If you have Netflix, you may have watched The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
Notable filmmakers have been steadily dropping their films onto streaming services, but I’d argue none of them are as esteemed as the Coen Brothers (maybe you could have made an argument for Woody Allen at one point, but that’s a squicky conversation for another day). Suffice it to say, the Coens are my favorite filmmakers of all time and they are still producing important work.
Buster Scruggs is an anthology that is comprised of six short stories, each literally bookended by pages from a dusty 19th century tome that carries us from tale to tale. I thought about doing a breakdown of each segment, but you really should see this film as unspoiled as possible. The obvious commonality among all six stories is that they take place in the Old West, but they are also thematically tied together in a way I can’t tell you because it would be a bit of a spoiler. As wonderfully entertaining as the movie is, the Coens, as usual, have a point to make.
Being a Coen Brothers film, it has all of their familiar elements: it looks gorgeous, it contains copious convoluted verbiage, and the glorious Carter Burwell score will make you weep. At 135 minutes, it is the Coens’ longest film, but its episodic nature seems fitting on Netflix, where people are used to consuming their content in chunks. You could watch the movie a few episodes at a time, but the film is such a feast I would think most people would be eager to move on to the next course.
Criticisms? Like any anthology film, some segments are going to resonate more than others, and the stories do have wildly conflicting tones (though enthusiasts of Coen brothers films are used to being whiplashed from slapstick comedy to grisly violence, often in the same scene). And, much like their previous film, Hail Caesar, this one doesn’t end so much as it just … stops.
Also, because nobody asked, I’ve gone ahead and properly ranked the Coen Brothers films for you all. You’re welcome!
- Miller’s Crossing
- The Big Lebowski
- Inside Llewyn Davis
- No Country For Old Men
- A Serious Man
- Barton Fink
- The Man Who Wasn’t There
- Raising Arizona
- Burn After Reading
- Blood Simple
- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
- True Grit
- Hail, Caesar!
- The Hudsucker Proxy
- The Ladykillers
- Intolerable Cruelty
(I have not ranked Buster Scruggs yet, after a single viewing I am still trying to digest it. At this moment I would rank it somewhere around the 8 or 9 spot, but I’ll need another viewing or two before deciding on a proper placement.)
So, that’s what you might have done this weekend. Now tell us what else you did!