We don’t get a lot of anthology movies anymore, don’t we? They give us the chance to see different stories shared by the same director or even different directors to show off their style. Well, now the Coen Brothers have that chance as they are going back to the western genre with Netflix original movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs when we all know that their trademark dark humor will play a pivotal part in any of these stories.
Here we are presented with six stories that take place in the old American west:
- “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”: The first story is focused on Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson), a singing cowboy who is wanted and is known as a fearsome gunslinger. The thing is that his appearance doesn’t seem all that convincing.
- “Near Algodones”: A cowboy bank robber (James Franco) faces a few near-death experiences after being hanged.
- “Meal Ticket”: A poor impresario (Liam Neeson) is traveling from town to town with Harrison (Henry Melling), a man with no arms or legs who performs anything from Shelley’s “Ozymandias” to Shakespeare to Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s Address in order to make some money.
- “All Gold Canyon”: An old prospector (Tom Waits) searches for gold in the huge green valley.
- “The Gal Who Got Rattled”: A woman named Alice (Zoe Kazan) and might fall for Billy Knapp (Billy Heck) during an Oregon wagon train.
- “The Mortal Remains”: Five travelers riding in a stagecoach, a Frenchman (Saul Rubinek), a lady aristocrat (Tyne Daly), a fur trapper (Chelcie Ross), and two bounty hunters played by Jonjo O’Neill and Brendan Gleeson, engage in conversation on a long ride from point A to point B.
Though I not a humongous fan of the duo, there’s something about the Coen’s filmmaking that’s always impressive. Since this is practically their third western following No Country for Old Men and True Grit, it’s enough for me to watch this talked about Netflix movie. At first, I thought this was gonna be a television series. But it turns out to be a rumor, as it was intended to be an actual movie. Finally decided to watch it after I was recommended to see it after my resident director told me about it. So, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is worth checking out if you’re bored and having nothing to watch on Netflix.
All of these stories present different tones and creativity, and there’s usually one thing that most of these have in common. Some were better than others. It’s hard to tell if this would’ve done better if these were episodes from a television series, but the cinematic experience makes it worth it. And even though I didn’t see this in the theater, the cinematography is still gorgeous. It’s shocking to learn that this wasn’t done by Roger Deakins, as it was shot by Bruno Delbonnel with this being the first Coen brothers movie shot digitally when shooting on location in Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico.
The best story out of all of them is the titular title. “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” made me have a smile on my face from beginning to end. Maybe it was because Blake Nelson plays his character perfectly, or it’s the revelation that kills me. I would love to see this as an actual movie. My least from story really came down between the two: “Meal Ticket” and “The Gal Who Got Rattled”. “Meal Ticket” because it turns sad and depressing at the end with little dialogue. And “The Gal Who Got Rattled” since the length got out of hand. Both are the longest out of the bunch and they didn’t have a lasting impression on me after it’s over. Some probably won’t be fond of “Near Algodones”, but I think it’s the most underrated story, in my opinion.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs shows that these filmmakers still have an act for giving us anything from their minds. If you haven’t watched any movie from the Coens, this probably shouldn’t be the first since there are a ton of better movies from their filmography that are worth watching. The western anthology is still entertaining with its talented performances and beautiful cinematography.
- The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
- Near Algodones
- All Gold Canyon
- The Mortal Remains
- Meal Ticket
- The Gal Who Got Rattled