The Dude is no Durden, Dufresne, Burnham or even Van Doren

My favorite film of the 1990s was not Fight Club, which I named the best of the decade in last week’s column. In fact, my favorite film didn’t even make my list of the top 10 films of the 1990s.

Just because 1998’s The Big Lebowski was my favorite, it doesn’t make it the best.

I’ll explain. I want a film to do more than be entertaining. I want to be inspired. I want a movie to move me.

There were plenty of films I enjoyed thoroughly in the past decade. Quentin Tarantino’s works come to mind. James Cameron rocked the world with the biggest hit of all time. Steven Spielberg made two fantastic WWII quasi-epics. Tom Hanks emerged as Hollywood’s preferred leading man, and for good reason.

Kevin Spacey became a staple in the “great film” genre. Will Smith ruled the action scene, and I was looking forward to each flick with his name above the title. Jim Carrey hit superstardom for comedies, and Adam Sandler made the most successful jump from Saturday Night Live to the big screen.

But, to be honest, most of the films these artists made didn’t really say anything.

Pulp Fiction? Tarantino said more in Reservoir Dogs and wrote a better screenplay with True Romance. Pulp Fiction was more watchable than any of his movies, but his script for Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers was his only real statement film.

Titanic? A boat hit an iceberg and sank. A brilliant stroke of moviemaking with impeccable attention to detail. But I didn’t learn anything about myself.

Forrest Gump? A dumb guy is lucky. Great film; entertaining on all levels except for the fact it doesn’t speak to me.

Schindler’s List? Saving Private Ryan? Great men who did great things in a great war — no doubt. However, the films were also simplistic and heavy handed in delivery.

The Usual Suspects? L.A. Confidential? Fabulous displays of storytelling and acting. But Spacey’s true gem came with American Beauty, where his character retreated back to his juvenile days to remember what it is like to live.

Independence Day? Give me a break. Though it does mark one of the finest pieces of popcorn entertainment ever to grace the silver screen, it doesn’t do more than that.

Happy Gilmore? Funniest thing I’ve ever seen on screen. You know that saying, “Fell out of my seat laughing”? That actually happened to me. But a great film? No.

Ace Ventura? Liar, Liar? The Mask? Carrey made me laugh for years, but he didn’t start talking to me until he spoke through the mouth of Truman Burbank in The Truman Show, which did make the cut.

Carrey as Truman evolved as a character, and he escaped the prison that was his own reality TV show. If there was one theme constant in the films I listed as the decade’s best, it was the desire to fight for freedom. That’s something with which I can identify as a moviegoer.

Lester Burnham. Andy Dufresne. William Wallace. Jeff Wigand. Charles Van Doren. Larry Flynt. Tyler Durden. Jim Garrison. Truman Burbank. Even Kyle and Stan. These characters went to battle against everything from a bitch for a wife to a tyrant for a king. From motherly oppression to the prison system. Some struggles were internal, such as guilt and civic duty, while others were against one’s self.

Jeff Lebowski, er, The Dude, went on a journey to get his rug back. After all, it really tied the room together. But no entity infringed on his freedom. He still wore a bathrobe and a pair of sandals. He still had a Caucasian everywhere he went.

One of the beauties of filmmaking is that I can watch the Coen brothers’ abstract comedy time and time again, as well as dozens of other films sprinkled throughout the past decade. However, they just weren’t what I decided to honor this time around.

But hey, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

Contact Will Albritton at oraclewill@yahoo.com

Thursdays this semester, Oracle Entertainment Editor Will Albritton listed what he considers the best movies of the past decade. This is a follow-up column that includes films that didn’t make the cut.

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