Fans of “The Big Lebowski” will pay homage to “The Dude” this Saturday, along with celebrating his affinity for wearing bathrobes, bowling and drinking White Russians.
Though initially released to an unreceptive audience, the 1998 Joel and Ethan Coen film, which stars Jeff Bridges and John Goodman, has since garnered a large underground following. “Dudegrass: A Big Lebowski Extravaganza” pairs screenings of the film with activities based on its themes. Those include unlimited bowling, games, a costume contest, White Russian drink specials, food, live music and a special guest Q&A.
The screening and festivities will take place at Northrock Lanes. The event is a fundraiser for the Tallgrass Film Association, which presents the annual Tallgrass Film Festival in October and other independent films and workshops throughout the year.
“‘Lebowski’ came out right after ‘Fargo,’ which put the Coen brothers on the map,” said Nick Pope, Tallgrass’ co-director of programming. “They followed it up with this kind of weird stoner movie that neither audiences nor critics connected with at the time. Once it came to video and DVD, though, it was rediscovered and people fell in love with it. Now it’s a Coen brothers classic.”
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Pope hopes audiences will feel they’re living part of the movie.
“We wanted to do some kind of event that would be both a film and an activity,” he said about how Dudegrass originated four years ago. “We went with the cult success of ‘The Big Lebowski’ and decided to screen it in a bowling alley since that’s a big part of the film, so everyone could bowl and watch the movie at the same time.
“We always try to add new things to the event. This year, we are adding a twist on Cards Against Humanity with our Cards Against Nihilists. We’re also bringing in, for the first time, a guest. Peter Exline is an old friend of the Coen brothers and was inspiration for John Goodman’s character, Walter. He’s worked in the industry for quite a long time.”
In addition to attending Dudegrass and taking part in a Q&A, Exline will be offering a class before the event. He will show clips of what he considers to be six excellent opening sequences of films (the first 10-15 minutes) and talk about how each helps jump-start the film overall. The class will be from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the House of Schwan, 3232 N. Comotara, and costs $20 to attend. Advance registration online via the Tallgrass Film Association website is required.
Marcia Scurfield, an art teacher at Seltzer Elementary School in Wichita, attended Dudegrass last year. It’s a fun time, she said, even for people who aren’t yet fans of the film.
“We went last year and actually bowled through the start of the movie, so this year we are going to get there earlier so we can do it all.”
The event will include a costume competition, where attendees can dress as their favorite characters from the movie. Many people go all out, bringing in their own rugs, and artfully imitating outfits from the film.
Lebowski fans will have two chances to catch the film during the event. The first screening will start around 5:15 p.m. at AJ’s Sports Grill (connected to the bowling alley), with the Q&A and costume contest following. The second screening will begin around 8 p.m.
“I’m a big Coen brothers fan,” Pope said regarding his own affinity for the film. “If you look at their body of work, they’re always playing with genre, always going from a comedy to a thriller. They never set themselves into a specific group, and you never know what you’re going to get next with these guys. I think when ‘The Big Lebowski’ came out, people were expecting something more along the lines of ‘Fargo,’ but got something completely different. It may not have sat well then, but it has stood the test of time.”
If you go
The 4th Annual Dudegrass
What: A “Big Lebowski” extravaganza fundraiser for the Tallgrass Film Association, featuring unlimited bowling, screenings of the cult-classic film, live music, a costume contest, games and a Q&A with Peter Exline, inspiration for the character Walter
Where: Northrock Lanes, 3232 N. Rock Road
When: 5-9 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $15, www.tallgrassfilmfest.com or at the door
Rating: The film is rated R and intended for mature audiences only.