The Dude Meets OTTO: Annotating The
Big Lebowski Mashups
"We can't claim any assurance
that Lebowski is a work of art. Or
even a text, really. Certainly, it looks like a systematic grouping of
sign-units. It seems to present itself, more or less, as something to be 'read'
by the eager filmgoer, and it seems to refer—artfully—to the
existence of a recognizable set of humans in real time and space. An incoherent jumble Not quite. Still, Lebowski defies the unities of production, distribution, and use
that we associate with textsÉItem: it is the focus of multiple dormitory games
and accessory diversions, and its footage has been used in literally hundreds
of parodies and loving re-creations in digital format."
-- Edward P. Comentale
and Aaron Jaffe, The Year's Work in
Lebowski Studies (4-5)
Since its release in 1998, The Big Lebowski
has garnered a cult following, seen the rise of
weekend fan events called Lebowskifests, and been on
the receiving end of a growing critical reception among film scholars.
The film itself has been notoriously difficult to pin down.
In an article entitled "How Many Lebowskis Are
There: Genre, Spectatorial Authorship, and The Big Lebowski
," Allen Redmon remarks: "[a] multi-narrative structure creates
a film that appears fractional rather than finished, and to some extent, it is.
The film awaits an astute audience willing and able to disentangle the
competing elements to consider one side of complex film. The surprise of the
viewing process is the way in which even loose understandings of the elements
or interests of the genres the Coens use
reconstitutes the seemingly unrelated elements." (55). As Comentale, Jaffe, and Redmon all
suggest, The Big Lebowski
is a film
of "sign-units" or "elements" that probably require an
"eager filmgoer" or "astute audience" in order to make
sense of it as a coherent text. Put another way, the text of The Big Lebowski
is a complex tapestry
made of many different kinds of threads (the word 'text' comes from the latin root texere
meaning 'to weave')
In "The Dude Meets OTTO," we are interested in finding
eager filmgoers, astute audience members, scholars, and fans of the film who
want to explore how the many mashups, digital re-creations, web spoofs, or
remix videos help us disentangle, decode, or simply understand the many
threads, genres, characters, and attitudes of The Big Lebowski
. In other words, if we begin to systematically and
critically dig into the many works that are inspired by The Big Lebowski
, what does this derivative digital media work tell
us about the original 1998 Coen Brothers' movie Why
is this film so ripe for parody and remix Why does The Big Lebowski
continue to resonate as a major source text for
digital media producers creating mashups
"The Dude Meets OTTO" is a remix project and video
annotation tool created by Ball State University' iLearn Research. OTTO is an
acronym standing for "Open Text Tool for Online video." OTTO allows
for the specific and precise annotation and analysis of key shots and scenes in
an online video. All of the videos in OTTO are located on YouTube, but it is
worth noting, that any annotations you create will exist in OTTO and only
accessible by logging into OTTO.
Ultimately, "The Dude Meets OTTO" explores how a
crowd-sourced project may deepen our understanding of the remixes, parodies,
recreations, and mashups that have been inspired by The Big Lebowksi
, and conversely, how
these derivative videos help us better understand the original film. Or if you
are into the whole brevity thing, an OTTO annotation is a quick way to share
your thoughts on a Lebowski-inspired video.
Adding Annotations in
If you wish to participate in this project, it is helpful if
you are familiar with the film The Big
. All of the videos in this project refer back to that film in one
way or another. If you haven't seen The Big Lebowski, consider
this project as your chance to rent or buy this 1998 film directed by the Coen Brothers.
If you are familiar with The
, please watch as many of the videos as you can in our Lebowski
mashup collection (and please
feel free to email us suggestions for other videos to include in our
Most of these videos in our OTTO collection are short (five
minutes or less). After viewing the videos in the OTTO collection, please
annotate key moments in each video that provide you a better understanding of The Big Lebowski
phenomenon, or helps
you better understand a sign-unit or element from the original film, or gives
you an insight into how the derivative video extends the film's value as a
In each case, while you are watching the video, and you come
across a key moment, click the "annotate" button right below the
(1) When you click the "annotate" button, the
video will freeze at that point and give you a time of annotation. This field
is automatically generated by OTTO, you do not have to
enter it yourself. FYI, the "time of annotation" field will itself become
a button once you enter your annotation, so when somebody reads your annotation
they can click on that time and jump to that exact moment in the video.
(2) After you click "annotate," please use the
text box that appears to describe why this moment you selected is critical to
your understanding of The Big Lebowski
or its role as a cultural signifier. For those of you who are very familiar
with The Big Lebowski
: Try to
write your annotations and descriptions for a popular audience, and don't
assume that everyone has the same knowledge of The Big Lebowski as you do.
It will probably help most users of
OTTO if you provide the following information in your description of the
- what characters are
- what scene from the
film is being referenced,
- what basic theme or idea from the film is being used in a new or unique way.
All of the annotations in OTTO reside in a database. So as
more annotations enter into the database, you will see other people's
annotations are you watch these videos in OTTO. This hopefully will create a
sense of an ongoing conversation as more and more users watch and comment on
these videos. Moreover, as the time signatures of the annotations are reached
in the video timeline, completed annotations will automatically appear underneath
the viewing window, to let you see what others have written and what parts of
the video they have been annotating.
Thanks for being an OTTO achiever!
The Dude Meets OTTO
Richard Edwards and Ben Ranfeld
Edward P. Comentale and Aaron Jaffee, The Year's
Work in Lebowski Studies
. Indiana University Press, 2009.
Allen H. Redmon, "How Many Lebowskis Are There Genre, Spectatorial Authorship, and The Big Lebowski," Journal of Popular Film and Television