Roger Thomas Review: Not one western story, but rather 5

Published 3:55 pm Friday, February 1, 2019

Two of the most talented directors have another film in theaters right now. In fact, it might be on Netflix by now. The film is “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

Actually, if I am honest, this film is not one movie, but rather five short ones.

First, this collection, or quintet of stories, is from a pair of two very talented brothers.

Roger Thomas

Through the years, Joel and Ethan Coen have created many films that have moved, inspired and amused.

I will not list them all, but here are a few of my favorite Coen films: “Barton Fink;” “The Big Lebowski;” “Burn After Reading;” “Fargo;” “Inside Llewyn Davis;” “The Man Who Wasn’t There;” “O Brother, Where Art Thou;” and “A Serious Man.”

And, of course, I left out the Coens most successful endeavor. The one film that has brought Joel and Ethan to Oscar gold in the form of Best Picture trophies is, “No Country for Old Men.”

Overall, “No Country” won four Oscars: Directors, Writers, Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem) and Best Picture.

However, this column has a different subject.

The Coen Brothers once again have a film in the Oscar race. This one does not have a place in the top categories, but ultimately, someone should, and probably is, cheering for Joel and Ethan Coen. The three awards “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is nominated for are: Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, and Original Song.

There are many elements of “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” that are appealing.

First, the film reveals five separate stories. The tales play one at the time. They are not intertwined. Each has a beginning and an ending before the next one starts.

The separate stories are all interesting. There are comic elements and some serious scenes.

Overall, the separate stories all have Coen touches that are undeniable.

As stated above, the film does have an Oscar nomination for costumes. All the wardrobes of the characters are worthy of that Oscar nomination. However, I would have voted for a few other nominations.

I believe the film should have been applauded for film editing. Roderick Jaynes is listed as the editor, but actually Joel and Ethan Coen did the “cutting” of the film.

The Coens have edited their own films for years, and they offer the name of Roderick Jaynes on the credits.

There are other creative items that deserve praise. The production design in all five stories is outstanding, and there is a great bit of variety among each. Details like this is why Coen films are so special.

The Oscars have offered a “Song Nomination” for “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” I love the title of the song: “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings.” This song is written by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch.

On another year, they might have taken the trophy home. Unfortunately, the “Best Song” category has some steep competition; besides the song from “Buster Scruggs” there are a song from “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “RBG.” The safe money is on the song “Shallow” from the outstanding musical “A Star Is Born.”

So, it is not really looking good for the song nomination for “When a Cowboy Trades” to win.

The competition for “Best Costume” is also fierce: “Black Panther,” “The Favourite,” “Mary Poppins Returns” and “Mary Queen of Scots.” That is a lot of royalty and fancy costumes. A little more decorative than the “Buster Scruggs” costumes.

Buster Scruggs only other chance for gold is “Adapted Screenplay.”

“BlacKkKlansman,” “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “A Star Is Born” are the competition.

The Coen Brothers could succeed, but if not, I am sure those brothers are already working on their next project, and it, too, will probably get Oscar nominations.

So, if you get a chance, lasso “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

It is a fun film created by two film masters.

Roger W. Thomas of Albemarle reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.