‘The Mortal Remains’ depicts a quintet of passengers riding in a stagecoach to a mysterious hotel. Two of the passengers, the Englishman and the Irishman, are revealed to be bounty hunters (or “harvesters of souls,” as they put it) while the other three are a trapper, a gambler and an upright religious sort. Each offers a monologue on, essentially, the meaning of life.
The penultimate segment of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, titled ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled,’ is the film’s longest. In fact, I could see this one being effectively fleshed out to feature length had the Coen Brothers wanted to go in that direction.
Starring Zoe Kazan as Alice Longabaugh, a young woman following the Oregon Trail to the vague promise of an arranged marriage, and Bill Heck as Billy Knapp, one of the cowboys charged with escorting the caravan, this is one of the most earnestly romantic stories the Coens have ever told.
‘All Gold Canyon,’ the fourth segment of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, is the only one in which a main character doesn’t die. It’s also the only one adapted entirely from another source — in this case, Jack London’s short story of the same name.
An unrecognizable Tom Waits stars as a prospector who ventures into the most beautiful, pristine canyon you’ve ever seen and begins digging for pocket gold.
Liam Neeson stars as an impresario who travels from town to town with his act, an armless, legless man nicknamed Harrison the Wingless Thrush (played beautifully by Harry Melling, Dudley in the Harry Potter films). While he might look like a carnival side show act, Harrison’s talent is in his oratory. He eloquently delivers poetry, Shakespeare, Biblical verses and famous speeches from atop a stool.
This segment is a lot less cartoonish than the opener but it’s the second most comical of the six. The Coens ease viewers into the darkness, which hits with a wallop in the next chapter.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma leads the pack, followed by (in no particular order) Vice, Mary Poppins Returns, If Beale Street Could Talk, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, The Favourite and Widows. Plus a host of movies from earlier in the year I need to catch up with at home: Hearts Beat Loud, The Rider, The Oath and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, to name a few.
My desert island countdown continues (see Monday’s post for the full explanation).
Desert Island Musical Artists – #1 – Bob Dylan
Dylan was the man when I first became a true music fan, listening to his old LPs on a turntable on the island of my 10th grade bedroom. He’s still the man three decades later.