And this time, I didn’t even have to leave the house. [Fair warning: some generalized spoilers ahead, if you want to be completely surprised].
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs stars an ensemble cast in six short stories set to film. Tim Blake Nelson is a singing gunslinger, James Franco is a hapless bank robber, Liam Neeson is a grasping carny, Tom Waits is an old prospector, Zoe Kazan is a struggling settler, and Tyne Daly appears in the final segment as a flinty Calvinist.
The film is on Netflix, so you can watch it in your den as you order your Amazon and post on your blog. I’m a huge Coen brothers fan but they don’t appeal to everyone. The vignettes are all familiar Coen brothers’ territory, exploring human frailty and struggle for certainty and meaning in an uncertain, meaningless and tragically finite existence. None of the stories end particularly well for the protagonists, with perhaps the exception of Tom Waits’ character in the only non-original part, an adaptation of Jack London’s All Gold Canyon.
The movie is a visual feast and the Coen brothers really know how to set mood and get emotional projection out of their actors. The Coen brothers–two Jews from Minnesota–remain compassionate, respectful chroniclers of the American West and of Christian morality. They also remain, as noted by Steve Sailer, unapologetically white. The only folks of color are the American Indians, in a couple of anonymous and violent appearances.
I haven’t enjoyed a Coen brothers film this much since Miller’s Crossing. Highly recommended, and nothing you wouldn’t mind exposing a well-adjusted teenager to.
I actually did leave the house to go see another movie, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. In contrast to the Coen brothers, J.K. Rowling is exquisitely, apologetically, self-consciously white. Like the Star Wars prequels, it is another of those retrospective schemes to extract mileage out of the current Harry Potter franchise. Jude Law does well as a young Dumbledore, who apparently formerly favored a neat beard and impeccable business suits instead of frumpy wizard garb. By the way, Dumbledore is gay. Yes! Gay as all get out. Had a gay lover and everything. I guess that explains it.
The film is a Diversity grab bag, hitting frequently and heavily on the themes of miscegenation, white privilege, and fascism that occupy so much space in the British mind. The plot is spread thin and illogical over a number of diverse, cardboard characters so every ethnic in the Commonwealth should leave the theater happy.
Johnny Depp chews up the scenery and spits everybody else out as the charismatic really, really white leader of the pure-bloods, who have apparently plagued the Harry Potterverse since at least 1927, when the movie is set. There are one or two other films in the canon, so I’m pretty sure Rowling will get this tied in with Hitler. I cannot imagine the mental life of these people.
As consolation, this will keep Mr. Depp, a demographic peer and actual talent, in fine wine for the next decade.