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‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ Looks Like Netflix’s Next Shot at Oscar Glory

The Coen brothers’ upcoming film doesn’t seem diluted for streaming

The first trailer for Joel and Ethan Coen’s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs dropped Wednesday and, before anything else is said about this movie, there’s one point that I have to make:

Tim Blake Nelson in cowboy get-up looks like a grown-up version of the Yodeling Kid. Nelson, as the eponymous Buster Scruggs, wears a white shirt, a white hat, and an eager-to-please half-smile. Come on, just look at him:

Netflix

As for the rest of the trailer, it looks like Buster Scruggs has all the promise that should come with a movie starring both Tom Waits and Liam Neeson as cowboys. Buster Scruggs is the first Coen brothers movie to be shot on digital and is one of the brothers’ few works not shot by frequent collaborator Roger Deakins (Bruno Delbonnel is the cinematographer this time around), but it still looks to be classic Coen brothers fare, following the Old West aesthetic of O Brother, Where Art Thou; No Country for Old Men; and True Grit. There’s the narration by a man with a husky voice. There’s the shot of a character looking over a vast landscape. This is all to say that this trailer is great, and hopefully the movie will be, too.

The trailer — the first footage Netflix has released — doesn’t as much give a glimpse into the story of Buster Scruggs as it reminds us that Coen brothers movies set in the Old West are a lot of fun to watch. The trailer is a reassuring look at a movie that’s had a confusing path to release. The film was first conceived as the Coens’ first foray into television, and was picked up by Netflix in August 2017 as a six-episode anthology series. “We are streaming motherfuckers!” they said in a press release announcing the news. But in July, the Coen brothers announced that the project — which filmed in Nebraska and New Mexico — had been retooled into a feature film that would maintain a chaptered anthology structure. The film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival to mixed reviews, but earned the Coens the Best Screenplay Award — the second of Netflix’s two major wins at the festival, as Alfonso Cuarón’s highly anticipated Roma took home the Golden Lion award.

After the streaming service earned four Oscar nominations for Mudbound last year, Netflix looks to be aiming for more glory at the Academy Awards with Buster Scruggs, Roma, and 22 July, all films helmed by past Oscar nominees, and all of which have been garnering considerable early awards buzz. While others have scoffed at the idea of a streaming service earning an Academy Award, I, for one, cannot wait for a Coen brothers film that is so obviously inspired by the Yodeling Kid to win an Oscar.