Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, Liam Neeson, James Franco, Zoe Kazan, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Waits, Willie Watson, David Krumholtz, Stephen Root, Ralph Ineson, Harry Melling
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Western anthology written, directed, and produced by the Coen brothers. The story is told in six chapters which present a different story from the wild frontier. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs tells the story of sharp-shooting songster, Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson). In Near Algodones, a wannabe bank robber (James Franco) gets his due and then some. Meal Ticket, is a gothic tale about two weary travelling performers (Liam Neeson and Harry Melling).
All Gold Canyon is a story about a prospector (Tom Waits) mining for gold, while a woman, Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan), finds an unexpected promise of love, along with a dose of life’s cruel irony, on a wagon train across the prairies in The Gal Who Got Rattled. Finally, ghostly laughs haunt The Mortal Remains as a Lady (Tyne Daly) rains judgment upon a motley crew of strangers undertaking a final carriage ride.
Our Favorite Quotes:'Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.' - Billy Knapp (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) Click To Tweet 'I believe certainty regarding that which we can see and touch, it is seldom justified, if ever.' - Billy Knapp (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) Click To Tweet 'We all love hearing about ourselves, so long as the people in the stories are us, but not us.' - Englishman (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) Click To Tweet
Best Quotes (Total Quotes: 26)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs:
[first lines; after he’s finished singing]
Buster Scruggs: A song never fails to ease my mind out here in the West, where the distances are great and the scenery monotonous. Additionally, my pleasing baritone seems to inspirit ol’ Dan here and keep him in good heart during the day’s measure of hoof clops. Ain’t that right, Dan?
[his horse neighs]
Buster Scruggs: Maybe some of y’all have heard of me. Buster Scruggs, known to some as the San Saba Songbird. I got other handles, nicknames, appellations, and cognomens, but this one here I don’t consider to be even halfway earned.
[he holds up a wanted poster of himself with the nickname “The Misanthrope” on it]
Buster Scruggs: Misanthrope? I don’t hate my fellow man, even when he’s tiresome and surly and tries to cheat at poker. I figure that’s just a human material, and him that finds in it cause for anger and dismay is just a fool for expecting better. Ain’t that right, Dan?
Buster Scruggs: I’d like me a splash of whiskey to wash the trail dust off me gullet and keep my singing voice in fettle.
Cantina Bartender: Whiskey’s illegal. This is a dry county.
[referring to the men in the cantina]
Buster Scruggs: Well, what are they drinking?
Cantina Bartender: Whiskey. They is outlaws.
Buster Scruggs: Oh! Well, don’t let my white duds and pleasant demeanor fool ya. I too have been known to violate the statutes of man, and not a few of the laws of the Almighty.
Cantina Bad Man: You ain’t no outlaw. And we don’t drink with tinhorns.
Buster Scruggs: Sir, it seems that you are no better a judge of human beings than you are a specimen of one. Just on a brief inventory, I’d say that you could use yourself a shave and a brighter disposition. And lastly, if you don’t mind me aspersing your friends, a better class of drinking buddy.
Cantina Bad Man: Your shooting iron work?
[Buster suddenly shoots him in the head]
Buster Scruggs: It appears to do, yes.
[the man falls down dead]
[after shooting everyone in the cantina, one of the men starts crawling on the floor]
Buster Scruggs: It appears that the vitals of this lucky son of a gun remain unpunctured. Sloppy shooting on my part.
[he walks over to the crawling wounded man and opens the canteen door]
Buster Scruggs: Here now, I’ll get that for you, partner. A coup de grâce I’ll leave to the wolves and gila monsters. dios, amigo.
Buster Scruggs: I’m Buster. Buster Scruggs.
Curly Joe: Buster Scruggs? The runt from Reata Pass? And dis-pistoled.
[he takes his gun out and points it at Buster]
Buster Scruggs: I do hail from Reata Pass, which is in the county of San Saba, being the which-a-why the San Saba Songbird is my sobriquet of preference. But right now, I’d appreciate it if you deposit your weapon in the receptacle by the swinging doors, which concealing of it on your person in the first place was a violation of the rules of this establishment, and an offense against local norms.
[Curly Joe cocks his gun]
Curly Joe: And if I don’t?
[Buster suddenly repeatedly kicks a plank in the poker table, which tips Joe’s gun hand so that his gun points backwards and shoots into his face, killing him]
Buster Scruggs: I’m not a devious man by nature, but when you’re unarmed, your tactics might got to be downright Archimedean.
Curly Joe’s Brother: You’re Buster Scruggs? The West Texas Twit?
Buster Scruggs: I assume you meant West Texas Tit, on account of that particular bird’s mellifluous warble.
Curly Joe’s Brother: Call yourself any damn name you please. I want to see you outside, wearing iron!
[as he’s making his way to have a gunfight with Curly Joe’s brother]
Buster Scruggs: Things have a way of escalating out here in the West with one thing leading to another, but I should be able to make pretty short work of this ramified old son of a gun.
[Buster shoots off Curly Joe’s brother’s index finger]
Buster Scruggs: Hard to trigger with them other fingers, but…
[Buster then shoots off each of Curly Joe’s brother’s fingers of his right hand]
Buster Scruggs: …you can’t be too careful.
[Curly Joe’s brother then tries to draw his gun with his left hand]
Buster Scruggs: Woh. Looks like when they made this fella, they forgot to put in the quit.
[Curly Joe’s brother continues to wail]
Buster Scruggs: Five fingers at a bullet a piece. I ain’t got but the one bullet left. Sure hope I don’t miss.
[Buster turns, and points the gun backwards and looks at Curly Joe’s brother with a hand mirror]
Buster Scruggs: Let me see here. His heart would be on the left, but in the mirror it’d be on the right. Of course, we is both facing the same way and the gun is upside down, so. Yeah, best not to play it too fancy.
[he shoots and kills Curly Joe’s brother]
Buster Scruggs: Cause for reflection.
[a young singing cowboy in black rides into town]
The Kid: Buster Scruggs.
Buster Scruggs: The same.
The Kid: You make a sweet noise there, partner. That’s high praise coming from the San Saba Song Bird. Herald of Demise. I’ve been hunting you up on account of they say you’re the one to beat, singing and slinging guns.
[we then see Buster and The Kid getting ready for a gunfight]
Buster Scruggs: Another young fella with something to prove. I got to set myself up in the undertaking business. Stop doing all the skill work so another man can profit. But then, do I want to wear a black suit?
The Kid: You need a count?
Buster Scruggs: No, sir.
[just then The Kid shoots at Buster, Buster takes off his hat to see the hole in the hat]
Buster Scruggs: Well, that ain’t good.
[he then takes out his mirror and sees he’s been shot through his forehead and then drops down dead]
Buster Scruggs: [voice over] I should have seen this coming. Can’t be top dog forever.
[as Buster’s spirit rises from his body and floats towards heaven]
Buster Scruggs: [voice over] There’s just got to be a place up ahead where men ain’t low down, and poker’s played fair. If there weren’t, what are all the songs about? I’ll see y’all there, and we can sing together and shake our heads over all the meanness in the used to be.
[as the cowboy regains consciousness he finds himself on his horse, with his hands tied and a noose around his neck that’s tied to the tree branch above him]
Posse Leader: Do you have anything to say before the sentence is carried out?
Cowboy: The sentence? What’s my sentence?
[the men in the posse chuckle]
Posse Leader: Son, we just held some proceedings here for attempted bank robbery. Now you was off your nut feverish for most of the goings on, but it was a fair trial like we do here in New Mexico. These peers convicted you. I passed the sentence of death and we found us this tree. Now this here is your opportunity to speak your piece before sentence is carried out.
Cowboy: That pan-covered son of a bitch back at the bank don’t hardly fight fair, in my opinion.
Posse Leader: Okay. That it?
Cowboy: I reckon it is.
[to the captured cowboy]
Bailiff: No hats in the presence of Judge Hobby.
[he tosses the cowboys hat to the ground]
Judge: What’d this sumbitch do?
Cowboy: Sir, I…
Bailiff: Hold your tongue! Sumbitch is a stock rustler.
Bailiff: Your Honor.
Cowboy: Yes, Sir. I never…
Bailiff: Hold your tongue! He was caught driving rustled beeves.
Judge: Good enough. Hang him.
[to the man next to him who’s about to be hanged also]
Cowboy: First time?
Blubberer: [confused] Huh?
[reciting a poem to the audience]
Artist: My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
All Gold Canyon:
Prospector: Where are you, Mr. Pocket? You to the left, to the right, or straight up the middle? Well, we’ll just have to see, won’t we? We’ll just have to see.
[as he takes an owl’s egg from its nest to eat with his meal]
Prospector: How high can a bird count anyway?
[after the young man has shot him in the back]
Prospector: You measly skunk. You shot me in the back!
[he cries out as he looks at the bullet wound]
Prospector: It went clean through. He didn’t hit nothing important.
[he starts sobbing]
Prospector: He didn’t hit nothing important. Nothing important. Just guts is all you had!
The Gal Who Got Rattled:
Mother: What are you doing, Israel?
Israel: Walking backwards. Going to walk the rest of the way to Oregon backwards.
Mother: Don’t do that.
Israel: Why not?
Mother: I said don’t do that.
[his father whips him]
Father: Don’t do that!
Billy Knapp: That man is a wonder. Well, he can read the prairie like a book. To see him cut for sign, well, you’d think the good Lord dealt us each our five senses and bottom dealt Mr. Arthur one extra. Still, he is old. I don’t know how it’ll go for him, but I can’t help feeling in the wrong.
Alice Longabaugh: Your first responsibility is to your household.
Billy Knapp: Yes, but…
Alice Longabaugh: I’m sorry. I should not dismiss it with an easy apothegm.
Billy Knapp: Yes.
Alice Longabaugh: Gilbert had a saying for any situation. A ready bit of wisdom. He was very certain.
Billy Knapp: He was a doughface?
Alice Longabaugh: How did… Oh!
[she laughs nervously]
Alice Longabaugh: Yes. He was an admirer of President Pierce, yes. He had fixed political beliefs. All of his beliefs were quite fixed. He would upbraid me for being wishy-washy. I never had his certainties. I suppose it is a defect.
Billy Knapp: I don’t think it’s a defect at all. Oh, no. Uncertainty. That is appropriate for matters of this world. Only regarding the next are we vouchsafed certainty.
Alice Longabaugh: Yes.
Billy Knapp: I believe certainty regarding that which we can see and touch, it is seldom justified, if ever. Down the ages, from our remote past, what certainties survive? And yet we hurry to fashion new ones. Wanting their comfort. Certainty, is the easy path. Just as you said.
[to Alice; as an Indian war party is riding towards them]
Mr. Arthur: If they catch you, it won’t be so good. After they take off every stitch of your clothes and have their way with you, they’ll stretch you out with a rawhide, and then they’ll drive a stake through the middle of your body into the ground, and then they’ll do some other things, and we can’t have that. Now, we ain’t licked yet. But if we are, you know what to do.
[as the Indian war party is riding towards them]
Mr. Arthur: They ain’t going to do this all day. This’ll tell the tale.
The Mortal Remains:
[after the trapper has told his story about his past relationship with a Native woman]
Irishman: Did you love her?
Trapper: Oh, I don’t know. I never even knew her name, but I will say this. The nature of them vocal intonations and the play of feeling upon her face, helped me to gather that, uh, people are like ferrets, or a beaver. All pretty much alike. Yeah, one like the next. I don’t doubt it’s the same, even if you travel to Siam.
Lady: People are not the same. There are two kinds, utterly distinct.
Englishman: And what would those be, madam?
Frenchman: Lucky and unlucky?
Irishman: No, hale and frail. Difficult to knock to the floor, or wilting.
Lady: Those are not the two kinds. You well know the two kinds.
Trapper: One kind. Ain’t no two kinds. Unless you mean trapper and townsman.
Lady: Upright and sinning. Don’t be a fool.
Trapper: Fool? Oh, yes. I know, “tedious fool”. You’re not the first to lodge that complaint. I challenge your credentials, madam, for assessing human worth. People are like ferrets.
Lady: People are not like ferrets, and I speak not on my own authority, but on that of the Holy Bible. And here I speak on high authority.
Trapper: What is your business?
Englishman: Well, I like to say that we’re reapers.
Irishman: Harvesters of souls.
Englishman: We help people who have been adjudged to be ripe.
Trapper: You’re bounty hunters.
Englishman: Literal man! Cruel man! Yes, fine. Bounty hunters. An ugly title. As if emolument were the point.
Englishman: Just as you said, madame, there are two kinds of people. In our business, they are dead or alive.
Frenchman: So you will take them alive?
Englishman: I didn’t say that.
Trapper: Neither do I take them alive. of course, it’s entirely different business, and I work alone.
Englishman: Yes, well, we’re a duo, a tandem, a team. They’re so easily taken when they’re distracted, people are. So, I’m the distractor with a little story, a little conversation, a song, a sparkle. And Clarence does the thumping while their attention is on me.
Irishman: He’s very good, this one. You should see him.
Englishman: No, he’s good.
Irishman: I can thump.
[referring to the story he tells their targets to distract them]
Englishman: You know the story, but people can’t get enough of them, like little children. Because, well, they connect the stories to themselves, I suppose, and we all love hearing about ourselves, so long as the people in the stories are us, but not us. Not us in the end especially. “The Midnight Caller gets him, never me. I’ll live forever.” I must say, it’s always interesting watching them after Clarence has worked his art, watching them negotiate the passage.
Englishman: From here to there. To the other side. Watching them try to make sense of it as they pass to that other place. I do like looking into their eyes as they try to make sense of it. I do. I do.
Trapper: Try to make sense of what?
Englishman: All of it.
[woman] And do they ever succeed?
Englishman: How would I know? I’m only watching.
Total Quotes: 26
What do you think of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs quotes? Let us know what you think in the comments below as we’d love to know.
Michael Morrison says
So, if we feed your word salad to a hungry rabbit and examine the resulting pellets for any real meaning, you didn’t like the film and suppose that anyone who does, does so only because, “It’s the Coens and I’m supposed to like what they do”?
At no point do you actually offer any substantive criticism, just a tortured exercise in cutesy snark. 353 words that amount to a little boy dressing up in his father’s over-sized clothes to play “pretend movie critic.”
You don’t HAVE to like it, but one would think that if you’re really that passionate about dislking it, you might expend some of that effort invested in showing how clever you are in to actually saying WHY you didn’t like it.
Snide cynicism is a poor subsitute for wit, but I’m sure the folks who love you think you’re super cool and edgy.
Mark Febbo (Knoxville) says
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs “BS”
Well I just saw Buster Scruggs and I’ve got to say I’m worried. A recent phenomenon has emerged in the celebrity field that has the mental health industry abuzz. It’s so new they’re still fighting over what to name it but it breaks down like this. A very talented and successful entertainment character begins toying with the idea that based on a solid track record of knocking it right out of the park repeatedly we have to watch and admire what they do no matter how outrageously bad it may be. This eventually turns into a kind of ego fetish that they lose control over because for a good while the idea seems hold up and by this time, they have enough money so they don’t have to pitch their ideas to anyone for approval.
The feeling of power produced by this derangement is fed by the fact that even when they intentionally put bad things on display the reviews are fawning and inane. It works like any drug and the progression from here is not a pretty thing to watch…but we plain can’t help it. As the patient deteriorates so does the grandiose assumption of blanket adulation increase. The disease, as is typical in such mental states, feeds itself assisted by us, the enablers. To illuminate just one example, I will point out Louis CK doing that Horace and Pete thing to wild accolades. Given his advanced affliction the poor man had nowhere else to go after that but where he went. These sufferers invariably come crashing down and by their own hand. He was undoubtedly shocked by all the negative response just as was the Emperor in his new clothes. It’s not too late for the Coens if enough people step up and point out that they can do things that are not OK and they seek immediate treatment. Health professionals are standing by. In the interim though wearing ungainly mittens to work may not be a bad idea. I had a folksy western painting to attach here but I can’t get it to paste.