Robert Altman is one of my top ten directors. M*A*S*H is on my list of favorite films of all time. He made many great films (and a small number of stinkers), and this is one of those revolutionary ones that changed the shape of movies forever. His career had its ups and downs. He was in favor, then unpopular, then made a comeback. But Nashville hit us all like a bomb going off in 1975. I was stunned, just sitting there and letting it roll over me.
If anything, I may like it even more today. There’s a nostalgia factor, but it really holds up. It was the first time I realized that a movie doesn’t have to be about plot. There really is very little of that here. It’s all character, incidents compiled almost at random, and of course the music. It is funny, and shocking at the end. There had never been anything like it.
What a cast! And one of the many remarkable things about it is that all the actors wrote and performed their own music! Much of it is frankly parody, but one song, “I’m Easy,” won an Oscar for Keith Carradine. And it’s a good song. Though Nashville was nominated, it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Picture, but it was a tough year, with Dog Day Afternoon, Barry Lyndon, Jaws, and the winner, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Which I think is a damn good movie, but not better than this one, or the Kubrick film. Well, we all know the Academy does not like to be challenged, and both those films were something new on the planet.
Must mention the opening credits. They are in the form of those horrible old K-Tel commercials for music compilation albums, described in a frantic, huckster voice. And we learned that the voice was that of Johnny Grant, who we saw dozens of times on Hollywood Boulevard as he emceed star ceremonies. I’d never have guess it.