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Posts Tagged ‘Tim Blake Nelson’

Tim Blake Nelson as Buster Scruggs

“THE BALLAD OF BUSTER SCRUGGS”  My rating: B (Now available on Netflix)

132 minutes | MPAA rating: R

At one point In the Coen Brothers’ “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” several condemned miscreants stand on the scaffold awaiting the long drop.  One man sobs inconsolably; the guy to  his right tries to be sympathetic: “Your first time?”

Now playing on Netflix, “Ballad…” might be considered a toss off…but it’s a hugely enjoyable toss off.

The brothers — Joel and Ethan — have given us six short films set in the Wild West.  They are filled with loquacious characters, memorable faces, off-the-charts beautiful scenery.

In tone they range from comedy (usually of a very dark variety) to O. Henry-ish irony. There are a few moments of sweetness…not that they last. And there are a couple of terrific action sequences.

Zoe Kazan

Of course, the Coens aren’t exactly new to the genre, having given us a brilliant version of “True Grit,” not to mention the sobering modern Western “No Country for Old Men.”  Here they seem to be reveling in the opportunity to pay  homage to traditional Western tropes while playfully thumbing their noses at same.

A broad comic tone is set with the opening segment, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” which features Tim Blake Nelson as a geeky parody of singing movie cowboys.  Buster wears an all-white suit, strums his guitar while riding (“he was mean in days of yore/now they’re mopping up the floor”), and cheerfully blows away anyone who gets in his way, employing a variety of trick shots. Of course, there’s always someone faster on the draw.

“Near Algodones” finds James Franco playing an outlaw with the world’s worst luck. A banker (Stephen Root) doesn’t take kindly to being robbed and fights back wearing armor made of kitchen pots and pans. The outlaw survives one lynching (it’s interrupted by an Indian attack) but he can’t rely on that sort of happy coincidence the next time he’s got a rope around his neck. The whole thing looks as if it were lifted from a Sergio Leone film.

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Sam Waterston, Kristin Stewart

Sam Waterston, Kristin Stewart

“ANESTHESIA” My rating: B-

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Like the Oscar-winning “Crash,” Tim Blake Nelson’s “Anesthesia” delivers a handful of well-known performers in a series of interlocking stories built around a theme.

That theme, as close as I can tell, is about the anesthetizing elements of modern urban life, which tends to isolate us and numb us to our feelings and those of our fellow man.

The film begins with a brutal mugging. In the lobby of a Manhattan apartment building a white-haired man (Sam Waterston) is stabbed, robbed and left for dead. From that traumatic introduction the film then flashes back in time to reveal the victim’s recent past as well as the lives of others involved in the incident.

Waterston plays Walter, an NYU philosophy professor who, only as he nears retirement, realizes how little he actually knows. “I used to believe in nothing,” Walter says. “Now I believe in everything.”

One of the things he believes in is offering a helping hand to students like Sophie (Kristen Stewart), a bright young woman who nevertheless is addicted to burning her own flesh with a hot curling iron.  Only then does she really feel anything.

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