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The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

This quirky film by Joel and Ethan Coen earned three nominations for the 2019 Oscars, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Original Song. It was also listed on numerous "top ten" films of the year lists. The movie is a good example of the changing distribution channels and funding of even mainstream movies — the film was available on Netflix just one week after its release in nationwide theaters. The genre here is unique: it's really a mini-anthology of six unrelated vignettes that are set in America's wild west, and that feature the likes of James Franco and Liam Neeson. The episodes include a guitar strumming gunslinger, a bank robber, a traveling entertainer, an elderly prospector, a wagon train, and a perverse pair of bounty hunters. As you would expect from the Coen brothers, there is gratuitous violence, absurdist and black humor, romance, poignant drama, and spectacular scenery from the filming in New Mexico, Nebraska, and Colorado. There is also their signature reflection on our human condition. We often valorize the wild west, but for the Coens it was also a violent and even nihilistic time and place.

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