By: Joshua Lenahan, Practicum Reporter
The short attention-spanned, bingeaholic, audiences of 2018 are tough to produce movies for, but if anyone can pull it off, would it not be the Coen brothers?
“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is the Coen brother’s elegant response to a changing cinema audience. With six distinct chapters, The Ballad keeps viewers interested by telling a new story every 20 minutes or so, appealing to the short attention span of today’s Netflix-gorging viewers. An interesting platform for a Coen brothers release, Netflix’s decision to work with the duo resonates with its attempts to bring not only more, but higher quality, original TV shows and movies to the site, which is under the stress of new competition in the streaming world.
The richest part of the movie is hands down the characters. While we only get to know them for a short period, they leave deeper impressions in 20 minutes than most characters in feature length films. Add in an all-star cast, and the characters become increasingly memorable. Rich, unique characters are combined with carefully scripted dialogue (and monologues), then paired with beautiful shots filmed all over the West. It all adds up to a satisfying viewing experience that’s becoming increasingly rare.
An emotional rollercoaster, the plot twists and turns throughout each story while playing with viewers’ emotions. Drawn out, but intricate dialogue is complemented by quick plot twists that rapidly move the film along. They mix in tragedy with laughter and put depressing moments next to silly ones – a new concept for a Western. Hopefully, this movie sparks a wave of new Western films.
The choice to release the film both in theaters and on Netflix is an interesting one for sure but emphasizes the actual experience of going to the movies. Directors of “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski,” “No Country for Old Men,” among others, it isn’t surprising the Coen brothers have produced a hit like this. In today’s cinematic landscape, it’s refreshing nonetheless.
The last tale in the movie ends with a long section of back-and-forth dialogue, songs and philosophical thought; it’s a deep reminder of the kind of movie the Coen brothers can produce. The story even ends with a conversation about death, a lesser friendly reminder of how harsh the West was years ago.
Every story is a struggle with death in one way or another, but many are watered down with laughter and wittiness. The last story ends the movie on a solemn note, but it respectively ties up the golden thread of the movie’s many scenarios, proving again that the Coen brothers rarely disappoint.