Friday, 4 September 2020

A Masterpiece

I knew there must be a good reason why I recently became a Netflix subscriber (and no, it wasn't the prospect of Harry and Meghan's stimulating contributions). The immediate reason was to watch Unorthodox, which proved a bit of a disappointment, and since then I've watched a few other things. But then, the other evening, in a flash of revelation, it came back to me, the good reason – it was to watch The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, the Coen brothers' western anthology film, available only (I believe) on Netflix.
  I expected it to be good – it's the Coen brothers after all, and they rarely slip up – but I had no idea this collection of short films was going to be so good, so good it left me reeling. It's a masterpiece of storytelling and myth-making, cinematography, casting, production design, music, everything – and all infused with the Coens' characteristic blend of pungent comedy and dark drama. It is also at times intensely and unexpectedly moving. There are six films, each one taking off from an old-style illustration in a (fictional) book of western stories, and it's a tribute to the strength of these tales that I, with my sieve-like memory for narrative, vividly remember each one and could even provide a synopsis if required. I'm not going to do that here (they're handily summarised in Wikipedia, where the cast for each film is also listed). What I'll do is join in the critics' game of ranking the six films. So here's my ranking, for what it's worth – and even the least of the six is, in my estimation, way above virtually anything else I've seen in recent years:

1. The Gal Who Got Rattled.
2. The Mortal Remains.
3. Meal Ticket.
4. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
5. Near Algodones.
6. All Gold Canyon.


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  3. I did not type Nigellas and it's stopping me deleting them. I blame the lockdown

  4. Ah it's deleted them. You;'re right, an unconditional masterpiece. I shall watch it again

  5. Glad you got around to it at last! Wonderful indeed. Making me think of another rewatch! On Netflix stuff that's actually good, we just watched Paddleton and would recommend it.

  6. Thanks for the tip Kate – will look it out.

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  8. Not being a huge fan of 50's modernist architecture, and aware of India's seeming inability to close down C-19, I returned to the matter in hand; the continuing wizardry of the brothers Coen. What a duo they are. Viewed it a few days after Netflix released it, and with Tom Waits as an added draw, what could go wrong? Thankfully, almost nothing. 'Masterpiece' might, for me, be a step too far, but here was a 'modernist western' full of the usual mad twists that the brothers have made their own. 9.5

  9. I think I'll leave the Punjabi architects in place – makes a nice change from all those movers and packers offering to help with my extensive Indian property portfolio hem hem.

  10. I had been putting off watching it, but I will make sure I do so now!

    just to add a further reminder to check out fargo season 2 if you're ever after something excellent on netflix

    (there's not much else good on there to be honest, although first season of Chefs Table is high quality)

  11. Fargo's definitely on my list...



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