Song of the Day #4,227: ‘The Death of Queen Jane’ – Oscar Isaac

Best Movies of the 2010s
#2 – Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

My second favorite film by my favorite filmmakers had to be near the top of this list, right?

The Coen Brothers had an excellent decade, starting with True Grit in 2010 and culminating with 2016’s Hail, Caesar! and 2018’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (which appeared earlier on this list, putting them next to Greta Gerwig as the only directors to show up twice).

But their bona fide masterpiece of the 2010’s was Inside Llewyn Davis, a melancholy ode to a struggling folk singer in early-60s Greenwich Village.

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Song of the Day #3,816: ‘The Unfortunate Lad’ – Brendan Gleeson

The final segment of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, to paraphrase Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, really ties the film together.

‘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.

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Song of the Day #3,815: ‘The Gal Who Got Rattled’ – Carter Burwell

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.

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Song of the Day #3,814: ‘Hello, Mr. Pocket!’ – Carter Burwell

‘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.

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Song of the Day #3,813: ‘The Wingless Thrush’ – Carter Burwell

The third chapter of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is by far the bleakest. Following two darkly comic segments, ‘Meal Ticket’ is just plain dark.

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.

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Song of the Day #3,812: ‘Near Algodones’ – Carter Burwell

The second segment of the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is titled ‘Near Algodones’ and stars James Franco as an outlaw cowboy who can’t win for losing.

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.

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Song of the Day #3,811: ‘Surly Joe’ – Tim Blake Nelson

We’re getting close to year’s end, and I have a host of movies left to see that have a shot at cracking my top ten.

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.

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