was mistaken.

"Watching The Big Lebowski in 2008, it becomes clear that appreciating Walter is essential to understanding what the Coen brothers are up to in this movie, which is slyer, more political, and more prescient than many of its fans have recognized. Perhaps that's because Walter, with his bellowing, Old Testament righteousness and his deeply entrenched militarism, is an American type that barely registered on the pop-culture landscape 10 years ago. He's a neocon."

Walter Sobchak, Neocon The prescient politics of The Big Lebowski.

By David Haglund

Posted Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008( This posting date may be why I didn't get back to it right away.)

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Plato

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  • 10 months later...

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

The Coen brothers' 'The Big Lebowski' has achieved cult status. Eddie Chung's film tries to figure out why.

Los Angeles Times, July 30

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 months later...
I was registered at your forum. I have printed the test message. Do not delete, please.

What the heck?

Anyway --

It is amazing how i loathed this film when I first saw it due to the graphic nature of its language. I saw it as just, NO NEED for all the F-bombs. Which may still be true -- I may have simply hardened in that area (or learned that it doesn't matter as much as I once thought it did).

The point being, I've been sick, I've been laying around the house in my pajamas and bathrobe (not that there's anything uncommon about that but now that I've got a cold, I've got an excuse, and nobody can make me change my mind!), and feeling just generally miserable, and I've been stoked about the new Coens that's coming out in a few weeks... And I watched this tonight, and it brought such fun to me.

Gosh, I love the Coens. May their work be blessed, may they continue in their wonderful ways. God bless 'em, think I'll hit my knees and remember them in my prayers tonight.

THE DUDE ABIDES :)

edit: Does anyone know the film in which the F-bomb was used for the first time? I don't know the answer. I think it'd be a great trivia question. My guess is that if anyone of us knows, Pete Chattaway knows.

Edited by Persona

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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edit: Does anyone know the film in which the F-bomb was used for the first time? I don't know the answer. I think it'd be a great trivia question. My guess is that if anyone of us knows, Pete Chattaway knows.

If he doesn't, he is now duty bound to look it up and find out. :lol:

"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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From the Wikipedia entry for, uh, um, well, uh, anyway, from somewhere in Wikipedia: "The films Ulysses and I'll Never Forget What's'isname (both 1967) are contenders for being the first film to use the [F-bomb], although...[F-bomb]ing is clearly mouthed silently in the film Sink the Bismarck! (1960), and the title character says it in the cartoon Bosko's Picture Show (1933)."

Dale

Edited by M. Dale Prins

Metalfoot on Emmanuel Shall Come to Thee's Noel: "...this album is...monotony...bland, tripy fare..."

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Darryl A. Armstrong wrote:

: If he doesn't, he is now duty bound to look it up and find out. :lol:

You said it.

On a related note, when it was reported last week that a certain brand-new Saturday Night Live cast member had used the f-word in her first appearance on the show, I was reminded of an old intro-to-film textbook of mine which said, IIRC, that the first use of the f-word on national television had been during an episode of SNL circa 1980, in which Gilda Radner, playing Patti Smith (or a Patti Smith-alike), sang a song about Mick Jagger that included the line "Are you woman, are you man / I'm your biggest fucked-up fan." I have since come across an interview with Paul Shaffer, though, where he seems to imply that HE was the first person to use the f-word on that show (and thus, by implication I guess, on national TV as a whole?).

M. Dale Prins wrote:

: . . . the title character says it in the cartoon Bosko's Picture Show (1933)."

Possibly. I think there is some dispute about that, though. Jerry Beck, for example, thinks the character may have been saying "thug" or some such word instead -- but he's certainly very open to the other alternative. In any case, the possible use of the word appears at the 5:53 mark in the video below.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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M. Dale Prins wrote:

: . . . the title character says it in the cartoon Bosko's Picture Show (1933)."

Possibly. I think there is some dispute about that, though. Jerry Beck, for example, thinks the character may have been saying "thug" or some such word instead -- but he's certainly very open to the other alternative. In any case, the possible use of the word appears at the 5:53 mark in the video below.

I think Bosko is saying FOC... which everyone knows stands for "Friends of Carlotta", as defined by Steve Martin in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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gigglegiggle LOL, great clip

How to drive PTC insane: and when was the first time in history the SH word was used? And when was....

I sense a separate thread emerging here :)

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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Persona wrote:

: How to drive PTC insane: and when was the first time in history the SH word was used?

In HISTORY!? I bought a few books on the history of profanity etc. back in the late '80s and early '90s, and if memory serves, one of them claimed that "shit" was the oldest unchanged word in the English language. But my memory might be faulty on that point; and even if it were true, I could not say on what authority the book made that claim.

... Sorry, dude. I just checked a few of my bookshelves and couldn't find any of the books in question. My library is still in complete disarray. (We moved to our current apartment almost two years ago, but life's been too busy to get everything sorted.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Sorry, I meant in the history of film. But I was only kidding. I don't want to drive you insane. Might be fun to drive you a little batty though. ;)

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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