The Dude Abides

We’re heading into Oscar weekend, that magical time of the year when all of media comes together to put on their annual revue: “Why The Terrorists Hate Us, and Why They Might Be Right.”

As we watch two seriously flawed movies fight it out for extra box office dollars, and witness Sandra Bullock become the worst Best Actress ever (time to pop that champagne, Helen Hunt), there will be something to feel good about. After decades of putting up consistent, underrated work, Jeff Bridges will finally get his due.

The most surprising thing about him…that he could have easily been a spoiled Hollywood kid. As it is, he seems like he grew up sipping moonshine on a decaying porch in the Ozarks or something. It wasn’t until he mentioned in his Golden Globes speech that he’d grown up going to birthday parties at the Beverly Hills Hilton, that I remembered…oh yeah, he’s Lloyd Bridges kid. To spend your whole life in Hollywood and be authentic…now that’s an accomplishment.

He’s also been amazingly non-commercial…he’s only been in one blockbuster (Iron Man) and three other movies that crossed $50 million (the WTC King Kong, K-Pax, Seabiscuit). And it isn’t like his ouevre is littered with failed franchises. He’s just preferred quieter, more personal films.

In honor of Mr. Bridges, here are some of my favorite moments of his career:

The Last Picture Show
First movie, first Oscar nomination…got to make out with Cybill Shepherd when she was the hottest woman on earth

Tron
The original Avatar…and holds up about as well as Avatar will in 30 years.

Against All Odds
Never saw it, but has the best title song in movie history…that has to count for something.

Starman
The original District 9…unfairly forgotten…does a good job with the tired Alien as alien trope…got him his third nomination

Tucker: A Man and His Dream
Francis Ford Coppola’s most underrated film…and probably the best insight into his self-image.

The Fabulous Baker Boys
His best none-Dude performance…got to make out with Michelle Pfieffer when she was the hottest woman on earth.

The Fisher King
Terry Gilliam’s best movie, Robin Williams’ best performance…and Bridges holds it all together.

The Big Lebowski
Duh…except to say that playing a stoner without become a cartoon character…not easy

The Contender
Decent political movie…his fourth Oscar nomination

Crazy Heart
His fifth nomination, and first win…to alcoholics what the Dude was to potheads.

What do these performances, plus many others (Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Jagged Edge, Fearless, Blown Away, Arlington Road, Seabiscuit, etc.) have in common? They’re all examples of Jeff Bridges being the ultimate acting gamer. He’s the glue…he’s fine with John Goodman or Robin Williams or Michelle Pfeiffer or Geena Davis getting the attention. In an industry where everybody is an attention junkie, he has given understated performances that allowed his co-stars to get in the spotlight. He’s like a great point guard…unselfish, happy distributing the ball and taking open shots.

Of course, he’ll get his statue for a scenery chewing “message” role. But, hey, this is Hollywood.

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Filed under David Simon Cowell, Film Has AIDS

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