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Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 6:07 pm

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Finally watched this on Netflix yesterday... Here are my thoughts:

Okay, so I liked this but didn't love it. It's really good (with moments of greatness) but falls shy of being great. I'm forever in awe of watching the Coens work their magic. They're always able to take these old stories that we all know by heart, these shopworn, tired tropes and make them feel fresh, surprising, and at times hilarious. It's just brilliant craftsmanship and here again they earn a round of vigorous applause on that score.

Spoiler: show
THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS
Tim Blake Nelson shines. This piece is charming and oddball in the best way. It's pure Coen Quirkiness. We get their impeccable dialogue, their musical proclivity, their precision eye and absurd characters that feel more real than they should. The only real issue I have with this is that it feels like an unfinished idea. It's a sketch, a really funny and interesting sketch that's brimming with possibility, to be sure, but a sketch none-the-less. It's a great idea that doesn't feel finished to me. I also wonder if it doesn't work better at a different point in the anthology. Opening with this piece betrays something, I think. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs feels like a separate piece, maybe it inspired the whole, but it doesn't ultimately feel of the whole, outside of how it ties in to the sort of over-arching "paying tribute while turning Westerns on their ear" theme of the anthology. Which I suppose is enough to earn it's place at the end of the day, but it still feels incomplete and out of place, to me.

NEAR ALGODONES
The images are outstanding. The cinematography and blocking are top notch. It's always a joy to watch Stephen Root, even if for only a moment, and especially in a Coen film. Otherwise, this is a complete nonstarter. It goes nowhere and achieves nothing. James Franco is laughably out of his depth even with very little to actually do. If they'd cut this "piece" the film would be at least the same and at best improved because I wouldn't be thinking about how much I wish it had been cut by the time I get to the end. Everything that follows is so far and away better. This is easily the least interesting, least essential, and least impactful part of the anthology.

MEAL TICKET
This is exquisite. The performances, the pacing, the style, the art direction, the investment, the payoff.... I fucking loved this part. The only criticism I could pretend to throw at it is that perhaps... PERHAPS... it's overlong. There might be a version of this that's is a few minutes shorter and still rips your guts out in the same way. Maybe.

ALL GOLD CANYON
I think LV used the word "sublime" earlier, somewhere, about this film. And while I might not use that word to describe the film as a whole, there is no better word to describe this chapter of the film. This is flawless. This is pure, blissful, Coen. Tom Waits shines. The setting is astounding. There's nothing about this piece that I dislike. It feels complete. It feels fresh. It was tense and gorgeous and heartbreaking and soul-lifting all in turn. It was shot perfectly. It was everything I've come adore about a Coen Brothers film. Exquisite and sublime and pitch-perfect Coen. This belongs in this collection but could also, 100%, live on its own without the any support. This to me feels like the most compete and realized piece in the collection.

THE GAL THAT GOT RATTLED
This one felt the most familiar to me. It also felt like a potential starting point for this anthology, as if, perhaps, this was going to be a feature length story that didn't need that much time/room to tell itself. Realizing as much, perhaps, the brothers decided to include it with other stories. I have no idea and could be way off, but that's how it felt to me. This has a clear beginning, middle, and end. It has a clear theme/idea its expressing. It's very much in line with their other Western features. It has the crisp and captivating dialogue, the odd characters, the specificly and intentionally wonky beat work, the slow silence, the almost magical realism, we'd come to expect (and love) from the Coens. The performances are good. The scenery/camera work is delightful. Like all the pieces of this anthology, the cinematography is exceptional. It's just so gorgeous. The brutality is earned. The ending is satisfying. This might be the longest segment but that's okay, because I felt immersed in the story and genuinely cared about the outcome. My wife actually gasped during the climax. I think there is room for a full length feature in this story, but I'm also completely content with it as is.

THE MORTAL REMAINS
Excellent closer. Wonderful performances. I've talked before about how much a love plays and this feels like it could have been a play. Just a nice little morality/noir/suspense/horror play that pops when it could fall flat. It's largely just talking heads and monologues but I was gripped the entire time. It was pretty clear what was happening from the jump, but I didn't care, because, again, the Coens find ways to make old things new again. And Tyne Daly should be in everything. I also found this one to be the funniest segment. It oozes charm and atmosphere. It's probably one of the more minor installments but it's also one of the more memorable, too. It's a great note to end on. I really love that both the opening and ending pieces give us different moods/atmospheres/takes with music and how music can be used in film/storytelling. Something about this piece really makes the final image of closing the book really satisfying.

Overall, I liked it. It's probably mid-tier Coens for me. It's too uneven to stand beside their best work. It's rewarding but it's also a drag at times. But it's never boring to look at. It's never ugly or static. The images themselves are outstanding and I wouldn't be upset if it earned award nominations for cinematography and art direction.
Last edited by durdencommatyler on Sat November 24, 2018 7:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 6:24 pm

witness the monster you've created, ruddo? Soon we'll need a Coens sub-forum.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 6:25 pm

oh and great poster btw! had not seen that. reminiscent of Fargo.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 6:26 pm

If I had to rank the parts after just one viewing:

1. All Gold Canyon (5/5)
2. The Gal Who Got Rattled (4/5)
3. Meal Ticket (4/5)
4. The Mortal Remains (3/5)
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (3/5)
6. Near Algodones (2/5)

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 6:27 pm

tragabigzanda wrote:oh and great poster btw! had not seen that. reminiscent of Fargo.

I hadn't seen it either but it was on the wikipedia page. Really dig it, too.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:22 pm

Do we really need this thread? Ugh. What a mess.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:23 pm

We do, yes.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:25 pm

Everyone else has already discussed it in a different thread. You’re just late.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:26 pm

I've also already discussed it in different threads. Which I did before this thread. Please keep up.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:27 pm

You are an anarchist who pisses on board integrity and I’ll have no further words with the likes of you!!!!!!

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:28 pm

Board integrity is my number one priority you ingrate! That's why I stepped up and did the right thing!

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:39 pm

Maybe all of this chaos will shut all of you Coen dick suckers the hell up

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:41 pm

Ruddo, please maintain thread integrity and discuss The Ballad of Buster Scruggs here. If you'd like to talk/complain about general Coen stuff please use the appropriate thread.

viewtopic.php?f=7&t=12981

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:43 pm

The last three movies I watched were Terror is a Man, Malibu High, and Blood Rage. They were mostly good, schlocky, sleazy fun. The first two were better than the third, though.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 7:44 pm

You son of a bitch...

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 9:28 pm

durdencommatyler wrote:If I had to rank the parts after just one viewing:

1. All Gold Canyon (5/5)
2. The Gal Who Got Rattled (4/5)
3. Meal Ticket (4/5)
4. The Mortal Remains (3/5)
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (3/5)
6. Near Algodones (2/5)


Not too different, but I would do:
1. All Gold Canyon (5/5)
2. The Gal Who Got Rattled (5/5)
3. Meal Ticket (4/5)
4. Near Algodones (4/5)
5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (3/5)
6. The Mortal Remains (3/5)

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 9:37 pm

I feel like I could be talked into swapping my #4 and #5.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 9:37 pm

But those top 3 feel pretty set.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 10:09 pm

LoathedVermin72 wrote:I think I’d rank the segments:

1. All Gold Canyon
2. The Mortal Remains
3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4. The Girl Who Got Rattled
5. Near Aldogones
6. The Meal Ticket

But they’d all be incomplete without each other.

Interesting ranking. Crazy to see Meal Ticket at the bottom.

Re: Coen Brothers: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Sat November 24, 2018 10:44 pm

Off topic!!!!
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