Reel Rumbles: “The Big Lebowski” vs. “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”

Connor Adamson

Connor is an attorney residing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from West Virginia University and a JD from Villanova Law. He enjoys fancy foreign art films, Marvel films, and everything in between. Horror is his favorite genre though, if his Stephen King Book to Screen series is any indication.

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6 Responses

  1. David Conrad says:

    Two of my favorites, and you’ve really written a tome here that I’ll have to go through more slowly. My first response is that I’m surprised you selected Lebowski for the matchup. I like to point out that Sierra Madre is very similar to Fargo and No Country for Old Men in terms of what happens to the money and in terms of the dynamics between the moral figure lurking around the edges and the increasingly amoral principle. Lebowski has a bit of the same thing, but there’s so much else going on that it’s easy to forget about the suitcase full of cash.

  2. David Conrad says:

    It’s funny, I think I would go the inverse of you on every matchup. The story of Lebowski is good, a meandering but ultimately tied-together farce, and the script produced a lot of memorable one-liners, but I really feel that the arc of Sierra Madre is the basis of a great deal of American crime fiction down to the present day. And “Badges? We don’t have no badges. We don’t need no stinking badges!” is just such a good line.

    Character-wise, I think Lebowski has to win. The cast of Sierra Madre is great, but small, and it’s really the message that steals the show, even over Walter Huston’s great turn. Lebowski’s story is loose and loopy enough (brilliantly so) that without these perfectly-honed characters and perfectly-cast actors it would fly apart in all different directions.

    Directing, as much as it pains me to ever vote against John Huston, I do think the Coens beat him. Their films thrive on highly-crafted visual ethics (they’re not nihilists, after all!) and Lebowski wouldn’t work without its look and its speed. Sierra Madre could, I feel, have been almost as powerful with another director, though Huston did put a personal stamp on it and was highly engaged in the content.

    I love the bonus round. Dobbs would turn traitor and start working with Jackie Treehorn. :)

    My bonus round might consider their respective legacies, with my theory about Treasure and some comments on Lebowski’s influence in academic circles (that Journal of Lebowski Studies thing) and pop culture (the revival of White Russians, Jeff Bridges’s whole persona going forward.) There, too, I think I’d actually talk myself into giving Lebowski the edge.

    However, I have Treasure ranked several places higher! It’s in my top 10 and Lebowski is in the 30s or so. I guess I have to admit that that’s just my bias and love for black-and-white, studio-era cinema talking, because when I break it down into constituent elements I seem to lean Lebowski.

  3. Honestly I love the movie. It is so factual.

  4. Connor Adamson says:

    It could be that we just look for slightly different things in our movies David. I think the pair are both very close to each other. Sierra Madre only has the slight edge to me.