Saturday, August 10, 2013

Before It Was A TV Show, It Was A Movie

 Many years before there was NASHVILLE, the popular weekly ABC network soap opera TV show, there was NASHVILLE, the award-winning musical drama movie directed by Robert Altman.

Filmed on location a little over a year after we graduated from Vanderbilt (July, August & September 1974), the movie was greatly disliked by the local country music community which thought it ridiculed their talent and sincerity.  But many movie critics liked it. Said Roger Ebert: "After I saw it, I felt more alive, I felt I understood more about people. I felt somewhat wiser. It's that good a movie."

Indeed, NASHVILLE was selected for preservation in 1992 by the United States National Film Registry and is considered one of Robert Altman's best works. It was nominated for four Oscars (winning for Best Song, "I'm Easy") and a record nine Golden Globes (but again, winning only for "I'm Easy").   It's #59 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies ranking and "I'm Easy" is #81 on the group's "100 Years...100 Songs" list.

But despite grossing almost $10 million dosmestically on a $2 million production budget, there were critics who found it superficial and overrated, some even hated the film for what they thought were its aesthetic shortcomings, pessimism, cynicism and sexism.

In my mind, it had one of the strangest movie trailers I can remember. Maybe that's because it was trying to explain the many,  sometimes overlapping plot lines of a film involving 24 main characters (its quite an ensemble cast), and an hour of musical numbers. Watch it for yourself....

Looking back, I think the movie certainly captures the look and feel of the Nashville we knew while we were in school here at Vanderbilt (including the interstate traffic pileup gridlock scene). Oddly the film (which you can watch in full on YouTube) still  retains a ring of currency in its politics. The central part of the movie revolves around the efforts of a political operative and a local businessman to stage a concert rally (at the Parthenon) before the state's presidential preference primary for a populist outsider running for President of the United States on the Replacement Party ticket. Remarkably, the film was shot almost two years before the rise of Jimmy Carter to the White House yet also still captures the Tea Party (Replacement Party) feel that exists today.

The NASHVILLE movie has been back in the news in recent days because of the death (after a long public struggle with cancer) of one its stars, Karen Black. Her star shown quite brightly while we were at Vanderbilt, especially her appearances in two blockbuster pictures EASY RIDER and FIVE EASY PIECES.

She won two Golden Globes awards and had one Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress during her prolific (well over 50 movies) and varied careeer on the screen. Here's an interesting overview of some of her roles and accomplishments.....

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