February 26, 2019


This star-studded Coen Brothers Oscar-nominated film, "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," is a typical Coen Brothers quirky, stylistic offering. Buster, a cowboy in white on his trusty horse, Dan, clops through the opening scene, strumming and singing a lonesome ditty about water--as the majestic canyons echo back. Suddenly, Buster turns to the camera and begins to narrate. At length. In fact, he's the only one who says pretty much anything for the first 15 minutes or so. Yeah, the monologue is pretty funny, but the Coen Brothers' unique style of shocking, callous, in-your-face, "campy," bloody, mounting violence comes all too quickly. I had to shut it off. Maiming and brutal murder isn't funny. Watching a man's fingers be blown off one by one is not my idea of entertainment. Sometimes I think this is all the CBs have. None of their stories are terribly coherent or feel like a real story. They just have eye candy and mayhem. Thus endeth my review.


  1. Sr. Helena, I disagree with you about the Coen Brothers in general. I think they are serious filmmakers whose quirky stuff is usually relevant to a coherent theme, usually one that reflects traditional Judaeo-Christian ethics and values. Their updated version of The Ladykillers, for example, features a panoply of characters who each represents a variation of modern and post-modern "False gods", if you will. They all have b
    ad ends, while the soundtrack plays gospel music and the one representative of Christianity, a kind of "holy fool", wins out in the end. Miller's Crossing is all about ethics, as the character Johnny Caspar declares (comedically) in the first scene. It is also one of the very few gangster films that features a female character who is as important as any of the male characters. The sexual relationship depicted as core to the film is between characters Tom and Verna, played by Gabriel Byrne and Marcia Gay Harden in what are arguably the best roles of their respective careers. The Big Lebowski, like Raising Arizona, Fargo, and O Brother, Where Art Thou, champions the goodness of family and the bringing of new babies into the world in a way that is --- except for in Raising Arizona -- tangential and extraneous to the main plot and themes.

    And A Serious Man is explicitly religious, and very good IMO.

    However... The Ballad of Buster Scrugg ... I'm with you on that one. The Staboszes are a Coen Bros.-loving family, and everyone else in the family loved the movie and devoted significant time one pizza afternoon discussing it. I was the dissenter. I thought that the episode called Meal Ticket--the one with Liam Neeson in it-- was seriously disturbing for a whole bunch of reasons. Once seen, I cannot scrub it from my brain, and I want to. So I won't be watching Buster Scruggs again.

  2. I understand the revulsion, but by the end of that first vignette, I think the gore was supposed to be a counter-point to the cheerful ditties. The Old West was really brutal. It's too bad you couldn't continue since the other vignettes offered some thoughtful reflections on death, and what may or may not be worth dying for. As the Coen Bros take on memento mori, I basically liked it. Not particularly hopeful, but thoughtful, nonetheless.