Nov 29, 2018
Welcome back to the podcast. This will be the first of two episodes today as we’re working to get caught up from the fire. I’ll be continuing my story from the wildfire evacuation in a minute, but if you haven’t heard the earlier segments, hit pause, then go back to my review for “Outlaw King” (Episode #314) for the first segment, then listen every episode after that for another installment. Let me know you’re listening by sharing this episode with #WelcomeBackOMP.
Last segment, we were watching our neighbor kids the day after we were able to repopulate, and while recording was impossible, it was the furthest thing from my mind. The kids left that evening, and we all went to bed after that. Monday morning came. Veterans Day. Schools were closed, which was probably a good idea given air quality. I set out to make today a normal day, heading out to get groceries for the week, and returning to get laundry started. If you wonder what my normal life looks like, that’s pretty much it: dishes and laundry. Normal wasn’t going to be in the cards, though. My spouse was feeling sick and called out of work the following day. My daughter felt fine, though, and despite the air quality, school was on for the following day. She did try a few fake coughs, though, just to see.
More in the next episode, but I wanted to thank @ingzpage on Instagram, who has been one of our loyal supporters on the platform. You can check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @ingzpage, especially if you are into real estate. Thanks for reaching out during the evacuation, and thanks for your continued support!
Today’s movie is “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018), the Netflix Original anthology written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, with two segments based on Jack London’s “All Gold Canyon” and Stewart Edward White’s “The Girl Who Got Rattled”. The film contains six short films, loosely related to one another, depicting stories from the frontier, and starring an amazing ensemble cast, with a total running time of two hours and twelve minutes.
One thing I’ve learned from my experience with the Coen Brothers is that I need to throw my expectations right out the window. Sure, I have expectations about the level of quality I should expect from their work, and they have a most impressive filmography containing some of my favorite films of all time, including “The Hudsucker Proxy”, “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (Episode #322), and “No Country for Old Men”. I love their distinctive style, and today’s film was no exception, and while I wasn’t sure what to make of a Coen Brothers anthology film, it did make throwing those pesky expectations away really easy.
I keep a watch list of every film that has been certified fresh by Rotten Tomatoes, and the list has begun to contain more and more westerns. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good western, but I’m always surprised how many stories can be told with such a period-specific genre. I’ve also found that I love westerns that are either epic in length, or short and sweet, and while the running time for today’s anthology is in epic territory, the six stories which comprise the film are short and sweet, hitting on every major storyline from the western genre: gunfighters, frontier justice, clashes with the rightful indigenous residents, stagecoach rides, travelling shows, and prospecting. Two are adaptations, the other four are original works, although derived in style. The stories are somewhat connected, based on a few shared scenes, but instead of telling a specific story, weaves a rich tapestry of what we all like most about western stories.
The Coen Brothers then turn everything we like about western stories into everything we like about western films, from beautiful vistas to exciting action to detailed characters. The overall mood of the film starts off pretty humorous, but then gets more and more serious as the film progresses, ending with a very philosophically-minded carriage ride that is a hell of a thematic shift away from the initial tale of Buster Scruggs. But with no expectations, I could enjoy it from start to finish, no matter how goofy or serious or dark it was. The ensemble cast is spectacular, including: Tim Blake Nelson, Bill Heck, James Franco, Liam Neeson, Zoe Kazan, Tom Waits, and Clancy Brown, just to name a few. No one turns in a bad performance, even if folks may not like everyone involved, or every story told. The Coen Brothers have earned the right to their uncompromising vision, and in this case, it was a strength more than hindrance.
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018) is an excellent collection of western stories in the distinctive style of the Coen Brothers, brought to life by an exceptional cast, and with great costumes, scenes, and effects. Ranging from comedic to serious to romantic to mysterious, the Coen Brothers take us all over the Old West, story by story, leaving us different than when we left. Fans of the Coen Brothers, or westerns with a darkly humorous tone, should definitely check out this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
One Movie Punch: 9.0/10
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018) is rated R and is currently streaming on Netflix and playing in selected theaters.