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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Bear Lebowski: The Golden Compass vs. The Big Lebowski

(Photo courtesy New Line Cinema)

click to enlarge scoresby2.jpg

I can’t be the first person to notice a certain similarity between Sam Elliott’s roles in The Big Lebowski and The Golden Compass (reviewed here). Sure, Elliott seems like he walked out of the Wild West no matter what movie he’s in, but in both of these films he's got the same mustache and folksy way of drawling. For that matter, both take pleasure in putting the cowboy out of his usual context. He’s an ironic narrator of the (in)action in Lebowski and an incongruous but welcome ingredient in the Compass’ pop-adventure stew of airships, witches and armored bears. When I hear Elliott’s "aeronaut" Lee Scoresby say things such as, "I'd hire myself an armored bear," or see scenes like the ones in this trailer –

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/86opgGhRVLg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

-- I can’t help but have Lebowski flashbacks. You can easily imagine lines from Lebowski in Scoresby’s mouth, amended only a little: “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes, well, he eats you.

“And then sometimes you ARE the bar, and have to fight another bar to the death in single combat.”

The first five minutes of The Golden Compass are online, but frankly, instead of that introduction, I wish they’d begun with a little something like this. (Note: If you haven’t seen either movie or read The Golden Compass, most of the references will be lost on you):

Cue “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” on the soundtrack as we watch a tumbleweed drift across the frozen tundra.

“Way up north there was this fella I wanna tell ya about. Goes by the name of Iorek Byrnison. At least that was the handle his loving parents gave him when he was a cub, but he never had much use for it himself. See, this Byrnison, he called himself the Bear. Now, 'Bear' -- there's a name no aeronaut would self-apply where I come from. But then there was a lot about the Bear that didn't make a whole lot of sense. And a lot about where he lived, likewise. But then again, maybe that's why I found the place so darned interestin'.

“See, they call Svalbard the 'Land of the Ice Bears,' but I didn't find it to be that, exactly. 'Course I ain't never been to Oxford, and I ain't never seen France. And I ain't never seen no clan queen of the witches of Lake Enara in her damned undies, so the feller says. But I'll tell you what -- after seeing Svalbard, and this here story I'm about to unfold, well, I guess I seen somethin' every bit as stupefyin' as you'd seen in any of them other places. So my daemon Hester and I can die with smiles on our faces, without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me. Assuming Lord Asriel don’t kill the good Lord, but that’s in the book, not the movie.

“This here story I'm about to unfold took place just about the time of our conflict with Mrs. Coulter and the Magisterium. I only mention it because sometimes there's a bear ... I won't say a hero, 'cause what's a hero? Sometimes, there's a bear. And I'm talkin' about THE Bear here -- the Bear from Svalbard. Sometimes, there's a bear, well, he's the bear for his time and place and parallel universe. And even if he's an armored bear -- and the Bear was most certainly that. Quite possibly the most armored bear in all of Svalbard County, which would place him high in the runnin' for armoredest worldwide. Sometimes there's a bear, sometimes, there's a bear ...”

Of course, at some point the similarities break down. For instance, Iorek Byrnison drinks whiskey from buckets, while the Dude's drink of choice was White Russians.

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