The movies of Joel and Ethan Coen inspire an almost fanatical urge among film fans to start arguing. Earlier this year, comedian Paul Rust did an emoji ranking of the Coens that ignited a Twitter battle over whether No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, or Fargo is their best. Every so often someone will make a semi-controversial case for something like, say, Intolerable Cruelty.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, their new film out on Netflix November 16, offers the opportunity to argue on a micro level. It's an anthology film made up of six stories that don't intersect, though they're all Westerns and are all, in some way or another, about death. As for their quality: Your mileage may vary. Scruggs is sure to provoke years of debates. Which is the best? Maybe it's the opener, a goofy musical starring Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs himself, a country crooner/cocky sharpshooter. Or perhaps you like -- as I do -- the pitch-black "Meal Ticket," with Liam Neeson as a ruthless peddler who makes his living trotting out an orator with no arms and legs (Harry Melling, a.k.a. Dudley from the Harry Potter movies).
Then again, you might respond best to the longest entry, "The Gal Who Got Rattled," which mixes romance and perverse tragedy on the Oregon trail. A popular choice (based on conversations I've had) has been "All Gold Canyon," with Tom Waits as an ornery but determined miner. That's the only one in which the hero survives.