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If you threw a lasso at six 19th century Western mini-sketches and tied them together, like an old, clothbound anthology, they’d resemble Ethan and Joel Coen’s latest cinematic diversion.

Diminutive baritone Tim Blake Nelson plays the titular singing sharpshooter, “The Kid,” a white-clad psychopath who lives by his own ethical code, meaning: he doesn’t use his gun unless he’s provoked – wryly evoking the guitar-strumming era of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.

In the second episode, “Near Algodones,” a dim-witted cowboy (James Franco) robs a bank, faces a lynch mob and winds up under a cottonwood tree with his neck in a noose – twice.

Then there’s “Meal Ticket,” introducing Liam Neeson as the grizzled impresario of a touring show, starring Hamilton, the Wingless Thrush, a frail, legless, armless “artist” (Harry Melling) who dutifully recites from Shakespeare, Milton, Shelly, the Bible and the Gettysburg Address.

That’s followed by “All Gold Canyon,” based on a Jack London story, featuring a dogged old prospector (Tom Waits) who strikes gold in a remote valley with a river running through it.

“The Gal Who Got Rattled” revolves around Alice Longabaugh (Zoe Kazan), a lovely young pioneer whose brother has contracted to marry her off to a rich, old man but, while traveling West on the Oregon Trail, her plans are revised by a proposal from the handsome wagon master (Bill Heck), evoking resentment in his longtime partner (Grainger Hines).

Finally “The Mortal Remains” shows five passengers – Brendan Gleeson, Jonjo O’Neill, Saul Rubinek, Chelcie Ross and Tyne Daly – riding in a claustrophobic stagecoach on a cosmic plateau.

Superbly photographed in Colorado, New Mexico and Nebraska by Bruno Delbonnel, Carter Burwell’s beautiful score ties everything together.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” is a cynical, savvy 7, consisting of existential, bleakly humorous vignettes.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.