The next piece of work from the Coen Brothers is an epic six-part western anthology. It's called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and while the most interesting thing about the anthology may be that it was made by the Coen Brothers for Netflix, the first trailer for the production is finally here and it is full of beautiful old west vistas, grimy characters, and oddly quirky humor. In other words, this may be the most "Coen Brothers" thing the Coen Brothers have ever made. Check out the trailer below.
Since The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is a six-part anthology, it's not all that shocking that the various pieces of the film that we see in this trailer don't seem to go together. In fact, while the entire film is called The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, it appears that the character of that name, played with an utterly unique humor that only Tim Blake Nelson can provide, will only appear in the one segment that bears his name. From there, we have entirely separate stories that will star the likes of James Franco, who spends an awful lot of time with a noose around his neck, Liam Neeson, and Zoe Kazan, among others.
As somebody with a particular love of O Brother Where Art Thou? among the Coen Brothers' filmography, I'm finding a lot I like here. While that movie was a bit less western than something like True Grit, it was a period piece itself and the humor that permeated that movie certainly seems to be on display here, and not only because Tim Blake Nelson is featured. There's also Stephen Root sounding not unlike his music recording character from that film.
The collection of odd and quirky characters in a world that looks, otherwise, mostly normal, is part of what the Coen Brothers are so good at creating here and while, at first, I was more than a little worried when it turned out The Ballad of Buster Scruggs wasn't a single cohesive film, if each piece of the anthology is at the same level of quality when it comes to the writing and the performance, this could be something special.
The other X-factor here is the fact that that this production is done for Netflix. The streaming service has not been shy in an attempt to spend its time and money creating more high profile original content. Questions of whether The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is Oscar-caliber material would be normal when it comes to the Coen Brothers, and the fact that the film is coming out late in the year would indicate that Netflix certainly thinks so, but one wonders if the fact that this is a Netflix production might count against it.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs hits Netflix November 16.