The Big Lebowski tells you why it has prevailed from that dearth of creative cinema also known as the 1990s in it's opening five minutes. As Sam Elliott's tones rumble the screen like a gently pulsing velvet bag full of gravel, The Coen Brother's script hits head on just why their film continues to be both an audience favourite and a critical darling;
'sometimes there's a man... I won't say a hero, 'cause, what's a hero? But sometimes, there's a man. And I'm talkin' about the Dude here. Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that's the Dude'
The Big Lebowski is as evocative of the feeling of the 1990s as Lincoln is of 1865 or Blade Runner of a speculative 2019. With a subtext run through with ideas of pacifism and slacker-culture, this is a film which champions the pursuit of fairness through the expenditure of minimum effort. The Dude (Jeff Bridges) wants what is rightfully his. He shouldn't have to go to war to get it.
In the sometimes opposite corner, Walter (John Goodman), with the 'help' of Donny (Steve Buscemi), tries to hide one of the film's specific targets (the first Iraq war), whilst showing the audience the end goals of pursuing the route of aggression, trying too hard and generally encouraging a high blood pressure. The first of his purposes is subtly woven by The Coens (he basically enables The Dude to tell us the film is not about Iraq, on a frequent basis) whilst the second is not, The Coen's delighting in their creation of a man for whom it is normal to pull a gun on an opponent during a bowling match.
In the margins - the gutters of the bowling lanes, if you will - The Coen's film finds the time to throw in tidbit after tidbit of glorious social comment and contribution to overall message. 'The Chinaman is not the issue here', Walter tells The Dude at one point. Whether Iraq, China or anywhere else, the nature of the conflict does not matter, only the conflict itself, Walter is talking about 'drawing a line in the sand'.
On a similar vein, who then, can we mortals turn to to fix things? Certainly not Jesus (John Turturro), for that way lies nothing of use, nor the rich, (David Huddleston), the rulers, nor, perhaps playfully suggested by two auteurs, the arts (Julianne Moore), who seem most likely to induce madness.
Like all great films you can agree with the above, speculate wildly from your own reading or accept that The Big Lebowski is simply a film about a man who wants his rug back. All are valid. Just keep your blood pressure low and have a White Russian in hand when debating them.