The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#26 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 11:01 am

diamonds wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 9:57 am
Trailer.
Easily my most anticipated film of this year since it... emerged that it was a film. And I wasn't expecting the trailer to be so visually toothsome. Bring it on.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#27 Post by Persona » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:41 pm

That's a really strong trailer but watching it all I can think is, yeah, all those different segments (and some of them seriously abridged for run-time purposes) might not work too great together as one movie. At the moment feels like a mistake that they converted this into a film. Wonder if there will be some sort of eventual release for the mini-series form of it.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#28 Post by Ribs » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:21 pm

It was never a TV show why does everyone think this

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#29 Post by domino harvey » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:22 pm

Probably because it was? It started as a six episode Netflix series

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#30 Post by swo17 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:26 pm

Ribs wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:21 pm
It was never a TV show why does everyone think this
I LEARNED IT BY WATCHING YOU
Ribs wrote:
Tue Jan 10, 2017 8:37 pm
The Coen Brothers are jumping to television

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#31 Post by mfunk9786 » Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:32 pm

Live look-in at Ribs:

Image

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#32 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:21 pm

Ribs wrote:
Wed Sep 12, 2018 2:21 pm
It was never a TV show why does everyone think this
Ribs wrote:
Fri Jul 07, 2017 8:20 pm
Er, no, the article is pretty clear; it's being devised as one project that can play theatrically as an anthology film, but it's also being made in this format to allow it to be easily divided into six episodes as it's being produced by a Television company and seeking distribution from the networks.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#33 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:22 pm

So there are a bunch of articles talking about this getting a theatrical release on November 8th in the lead-up to its Netflix debut on the 16th... but um, where? I can't find one theater in the Philadelphia area with a showtime this weekend or any whiff of it. One of our Landmark theaters had it listed as "coming soon" with a date of November 9th, but it's no longer going to be showing this week. Anyone know what the deal is?

EDIT: Can only find three theaters nationwide, one each in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco. What a joke. I'd even take the wacky Fathom Events "one night only" treatment over this.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#34 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:17 pm

Netlfix is full of it with these theatrical release plans. I found an article from last month in Variety about all the markets that would show 22 July. Where did it play in my market? A dollar theatre, just for a few days.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#35 Post by ianthemovie » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:58 pm

I'm curious to see what happens with Roma, which is supposedly going to play on 200 screens. Having caught it at a film festival it really does deserve to be seen theatrically, but I'm wondering if most people will actually get the opportunity to do so. No screenings of Buster Scruggs here in Boston either. Is Netflix just screening these things for a week on the coasts so they can say the film has had a qualifying theatrical run for awards purposes?

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#36 Post by Brian C » Fri Nov 16, 2018 5:34 pm

SCRUGGS is playing this week at the Landmark Century Centre here in Chicago. Not my favorite place to go but obviously will support the theatrical showing.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#37 Post by Mr Sheldrake » Sun Nov 18, 2018 9:37 am

A powerful dose of malevolent twists of fate, Coen style. Story #5 knocked me for a loop, one of the best things the Bros have ever done with terrific performances by Zoe Kazan and Bill Heck. Steven Root is barely recognizable in a short turn that can accurately be termed a "hoot". Tom Waits also great, as is the Coen's feel for the old west, danger abounds in the majesty.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#38 Post by John Shade » Sun Nov 18, 2018 1:46 pm

I don't mean to derail this thread at all but I imagine at some point someone will ask it: any sign this will get a blu ray release? I have no hope of this playing in a theater near me.


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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#40 Post by mfunk9786 » Sun Nov 18, 2018 9:59 pm

This is just great stuff.

The Tom Waits segment is probably the least successful, and it is still charming as can be. As mentioned, the Zoe Kazan segment is gobsmacking, and the James Franco one packs one hell of a punchline - its plot could be re-told on a stand-up comedy stage and bring the house down. And the Liam Neeson segment is timely in its cruelty, pitch black humor at its finest.

These guys keep proving over and over that they've reached the tippy-top of their profession. What a delight that the two best living filmmakers are making movies with one another.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#41 Post by cdobbs » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:10 am

This is a rare time I feel out of step with the rapturous response to a Coen film. I've marveled seemingly countless times over the years not just at the inspiration behind their best ideas but their fully realized execution. Until now, I've never agreed at all with the seemingly shrinking subset of critics who have turned their noses up and/or accused them of gross misanthropy (a charge that presumably still sticks in the Coens' minds given Buster Scruggs' nickname). However, very early in this film something seemed off. The opening segment not only struck me as especially puerile but looked shockingly garish, a trend which continued through at least the next 2 chapters. I'm reminded of the film TEARS OF THE BLACK TIGER from a few years ago, which I'd heard was an homage to technicolor but to me just looked like a day-glo mess. In this case, I don't know if it was a stylistic choice to cheapen the grandeur of the typically mythic western scenery, but the narrative content did little to convince me. I began to fear while watching that the Coens had pulled a Woody Allen: raiding a drawer full of tossed-off ideas when a major streaming service came calling.

Aside from Stephen Root tapping a new reservoir of superhuman zaniness, the James Franco segment went nowhere. By the time the monotonously grim Liam Neeson segment concluded I was in a pretty foul mood. Things began to turn somewhat for the better when the Tom Waits story actually ended on an unexpected grace note. That brings us to "The Gal That Got Rattled," the only chapter that struck me as especially film-like; that did justice to the exquisite, sensitive performances; and seemed shot and edited with a significantly higher level of care than what preceded it. I am still undecided on the grim punchline but I think it works. The final story was mostly another anticlimactic dud aside from the trapper's monologue.

I recently rewatched NO COUNTRY and to my mind there's little here that approaches its strangeness and unsparingness; that leaves one in awe that such risky material is clicking on the level that it is. Certainly other Coen Brothers movies have grown on me over time, but so far not when I've had so many misgivings.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#42 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:22 pm

I enjoyed it but I don't share the same level of enthusiasm as everyone else. I suppose I could if I focused on the craftsmanship - on a technical level their recent films make so many others look like classroom productions. This really is best seen in a theater, not on a television set.

Beyond that, it was kind of a mixed bag for me. Anthologies are typically a mixed bag, but that's usually when different filmmakers involved. There's an interesting trajectory over the six stories because the first channels vintage MGM and WB shorts in a way we haven't seen since Raising Arizona. The best bits are virtually lifted from those cartoons (think Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin and Bob Clampett - i.e. the crazier ones). But then the stories get darker, more serious and more cynical. The second one didn't leave a great impression, but it I liked the final scene. Third one isn't all that edifying - it's an allegory about show business and nothing it has to say is the least bit new. But it's still true, and it's especially amusing to think about given AT&T's public statements regarding their merger (i.e. how their focus on quantity over quality is meant to make them competitive with companies like Netflix, the studio financing this movie). Fourth one is a nice fragment - even though it's based on a Jack London story, it feels like there's barely enough to sustain anything substantial, but I loved Tom Waits. The fifth is the best - Zoe Kazan and the two cowboy leads are wonderful and it's the one story that achieves real pathos. The sixth is the key film that ties these works together - whether it does so in a meaningful way, I'm not entirely sure.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#43 Post by connor » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:24 pm

Extremely disappointing. All of their weaknesses, few of their strengths.

Most of these segments come across like a 20-something's idea of "dark fucked up shit, maaaan." After the third or fourth chapter, you stop investing in any of the characters because you know they'll be coldly and cruelly dispensed with all for some juvenile lesson in...I don't know: man's inhumanity to man? A cold and uncaring universe?

The Coens' movies usually have these elements. But here it's just a bombardment without much else. I only really enjoyed the opening and the Tom Waits segment. With the last one, it was as if they were shooting for some effect that the narrative just never delivered.
cdobbs wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:10 am
Until now, I've never agreed at all with the seemingly shrinking subset of critics who have turned their noses up and/or accused them of gross misanthropy (a charge that presumably still sticks in the Coens' minds given Buster Scruggs' nickname). However, very early in this film something seemed off. The opening segment not only struck me as especially puerile but looked shockingly garish, a trend which continued through at least the next 2 chapters.
I agree with this entire post.

In fact, all this made me think was: goddamn, Tommy Lee Jones's western The Homesman is criminally underrated. It achieves everything the Coens wanted to do here (well, not everything I guess) but without the juvenile cynicism.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#44 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:40 pm

hearthesilence wrote:
Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:22 pm
This really is best seen in a theater, not on a television set.
Everyone has their own at-home viewing setup, but I fared just fine watching this in Dolby Vision on a 65" OLED. In fact, I preferred it to a theatrical viewing in a lot of ways, especially because I can turn the backlight up as much as I want on my own set, and don't have to worry about a theater projecting it with a dim bulb or with the projection spilling some of the image out into unseeable corners of the screen. This will surely be brought up with all of these Netflix films ad nauseum, but I don't think anyone can say to a certainty that any film is "best seen in a theater."

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#45 Post by Persona » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:30 pm

At first I didn't much care for the titular, opening episode (just seemed like a cartoon and not really a progression for the Coens) but in retrospect it does a good job setting up the tone, themes, and aesthetic of the anthology and it's definitely the most entertaining of the lot.

However, I didn't fully like an episode until the Tom Waits prospector one (my God, "Meal Ticket" was just dire and awful). Aside from the fact that its ending wasn't as predictably dour as the rest of them, "All Gold Canyon" had the best visual storytelling of the bunch. And I want to name a band "Measly Skunk."

"The Gal Who Got Rattled" to me is the clear high-point--still has all the excellent craft but also has nuance and characters that feel like actual people (the first and only time this happens in the whole thing). It's deservedly the longest episode but at the same time it feels rather odd to have an episode that long in comparison to the others. The ending is brutal but at least it is interesting and brutal, and goes well with the episode's compelling conversations about fear and faith and the interplay there. The actors were all outstanding, but especially Bill Heck. Zoe Kazan was also really good, though, and I wasn't prepared for Mr. Arthur's emergence at the end there--Grainger Hines killed it. The closing shot connection to the title plate has an "oh, crap" impact--maybe the one title plate that really brought something to the experience. To be honest, this episode might be my favorite Coens thing since No Country.

But then there's the harsh comedown of finishing with "The Mortal Remains," which I frankly hated because it was like we went from Coen Bros doing a primo Western tale to them doing an overwrought, overwritten play as their closing chapter, and one that's Edgar Allan Poe stylings didn't really feel in keeping with the rest of the anthology. I didn't enjoy it at all (couldn't wait for it to end, really, and it wasn't even half an hour long) and when it faded to the closing of the book, it was hard not to shrug.

While there are thematic (the basic theme being that life sucks, with nearly every episode building to that "punchline"), tonal, and aesthetic connections between the stories in the anthology, it doesn't really feel like they are adding up to something, or even enhancing each other that much. They kind of just exist together in the same movie and some of them are good and some of them aren't. I do think there is some cognitive dissonance because I keep thinking of it as a TV show that was edited into a movie and--even if that wasn't the case--I think the mind would take more to the stories being separate episodes. I would say that maybe some of the shorter ones could have been fleshed out more but I think the only one I'd really want more of is the Franco one, and there maybe just a few more minutes (definitely feels like some stuff was cut out after the hang-tree scene and so the ending, which is good but abrupt, barely has a chance to register as anything other than a cruel joke preceded by a grace note that has no context with Franco's character--and maybe that sort of brief, blunt nature is what that episode's about, but I do think it could have been a little bit more than it was).

I won't say I was let down--I wasn't exactly expecting a lot and it is beautifully shot and there's plenty of the Coens' trademark cleverness, and on a couple occasions things do come together and cohere into something resonant--but it's an anthology movie with a couple lousy stories, so it is what it is: uneven and, ultimately, minor.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#46 Post by Brian C » Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:12 pm

I saw it in a theater projected with a somewhat too-dim bulb (standard at Landmark here) and wouldn't trade it for a Netflix viewing at home, because of the audience. One can say what they will about Netflix's minimization of theaters - and I hate it - but going to see a movie opening weekend with virtually no marketing that is already available to stream at home, and I can at least be sure that the 100 or so people in the auditorium with me are also Coen brothers fans and we're all approaching it on the same level. It was a lot of fun.

24 hours later, and I find the movie has really stuck with me, and each of the segments just about equally. If I had to pick the weakest, I'd probably go against the grain and pick the Zoe Kazan segment. In some ways, it's the most polished and well-crafted of the bunch, but the twist doesn't offer much except for the kind of straightforward tragic irony that the Coens usually avoid (and for example, went out of their way to avoid in the Waits segment).

Mostly, though, looking back I'm surprised by how well the whole film coheres for me, since that was not something I was feeling while watching it because the tone from segment to segment varies so wildly that it's a little disorienting. But, for example, I'm struck by the placement of "Meal Ticket" (with Liam Neeson) as the third segment after two goofy riffs, and how it's affected how I view that story.
SpoilerShow
What are we to make of the relationship between the Artist and Impresario? The Artist never speaks in that segment except when he's performing. What does he think about his situation? What is the cruelty we are seeing? Is it possible that the segment ends with a mercy killing? Perhaps it is that the Impresario is keeping him alive against his will, as the titular "Meal Ticket", and once he finds a replacement act, he frees the Artist. Perhaps they had a pact along those lines. Who can say? But perhaps it hails back to Buster's assertion that he's been wrongly labeled a misanthrope, and what appears to be a morbid and cruel segment isn't really what it first appears to be.
I think the structure of the final segment is brilliant, too. Lots of wheel-spinning (literally, since it's set inside a moving carriage) buildup
SpoilerShow
only to climax with the line, "How could I know? I was only watching." It seems flippant at first, but on reflection, I'm hard-pressed to think of as good a summation of ... well, I guess to put it tritely, the meaning of life. We spend so much time and effort into fretting about the grand mysteries of life, but we'll never really know. Again, perhaps a sentiment that could be construed as misanthropy, or at least as a justification for it, but at the same time, for the person who speaks that line, it does not invalidate his interest in the question even the slightest bit. The search itself is worth the journey to find what you're looking for ... which itself then doubles back thematically on the Waits segment.


I often warm to the Coens movies with more viewings, especially with the thematic richness that their best work always has but isn't always immediately apparent to me. I suspect this one will be the same way for me.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#47 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:23 pm

Funny, I saw it at the Landmark on 57th (i.e. No Man's Land) on the UWS in Manhattan, and not only was projection excellent, but the seats were pretty amazing - big, cushiony barcalounger type seats that moved back or forward with the light push of a button. The wide arm rests and extra large cup sinks were especially awesome. But even without those amenities, I would have preferred to have seen this on the big screen.

Also, tickets were $18.50! Pretty much why I still haven't cancelled MoviePass - even if it sucks now, I'm still saving money. (And this screening cost nothing extra because it was my third on the final day of the cycle.)

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#48 Post by Brian C » Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:35 pm

Did you make it to the Century Centre back in your Chicago days? It's been kind of a projection mess ever since I started going there 10 years ago and they still showed 35mm. I would have thought the switch to digital would help, but nope. Still too dark of a picture, masking that doesn't match up to the projected picture, exit signs that are too bright (common almost everywhere it seems, but still), etc. I don't go there unless circumstances require it. Also the building is just weird and unwelcoming in general, although their new-ish bar area is pretty nice.

I don't recall having issues with the Landmarks in Dallas.

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#49 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Nov 19, 2018 3:52 pm

I think I may have - hard to say because I went to so many different multiplexes, but I *think* I saw Revenge of the Sith there. (We had to sit in the front row, and we could make out the sliver-like pixels of the projection for the bottom portion of the screen. The movie was terrible anyway so I didn't mind - I only went because it was the only thing everyone I knew wanted to see that weekend.)

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Re: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2018)

#50 Post by Slaphappy » Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:10 am

Very enjoyable and lovingly crafted anthology of macabre frontier stories. The storytelling and pacing are maybe the best I’ve ever seen on episodic pulp movie.
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The focus is all about telling a bunch of character driven tall tales for 140 minutes, creating expectations at one moment and making the viewer to forget them the next and pulling the rug from under his feet differently every time.
The final story failed to wrap things up well, but could work better on second viewing.

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