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Published: Thursday, 10/20/2005

New batch of cult favorites emerges

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski. Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski.
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Still quoting Spinal Tap?

Ever argued that Monty Python and the Holy Grail is not just a movie but a philosophy?

Ready to break out the confetti and do the Time Warp again at some Halloween screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Convinced the only way to spend a Saturday is at a midnight showing of Evil Dead II?

You need new references.

About five years ago, there was a subtle transfer of power: the midnight movies of 70s and 80s film-going, the ones that felt like secret handshakes among fans, and ran for months at a time (usually for one screening only on a Saturday night), were quietly knocked aside for the next generation of cult favorites.

Out with Pink Flamingos.

In with The Big Lebowski, now available as a Collector s Edition DVD (Universal, $19.98) though anemic on the extras.

Out with The Princess Bride.

In with Office Space, available in a couple of weeks as a Special Edition With Flair (Fox. $19.98); its meatiest bonus material is a handful of mediocre outtakes.

Don t get the flair thing?

You re not part of the cult.

Flair refers to the extra doodads Jennifer Aniston s boss in Office Space wants her to wear on her waitress uniform as a show of team spirit; she works in one of those Applebees-Fridays-ish chains full of fake memorabilia, and her love interest, played by Ron Livingston, works in a bland office building where the problems are the same problems everyone has: missing staplers, passive-aggressive supervisors.

And if you don t understand when someone says The Dude abides, you ve never seen The Big Lebowski 17 times. The Dude is Jeff Bridges, who must return a carpet to a rich man, or something.

His abiding is simply the way-wasted-out way he speaks.

The movie, the Coen brothers screwy follow-up to Fargo, deals with such hot-button issues as toe removal, White Russian consumption, hatred of the Eagles, and bowling alley pedophiles who wear purple; it s become such a cult item, there s an annual convention for obsessives.

In their 1983 book, Midnight Movies, critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and J. Hoberman agreed a true midnight movie tends to be one with a rabid following that has to do with transgressing particular taboos and offers some immediately relevant social metaphor.

They were thinking of David Lynch s Eraserhead and Night of the Living Dead. In the 22 years since that book gave shape to an underground phenomenon, not only has home video driven the midnight flick indoors with exceptions like the State Theater in Ann Arbor and Main Art in Royal Oak, Mich. those taboos tend to be out front, alongside the social metaphors.

Transgression is prime time.

What new midnight classics share with the old and I m thinking films such as Donnie Darko and Dazed and Confused is not a sense of daring, but that same secret handshake.

These are films, without fail, that were ignored during their original theatrical runs and discovered later on DVD or cable. They become like that reggaeton act you love until your dad buys the CD, too. With luck, you get to keep them to yourself for a while. They also share something else: The first or second times you watch them is not nearly as momentous as the 3,214th time.

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com or 419-724-6117.



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