I saw our wedding album on the counter.

Just now.

 

 

I bumped into it, and flipped through the pages.

How could you not?

They’re visual representations of our memories.

 

 

In this case, I had dual motivations.

We’re hosting the second attempt at our son’s Bar Mitzvah here this weekend, (despite the Delta hazard,) so nostalgia dictates I spend a minute or two thinking about the old days.

We were married here on the farm in the Summer of 2004; the landscape and our family’s lives are so different.

My mother-in-law has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease, in her late 70’s, and it’s deteriorated badly over the Covid era. In the past few months, the last vestiges of her personality have extinguished.

 

The last Instagram photo I posted of Bonnie, from 03.07.21.

 

I looked to the album for a picture of Bonnie, 17 years ago, when she was healthy and vital.

That’s what photo albums do.

They hold our memories, while we’re busy doing other things. Or they did, and now we have digital versions.

I’m cool with that, but many people prefer the old ways.

I suspect Jeff Bridges might be kind of guy.

 

 

 

I re-watched “The Big Lebowski” for the hundredth time, to mood for this column.

There’s so much pressure to write well, as it’s one of my biggest artistic influences.

The 1998 film, by the Coen Brothers, (coming off their equally perfect, well-received hit “Fargo,”) has become a favorite of Generation X; its hero, The Dude, aka Jeff Lebowski, may well be the slacker King.

The Dude is the stoner ideal. Weed’s Übermensch.

He’s a wise-ass with a smart-mouth, but also inept in so many ways. He’s a cool guy, cracking jokes and dropping f-bombs, all while becoming an accidental detective.

He fails his way through, until he ultimately succeeds. (So American.)

The character takes in new information constantly, processing it through a Dudeness lens, so George HW Bush speaking on TV at Ralph’s comes out sideways as “This aggression will not stand, man.”

 

 

Back in the 90’s, when reefer was still illegal in America, there was a counterculture authenticity and absurdity to The Dude. His constant, instinctive, ironic rebellion made him irresistible.

And the film itself, “The Big Lebowski,” is flawless.

I’m sure I can shout out ten more brilliant performances off the top of my head: Julianne Moore, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Tara Reid, Sam Elliot, John Turturro, Flea, Ben Gazarra, and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Roger Deakins’ cinematography is beyond, with the bowling-ball camera placement and great angles galore, while the costuming is insanely good, the music is just right, (Credence and Dylan!) and the amount of things that had to come together for a production like this to achieve perfection is mind-boggling.

 

 

Still, people remember The Dude, as much as the movie’s intricate plot. (Wait, who are the Knudsens again? Big shout out to Jon Polito, who steals the show in his brief scene, much as he did in the criminally underrated “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” I’d have included him earlier, but I needed to look up his name. {Ed note, in searching for the screengrab photo, I just learned Jon Polito passed away in 2016. RIP.})

 

Jon Polito 1950-2016

 

The Dude was the embodiment of the California Dream, with his Ralph’s and his In-N-Out burger and rug-Feng-Shui.

At the end of 20th Century, back when the good life in California meant getting there first, or getting there early, and hanging on for the ride.

These days, NYT columnists wonder whether that California Dream is dead and buried.

It’s no wonder “The Big Lebowski” has aged so well.

 

 

 

Jeff Bridges grew up in a Hollywood family, as his dad Lloyd was an actor, and Gen X’ers have much love for the paterfamilias, given his seminal role in “Airplane.”

 

 

As Jeff’s been on film sets his whole life, theyΒ must feel like home to him.

Like the most natural places in the world.

Each movie’s particular combination of cast and crew becomes a little family, and then his actual family works with him sometimes too.

 

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see that film-making world as he sees it?

To get the inside view?

I’m glad you asked.

 

 

I recently interviewed Jeff Bridges online, in reference to his 2019 photo book “Jeff Bridges: Pictures Volume Two,” published by powerHouse.

It’s a part of my guest blog for the New Orleans Photo Alliances’s BookLENS program.

 

 

I don’t want to spoil the interview, so please give it a read, as it was an honor and privilege to have him answer my questions.

But the book, (which is a companion to Part 1,) gives us a peek behind the curtain of the filmmaking process.

Using a panning camera and black and white film, Jeff photographs crew members doing their jobs, actors on set, props in the back room… all of it.

We see images from each film he’s made since Part 1, in sequence, from 2003’s “Seabiscuit” up through 2018’s “Bad Times at the El Royale.”

The photos are interspersed with bits of printed and hand-written-cursive-style text, these little thoughts in a voice that vibes exactly as you think Jeff Bridges would sound: cool, positive and hip.

I mean, check out this little bit about the late, great Harry Dean Stanton:

“Harry Dean was cast to play a wise man who, we find out late in the movie, is blind. Turns out on the first day of the shooting, he refused to do that, be blind. For some reason, Harry refused to play the guy blind. He’s a wonderful actor, but shit, Harry… that was the part, man.”

 

 

“But shit, Harry, that was the part, man.”

How could you not love a book where you hear Jeff Bridges’ unvarnished thoughts, and see what he saw on so many great movies? (“Crazy Heart” and “Hell or High Water” are two of my favorites from this phase of his career.)

His opening statement tells us he’s always given out photo albums to cast and crew, over the years, and that personal project evolved into the two powerHouse books.

So in honor of photo albums, I promise to take more pictures this weekend.

See you next Friday!

 

To purchase “Jeff Bridges: Pictures Volume Two” click here. Proceeds go to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

 

 

 

 

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