The Ballad of Buster Scruggs - The Coen Brothers, a Netflix Western


What is your opinion of the musical quality of the Soggy Bottom Boys?


A+. All the music in that movie was brilliant.

Edit: That scene doesn’t count though, that’s more a dialog scene with singing interspersed.


I was just saying that Tim Blake Nelson sang both songs, as Delmar and Buster.


I’m glad more people have watched it. I’d agree with @Scott_Lufkin that this anthology would have been great with a wrapper tying these together and also @Skipper who wishes for a flushing out one of these as a full movie because they did hook me in.

Except for meal ticket - which I really didn’t like and kept expecting it to be even longer to give an ending similar to the the looney tunes singing frog with the chicken unable to perform for him because the chicken needs an orator to make it happy. That would have been more poetic justice.

Playing devils’ advocate, I think this episodic attempt is similar to authors who do short stories, where they need to get everything on the table in a dense and short version. It creates focus. Because thinking about this several days later, my recollection of all the episodes is very tight. So they are much more memorable than a 2 hour movie would have been, where I would likely recall only the highlights. I would also say that because I now want more - to continue following many of these stories and see how it really ends, the Coen brothers not only succeeded in creating small dense stories, but they left me yearning for more.

For example - I like that Scott said he enjoyed Near Algodones the most because it made me reflect on this. So much happened in such a short time. What was that bank doing out in the middle of nowhere? Where did the teller sleep and eat? Why wasn’t there a place to tie up his horse in front of the bank? Where did the posse come from that was hanging him (the first time)? I found it crazy that the guy who rescues him opens fire to cut the rope, imperilling him as the horse takes off instead of just cutting the rope like in so many other westerns.

So many details that I can recall from such a short episode. Incredible film-making.


This is of course how it’s done in The Good The Bad And The Ugly.


I liked the stagecoach piece best. Such a fine treatise on humanity. Great bits all, and I disagree any of em could or should be dispensed with.


This scene made me laugh because I felt like I would 100% have done this myself in Red Dead 2 - I’d be like “I’m going to shoot this rope” and activate Dead Eye only to realize I have almost no time left in Dead Eye mode, fire, the horse spooks, I quick throw some chew in my mouth and try again. So awesomely dumb.


That was fun - super fluffy and hardly essential Coens, but a good use of the greater flexibility Netflix allows. A nice tribute to the golden age of the popular short story, the era of O. Henry and Jack London (peering at the end credits, one episode was based on a Jack London story and another on a story by someone whose name I didn’t recognize.)

  • Another fine score by Carter Burwell.
  • The cinematography was great, especially when it was just the natural world and no iffy CGI. This and Llewellyn Davis put Delbonnel on the list of major Coen collaborators, though Deakins and Sonnenfeld still outrank him on the Coen cinematographer front.
  • And the cast was excellent as well, obviously carefully picked for the roles and not the box office. Unlike Hail Caesar none of it felt like stunt casting. Great to see Saul Rubinek (Unforgiven’s J.W. Beauchamp) in another western.
  • Oddly for a Coens film, editing and direction were the weak spot. Meal Ticket in particular was too long for its mordant little point, and the ending was shot and edited all wrong (which is the first time I think I’ve ever said that about a Coens movie.)

You may be overthinking it - the point is just that culture and civilization are nice and all, but people will dump it the first chance they get if they find something that pays better.

Most of the lack of detail in the movie (e.g. the bank in the middle of nowhere) is just the Coens being all stylized, but this one has an actual answer.

The passengers don’t have any bags. Because they’re dead. What, did you think that guy was just being metaphorical when he said he was a reaper?


Well damn … how did I not catch that on the last one? Thank you!


The only Coen brothers film I recall seeing is O Brother, Where Art Thou, which honestly I felt was Hollywood’s take on blackface. Lots of cringing on my part when watching this.

Haven’t seen the Big L yet tho.


I did not catch that! Makes me want to watch that episode again.


I liked this a lot. Not sure which was my favourite story. Meal Ticket worked on so many levels, but probably the final story which was just a fantastic character piece. I loved the gradual desaturation and darkening that took place after the countess started to choke. I took this as the point of her death, underlined by the fact the stagecoach would not and could not stop.


Yeah this was good fun. I enjoyed the Franco one quite alot (“first time?”), but my favorite would be the wagon one with the Indians. Such a great piece of short storytelling, it got me emotionally invested by the end.


I have a completely different take on that stage coach episode.

I was so certain they were dead at the start when they said they were reapers, and the creepy coach driver, and the creepy story being told while the light faded from the world. But then suddenly the coach stopped and they were just at fort whatsit, everything looked normal to me, I think it was really just two bounty hunters and they made the three passengers also feel like they were dead and heading to … hell, maybe. They looked VERY worried, and then super confused when they just got to the fort like a normal trip, the looks on their faces was amazing. I don’t believe they were actually dead at all.


As with the start of A Serious Man, it’s meant to leave you wondering.

In defense of your theory,

if they’re dead, how is it possible there’s a corpse on the roof of the stagecoach? Is that guy a different kind of dead?

On the other hand, under my theory a bunch of things fit in nicely

- like the woman being separated from her husband and her now joining him (he died, then 3 years later she did,) the abrupt end of the trapper’s relationship (when he says “she moved on” he means “she died”) and the gambler’s story building towards a climax but never getting anywhere (presumably because he died during a dispute about the game.)


I fully agree, I think it’s meant to be interpreted. I personally feel it’s more interesting my way, and sort of on the nose the other way.


I enjoyed the heck out of it.

The CGI elk/deer needed to not be there imo. It was just jarring. It didn’t move remotely like it should at any point. Otherwise they were all pretty great. Meal ticket was probably the worst of them, I agree with the too much set up for not enough pay off angle.

As far as the stagecouch I think they were pretty obviously dead. The dead man on top is an interesting point, but perhaps he was just going someplace else/accepted that he had passed while the others obviously hadn’t. Every story was ultimately about death.


Well, the last two pages of the book seems to support your theory.

“The ride here had not been unpleasant but neither had it been pleasant. He couldn’t even recall even its being long or short, and likewise whether the bench had been padded or not, the cabin warm or cold”… “The world’s sights and sounds were not present”…“The trapper, who had spoken so many words and for so long, no longer had use for them”


I saw the story with the wagon train tonight. Man, that was good. That was the first one that felt like a true short story with fleshed out characters (as opposed to a flash story, like the others where we’re not given enough time to really appreciate anything). Well, maybe Meal Ticket was almost there too.

Anyway, the one on the stage coach is next.

The stage coach was great too. Except for the very end. It seemed strange that the other passengers would be so deeply affected.


Er… not really all things considered.