July 21, 2019

The Movie Man: ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Delights, Challenges

It seems that the newest trend in film is to go from first screenings at movie theaters to permanent availability on Netflix, following the trend that TV shows have started.

Originally, it was seen with popular, but not so artistically influential, stars such as Adam Sandler. But now iconic brothers Joel and Ethan Coen have followed through on this trend with the release of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a Western collection of vignettes ranging from bank robberies to covered-wagon journeys.

I finished the film as I expected I would: scratching my head, pondering the meaning of every story in the anthology. But this is the case with nearly every film by the Coen brothers. This happened when I finished No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, and even The Big Lebowski.

But have no fear, in our digital age, you will not be perpetually stumped. With the assistance of Google, one can find a medium that can help you understand the artistic, and often spiritual, meanings of these films.

But make no mistake: you will enjoy Buster Scruggs. This will not be ranked as one of the Coen’s most memorable and definitive films, but you will be entertained.

They’re back at it with their quirky humor and folksy manner of storytelling that is present in every film (even ones as dark as No Country, upon further reflection.) You will also see tributes to other iconic directors, such as Stanley Kubrick (through their amazing landscape shots that help reinforce the environment of the story), and Spaghetti Western legend Sergio Leone (via silence, creating a build-up of suspense) — and this is more than fitting, being a Western movie.

For most readers, it will be quite easy to screen Buster Scruggs on finishing this review. Simply open a new tab in your internet explorer and log in to your Netflix account.

For everyone else, you will have to go through the painstaking process of pulling out your credit card and paying a whopping $8 to $14 to have thousands of videos at your disposal. It is a convenient way to watch movies now, but I believe it takes the joy out of the occasion of going to the movies … and I hope to write about this in the future.

‘Til next time, this is the Movie Man signing out …

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