The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Well, HERE'S an unusual little change of pace! If you are in the mood for something different, I've got just the ticket! Joel and Ethan Coen (we can always depend on them for something different), have assembled six vignettes for your viewing pleasure. I saw this on Netflix but it opened today at a Landmark Theater here in the Seattle area, so see what you can find.

This anthology illustrates six different aspects of life in the old American West. They have a sterling cast of actors willing to take a shot at it. ...smile... There are many, many guns in the American West! The opening credits play to a rendition of "The Streets of Laredo." (The Coens unerringly hit American musical paydirt; this is stuff I can relate to!)

Let me give you an overview:
  • "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" (Tim Blake Nelson). This episode starts with him riding along on his horse Dan as he sings "Cool Water." He is in a long scenic canyon, so the echoes are a natural effect. He is proud of his reputation as a gunslinger.
  • "Bank Robbery" (James Franco) This one contains every clichĂ© known to a western. But I will say, this guy can't catch a break even though his first hanging is interrupted by an Indian attack.
  • "Meal Ticket" (Liam Neeson) This traveling show stops at every tiny hamlet it runs across. An armless, legless actor does well-known soliloquies while Neeson collects contributions. Then they see a chicken...
  • "All Gold Canyon" (Tom Waits) Singing "Mother Machree," our dauntless prospector comes into view with his faithful donkey lugging all of his equipment. We see his technique for finding gold and salute his success. Turns out finding gold isn't the only thing he has to be smart about.
  • "The Gal Who Got Rattled" (Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck) This follows a wagon train on its way to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Beset by typhoid and Indians, things are tough, but the assistant wagon master proposes to the sweet gal on her way to a (maybe) fiancĂ©. That little dog (Franklin Pierce) just won't quit yapping.
  • "The Mortal Remains" (Brendan Gleeson, Tyne Daly, Saul Rubinek) Five occupants in a stage coach, with a corpse packed on top, philosophize about love. Gleeson closes the vignettes by singing the traditional Irish ballad upon which "Streets of Laredo" is based. Nice wrap!
Make no mistake, this is NOT all comedy, although the Coens usually have us smiling. This is billed as an R-rated comedy, drama, musical. Some things are tragic, some unsettling, some slyly funny. The scenery is absolutely spectacular and the American West was never so lovingly replicated.
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Here is a sample:
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