Movie: The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs (2018)

All the spoilers all the time.  You have been warned!

My Thoughts While Watching:

Tim Blake Nelson IS every western I remember. Ha  There is something about his bent ears that are holding up his hat that puts me into a fit of giggles.  Husband has giggled too, that is a good sign.

Oh yeah, this is a Cohen Brothers movie. *flips coin to see if I will like it…*

Oh shit! He shot off that guy’s fingers!  Wait, Nelson is the main person throughout the movie?  I am good with that.  Wait, Nelson dies?!?  Wait, this is the song nominated for an Oscar? (hard pass on the song – it IS a western song but not an Oscar award-winning one…).  I believe I am confused. Ah! This is in chapters.  *furiously looks up what TF is going on with this movie and confirms that it has six chapter stories which are individual of each other*  …meh?

Holy crap! Liam Neeson! It is nice to see him in a movie that does not require him to chase terrorists who have kidnapped a member of his family! Take, Taken, Tooken.  Is that….I think it is…could it be?? Dudley Dursley?!?  IT IS!!  Holy shit! Liam Neeson IS the terrorist you have to protect your family from…

Final thoughts:  If they had dropped one of the chapters, shortened the time, I would have thought more highly of it.  It is what I come to expect from the Cohen Brothers: a random chance to MAYBE like a movie enough to sit the whole way through.

I can say this for the film – in every chapter the cinematography was amazing.  The colorization is on point.  I would have given it a tick up for best Cinematography.  It is up for an Oscar for Screenplay and Original Song.  I can tell you, without seeing (all of) the others, this will be a no for me on both counts.

Some Interviews and Extra Video:

IMDB Synopsis: Six tales of life and violence in the Old West, following a singing gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling impresario, an elderly prospector, a wagon train, and a perverse pair of bounty hunters.


The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs Chapter:

Tim Blake Nelson  Tim Blake Nelson Buster Scruggs (segment “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)
Willie Watson  Willie Watson The Kid (segment “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)
Clancy Brown Clancy Brown Çurly Joe (segment “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)
Danny McCarthy  Danny McCarthy Curly Joe’s Brother (segment “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)
David Krumholtz David Krumholtz Frenchman (segment “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”)

Near Allgodones Chapter:

James Franco  James Franco Cowboy (segment “Near Algodones”)
Stephen Root  Stephen Root Teller (segment “Near Algodones”)
Ralph Ineson  Ralph Ineson Posse Leader (segment “Near Algodones”)

Meal Ticket Chapter:

Liam Neeson Liam Neeson Impresario (segment “Meal Ticket”)
Harry Melling  Harry Melling Artist (segment “Meal Ticket”)

All Gold Canyon Chapter:

Tom Waits  Tom Waits Prospector (segment “All Gold Canyon”)
Sam Dillon  Sam Dillon Young Man (segment “All Gold Canyon”)

The Gal Who Got Rattled Chapter:

Bill Heck Bill Heck Billy Knapp (segment “The Gal Who Got Rattled”)
Zoe Kazan Zoe Kazan Alice Longabaugh (segment “The Gal Who Got Rattled”)
Grainger Hines  Grainger Hines Mr. Arthur (segment “The Gal Who Got Rattled”)
Jefferson Mays  Jefferson Mays Gilbert Longabaugh (segment “The Gal Who Got Rattled”)

Mortal Remains Chapter:

Jonjo O'Neill Jonjo O’Neill Englishman (segment “The Mortal Remains”)
Brendan Gleeson Brendan Gleeson Irishman (segment “The Mortal Remains”)
Saul Rubinek Saul Rubinek Frenchman (segment “The Mortal Remains”)
Tyne Daly Tyne Daly Lady (segment “The Mortal Remains”)
Chelcie Ross  Chelcie Ross Trapper (segment “The Mortal Remains”)


Ethan Coen
Joel Coen


My ranking scores –

0-19 Levels of: Ugh

20-39 Levels of: Meh (aka I cannot reach the remote)

40-59 Levels of: I don’t hate it?

60-85 Levels of: That was solid.

86-100 Levels of: I Loved It!

I rank this movie a 72.37!



Additional Movie Info:

It received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 92% Fresh.  It received a Rotten Tomato audience rating of 77% liking it.  Average Rating: 3.8/5 with a number of User Ratings: 1,950.

Movie Reviews:

Specs:  Release date: 9 Nov 2018 (USA) / Runtime: 133 minutes / Budget: $?M

IMDB Trivia:

  • The poker hand Buster Scruggs refuses to play in the saloon is infamously known as “the dead man’s hand” (a two-pair of black aces and eights) as legend has it that was the hand held by Wild Bill Hickock when he was shot in the back of the head and killed by the coward Jack McCall.
  • The image of the horse’s backside on the back of the book is actually the logo for the Coen Brother’s production company, Mike Zoss Productions.
  • The first project by the Coen brothers to be shot digitally.
  • In the segment “Meal Ticket”, Harrison begins the show with the poem Ozymandias, by Shelley; he then proceeds to quote from Genesis chapter 4 (the story of Cain and Abel), Sonnet 30 by William Shakespeare, Sonnet 29 also by Shakespeare, then ends with the Gettysburg Address, by Abraham Lincoln. When they are collecting contributions from the audience, Harrison is repeating Prospero’s speech from “The Tempest”, act 4 scene 1 which is also spoken at the end of a performance.
  • “All Gold Canyon” is based on a story by Jack London. “The Gal Who Got Rattled” inspired by a story by Stewart Edward White.
  • Buster Scrugg’s six-shooter, belted at his side, has a name. The gun is called: “Later.” The page in the book in the opening scene also reads “For Buster was a man of whimsy, given to naming his accessories”
  • In the segment “Meal Ticket” a sign can be seen in the background for an establishment called “Greaser Bob’s.” This seems to be a reference to the Coens’ True Grit (2010), in which the establishment is mentioned by a passing trader but not shown.
  • The song Surly Joe was first heard in a movie in the James Stewart western, Destry Rides Again (1939), under the title Little Joe, the Wrangler.
  • In the “Meal Ticket” segment, a chicken with “no formal education” performs amazing mathematical calculations. Later, in the “All Gold Canyon” segment, the prospector returns all but one egg to a nest and asks “How high can a bird count anyway?”
  • The second song sung by Liam Neeson is The Sash. This is also known as The Sash My Father Wore. A ballad from the Irish province of Ulster commemorating the victory of King William III in the Williamite War in Ireland in 1690 to 1691.
  • The song playing over the intro of the film is an instrumental version of “The Street of Laredo”, aka the “Cowboy’s Lament”, The song, derived from an old Irish ballad and first made famous by Marty Robbins in the 1950s, is about a cowboy who has been fatally shot and, in his last dying moments, asks a passing cowboy to see to his funeral procession.
  • Zoe Kazan, who is in a segment “The Gal Who Got Rattled” also starred in Meek’s Cutoff (2010) which also is a movie about Oregon Trail.
  • Buster Scruggs introduces himself by his “sobriquet of preference”, the “San Saba Songbird”, and also states that he hails from west Texas. Tommy Lee Jones, star of the Coen brothers’ movie . No Country for Old Men (2007), was born in the small west Texas town of San Saba.
  • The song “Cool Water” Buster Scruggs sings in the opening of the film was written in 1936 by Bob Nolan of “the Sons of the Pioneers” and was recorded by them in 1941. It has been sung in various westerns, notably in 1945 by Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers in the western movie “Along the Navajo Trail.” The song contains the lyrics “Keep on moving Dan, don’t you listen to em’ Dan, he’s a devil not a man, and he spreads the burnings sands with water.” And “Dan can’t you see that big green tree, where the waters runnin’ free and it’s waitin’ there for you and me.” These lyrics can also be found in the song “Water” by California punk rock band Falling Idols. The song was recorded in 1982 and released on their self titled 1984 album.
  • After the altercation with Curly (Surly) Joe, Scruggs comments that he is not by nature a devious man, but when unarmed your tactics might be Archimedean. He’s referring to Archimedes who was known in ancient Greece for, among other things, applying the principles of mathematics to the lever. Buster used the tabletop plank as a lever against Joe.

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