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Old 11-17-2018, 11:09 PM   #1
JoeBanks
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Default The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The latest Coen Bros. feature began life as a limited anthology series for Netflix and it feels like it, for better or worse (mostly better I think). Structured as several chapters in a book of stories about the Old West -- or at least the Coens' idea of what the Old West actually was -- the episodes range from a brutal Roy Rogers-esque gunslinger to a Fred Dobbs/Gabby Hayes-ish gold prospector. Probably the most fully realized chapter is Zoe Kazan's turn as a prairie girl on the Oregon Trail (no dysentary, alas). Because of the episodic nature, "Buster Scruggs" never feels as fully realized or coherent as a typical Coens film, but all the usual elements are present -- graphic violence, black deadpan humor, and a bleak unforgiving "Old Testament" moral code. And, like most Coen Bros films, the specter of death hangs over everything.

Because Netflix wants to put the Coens and "Buster Scruggs" in awards contention, they are screening it for a week in NY/LA theaters but mostly it will be consumed at home, either on laptops or maybe some big screen TVs. that's a shame. the desert and prairie vistas aren't perhaps John Ford-level sweeping but it still benefits greatly from the theatrical experience. Netflix should do far better by their awards-season releases
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Old 11-17-2018, 11:28 PM   #2
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Default Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Anything Coen Bros. is fine with me and I hope to catch this soon. I’m certain I’ll love it as well as I did Hail, Caesar!, which received short shrift commercially soon after its release, but which I also thought was a great film. I predict it and this may well become “classics” with a following not unlike Shawshank Redemption. Looking forward to seeing and hearing this *ballad.*
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Old 11-17-2018, 11:47 PM   #3
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Default Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

i would say in the same way Hail Ceasar! is the (lesser, imo) cousin to Barton Fink, Buster Scruggs is the first half of a double feature with True Grit. still good but not quite top-shelf Coens

the other thing that i really liked about it from an anthology standpoint is that shows like Twilight Zone have so conditioned the viewer to expect some kind of ironic twist as an exclamation point on the story to beat the theme or moral over your head with. none of that here. some of the endings are unexpected but not in the way one might guess they would turn out. like most Coen Brothers morality plays "deserve's got nothing to do with it."
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Old 11-28-2018, 10:51 PM   #4
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Default Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Just watched The Ballad of Buster Scruggs in its entirety on Netflix. In my opinion, all of the vignettes were excellent, perfectly cast, and well crafted. It’s a delight to see actors who are rarely seen but known for their dedication to their craft portray the always interesting characters created by the brothers Coen.

Another of the things I enjoy about the Coen brothers’ work in their films is the level of authenticity to be found in every visual aspect of their stories. The sets, costumes, and lighting are rich, detailed, and wonderful to behold. If any writer wrote just one screen story that the Coen brothers were to realize on film, I suspect that they would die a happy writer.

There’s one story from the series of vignettes complete with its original title I recognized: “All Gold Canyon” is a short story written by Jack London. It remained true to the original written work, too, and Tom Waits delivers as its lead actor.

In “The Girl Who Got Rattled,” not even halfway in I was thinking that it was worthy of not only a feature, but a series. It wouldn’t have been too difficult to imagine as a feature the trials of the young woman in those times. It could also be better and more intricately explored as a series, too. Then, what happens to her next is ... well ... you’ll have to see the movie.

Although not a fatalist, it’s sometimes difficult to go against what we’ve been conditioned to expect of a “traditional” Hollywood film story and to accept the story twists, turns, and endings of Coen brothers fare. For me, though, that’s the greatest appeal of a Coen brother movie, or the Coen brothers’ “signature style,” if you will. To be honest, too, those types of upset endings do occur in real life to real people. So, with the brothers Coen, perhaps their films intend to be a case of “Art imitates Life.”

If you’re a Coen brothers movie fan, I recommend to you The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.

Last edited by TigerFang : 11-29-2018 at 10:03 AM.
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Old 12-03-2018, 09:21 AM   #5
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Default Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

I've not seen 'TBOBS', or all of the other movies by the Coen brothers, but I didn't think they were capable of making an objectively bad movie - until yesterday, when I watched 'Hail, Caesar!'.

'H,S!' has funny scenes and good jokes, but there's lazy and nonsensical stuff (would there really be drinkable liquid in an opaque goblet on a film set?), and overall it's a self-indulgent dog's dinner. The plot is thin, and many scenes have no affect on it, which makes the movie more like an array of comic sketches and cameos.

And are the period movies (of Capitol Pictures) intentionally unconvincing to make some kind of meta joke?

And the voice-over is awkward and needless irony on top of parody.

Anyhow, this thread is for 'TBOBS', so I suppose I'm only here to say, ruefully, that I no longer have true faith in the Coen brothers.

Could 'TBOBS' restore one's faith? Would that it were so simple, would that it were so simple, ...
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Old 12-03-2018, 09:51 PM   #6
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Default Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Ah, well, Crayon. We find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence where Hail, Caesar! is concerned. If Rotten Tomatoes is to be considered a valid resource for determining a film's appeal, then my vote ought to be counted in with the Tomatometer Critics Consensus score of 86% in judgment of Hail, Caesar!.

The lower Audience Score of 44% — perhaps where your vote may be found — may come from a misunderstanding of precisely who was the lead character in the film. Many of the viewers with whom I’ve discussed the film seemed to think that George Clooney’s character was the lead in the film, but in fact it was Josh Brolin’s character Eddie Mannix, a name taken straight from Hollywood history, but whose actions were given a lighter and different twist in Hail, Caesar! than they took in Hollywoodland.

Even so, to get back to a discussion of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, please do give it a go. The Coen brothers have revived an old moviemaking product called an anthology and I suspect you'll have a grand ol’ time watching the stories unfold and carry you swiftly downstream each with its own momentum until you run smack dab into the unseen walls awaiting you at their endings.
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