The Ballad of Buster Scruggs [Celluloid Hero]
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)
I'm a massive fan of the Coen Brothers. I tend to avoid watching trailers of movies I want to see (it makes sense in my head, trust me) but the few moments of this trailer that I caught definitely intrigued me. The Coens already took on the desert in No Country For Old Men, but that was one of their straighter movies; this looked like it would be full of their trademark blackest-of-the-black humor.
The movie is split into six vignettes, so I think it'll be easiest to just address each one individually.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Tim Blake Nelson is the title character, a singing cowboy with no qualms about violence. It's a relativity quick tale, but an excellent choice to set the table for what is to come.
This one felt a bit shorter than its run time, and features James Franco as a bank robber and Stephen Root as the bank teller. Of the six, this is the most humorous.
Liam Neeson is the 'manager' of a traveling actor (Harry Melling). It's easily the darkest of the stories. Neeson has few lines of dialogue, and most of the script is actually just the actor's performance repeated in different ways. The repetition mixed with the silence worms into your brain and had me entranced and wholly depressed. Melling never seemed to blink, and I feel like I didn't blink either.
All Gold Canyon
Tom Waits, digging for gold. That's pretty much it. The beauty lies in the simplicity, the scenery, and the ability Waits has to make his character totally relatable.
The Gal Who Got Rattled
This is the only one that felt like it went on a bit too long. A young girl and her brother are part of a wagon train headed to Oregon, and in good Coen fashion, pretty much whatever can go wrong goes wrong.
The Mortal Remains
It's an ideal closer, but suffers just a bit after the drawn-out installment that preceded it. A group of strangers are traveling together in a stagecoach, and a spirited debate about the nature of humanity, love, and death ensues.
All in all, it had less of the Coen's Big Lebowski or O Brother Where Art Thou humor, but still was 100% Coen in the characters, the dialogue, the darkness, and the camerawork. The more I reflect on each piece, the more things I appreciate. After I turned the TV off, I thought this would fall into the realm of Coen Brothers movies that I watch once and enjoy; as I wrote this, and kept thinking about it, I feel like it's turned into something like Fargo that I could stop and watch at any time. I actually feel like I could watch it again tonight.
[Celluloid Hero] gives "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" an 8 out of 10.