In Praise of the Overlooked Gem

Oh, even the keenest eye can fail to catch initial sight of such radiant wonders, though they glimmer like earthbound stars amid the muck and mire.

I have such a jewel to exalt—a film, in fact. Few praises of mine have been heaped upon contemporary films these days, but I would be remiss to let an encomium to the following work of art go unspoken.

The name of the movie is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a mesmerizing anthology written, produced and directed by infamous genius-brethren Ethan and Joel Coen in 2018. I watched the two-hour wonder last night in bed via Netflix and I must say: rarely have I been so satisfied by a fairly random selection from the queue. Six enthralling original tales of the desperation, thanklessness, arbitrary ruthlessness, and general lack of mercy surrounding the human species and its condition amid the beleaguered world and its vicissitudes.

Of course, we are speaking of the Coen Brothers, here, so these six brilliantly filmed stories are set against the backdrop of the Old West, each vignette festooned with the whimsical blend of mayhem and macabre for which the brothers are rightly renowned. Boasting a superb cast from beginning to end and peppered by marvelous performances from the likes of Liam Neeson, James Franco, Tyne Daly, and Tom Waits, this little masterpiece burrows its philosophical way into the heart of human helplessness and extracts a gleaming bullet of nihilistic merriment. Yeah, you read that correctly.

The whole thing is graced by one of the most creative scores in recent memory: When A Cowboy Gets His Wings was an Oscar-nominated tune from this delicious endeavor.

Tired of reading about the latest anodyne comic book dreck set to infest theaters and streaming services? The Coen Brothers clearly felt the same way when they made this haunting work.

Give it a look-see and be reminded that creatively ambitious films of unique quality and visceral power can still be crafted.

#JonathanKieran #BalladOfBusterScruggs #CoenBrothers #Cinema #WildWest #Anthologies #JonathanKieranWriter #FilmReviews #ContemporaryWesterns

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