Home > Uncategorized > 2/21/2010 Sunday Screening #14 Nashville:

2/21/2010 Sunday Screening #14 Nashville:

This week we thought we’d try something new. You see our good friends Allen and Becky live in Nashville, TN, and since we picked the Robert Altman movie Nashville as the film, who better then to create the Video-troduction for it? So we inquired if these two Screeners would be interested in taking the reins, and they were and this is the great little video that they came up with…

A huge thank you to Allen and Becky for the Video-troduction, and a look into the town of Nashville. Now hopefully the places presented in the film won’t be as scary and alien as they once seemed. If you are interested in helping out by creating a Video-troduction for an upcoming screening, get in touch with Nate or Paul and we can set something up. We’ve already got a few special surprises in the works, and would like to include as many of you as possible.

Hope you enjoy what my college professor Thomas Schatz would refer to as the “Altmanesque” stylings of Robert Altman’s Nashville.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Becky
    February 17, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    Thanks for the kind words, guys! We had a great time making the intro and we hope everyone will check out the film and join in on the discussion!

  2. Annie
    February 17, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    Really looking forward to up and coming films with Becky’s mom… she is a natural!!!

  3. Becky
    February 21, 2010 at 9:07 PM

    My Mama knows her stuff!

  4. February 21, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    So, I liked that “nothing happens” (of course plenty happens, just not in a traditional, plot-oriented way), I liked the naturalistic performances, I liked the overlapping dialogue, I liked the thematic meshing of politics, business, and music, and I generally liked the songs.

    However, I did not really like the movie. I think this was because I never really cared much for the characters and the situations they found themselves in. I didn’t mind the sprawling, scattershot approach, as it helps give the movie a naturalistic, almost documentary feel that’s effective (to a point). But one result of this is that your attention is divided over many more different narrative threads than usual, so you have the work harder to invest something in each of the characters and storylines they represent – or, you pick one or two favorites and the rest just feels like it’s there as background or filler.

    I’ve enjoyed a multifaceted approach to narrative in other films – such as, for example, in The Thin Red Line. In Terrence Malick’s films, I think there is a more conscious effort to involve the audience through the score, visual atmosphere, and a certain mood; in addition, the characters are portrayed in such a way that their struggles resonate emotionally with the audience. In short, all this gives us a reason to care to sit through a seemingly scattered narrative with many characters to keep track of.

    But in Nashville, I felt like I was being kept at arm’s length from what was going on. I just felt like a random bystander in the Nashville scene, seeing everything but totally uninvolved in any of it. Maybe that was the point, since the film is at least successful at portraying how random life feels. But the result for me was losing interest in the film, about halfway through. The big climax at the end was certainly dramatic, but I can’t say the payoff was worth the wait.

    The best thing I can say is that the film’s naturalism was very appealing. It certainly is an ambitious film, too, and I can admire it from that perspective as well. I just couldn’t sustain interest in it, despite the fact I’ve been able to sustain interest in similarly long films with many characters. Hopefully others’ thoughts will lead me to appreciate the movie more, especially since it’s so well-regarded in American film history.

    However, I definitely enjoyed Becky and Allen’s video intro!

  5. February 22, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    I was not entirely enthusiastic about watching Nashville. A long, rambling film about country and western music isn’t generally my bag. The fact that one of my friends tried several times to watch it and never got more than about 30 minutes through it didn’t fill me with excitement (I’m pretty sure it’s why she dropped out of film school [not really, it’s just more fun to claim that]).

    Anyway, I guess I was pretty surprised that it wasn’t terrible and that I largely enjoyed the music. However, like John, I never really connected to anything. It was a similar experience to watching Magnolia to me, where everything was stretched too thin across the film. The film is so light on plot and character development, that I didn’t really care where it was going. I think to get something out of Nashville, you have to be completely invested in the details and I couldn’t get my mind in that mode.

    What struck me most was that not only did the dialogue seem improvised (which it largely was), all of Altman’s directing choices seemed made up on the spot, too. While it does give it the documentary feel, it was very disjointing and seemingly arbitrary.

    I can see how the film could be influential and lauded in its time, but it doesn’t feel like it holds up to me (though I can’t really attest to that since I didn’t see it when it came out).

    I’ll just leave you with some random thoughts now:

    — The opening credits were amazing. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was some sort of homage to Orson Welles reading the credits to The Magnificent Ambersons in some way in addition to being like a record compilation.

    — I love Henry Gibson and am happy to see him in anything (especially Joe Dante movies)

    — The PA van seems to serve the same function as the PA system in MASH

    — I’d love to see a movie about Jeff Goldblum’s magician character.

    — Shelley Duvall (AAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!)

    — Keith Carradine is fantastic. It took season 2 of Dexter to make me realize that.

  6. Becky
    February 22, 2010 at 7:48 PM

    Ok, I’m so glad I’m not alone on this one! When asked to do the intro clip, Allen and I were super excited to show off our new city and participate in Sunday Screenings. We actually Netflixed (sure, I’ll use that as a verb) the movie pretty far in advance so we could screen it for our preview.

    Wow. We popped it in the old DVD player, and I could only make it though the first 30 minutes, much like Nate’s fake film school drop-out friend. Having many film studies and screenwriting friends, I felt that maybe I just didn’t get it. I had Allen explain to me a lot about Robert Altman’s style and did research on his other films, especially ones I’ve seen, such as Magnolia. The next night, I made it through the rest of the movie.

    I agree with many of Nate’s and John’s points; I can see how it was an important film during the post-Kennedy, cold war era of the 1970s, and also that light plot and character concentration made it difficult to follow. My main issue, which I can only describe in photographer’s terms, is that it just seemed noisy. I love documentaries, but I have problems concentrating when a frame is really cluttered and shot at a wide angle, and I felt that most of the movie looked like a landscape photograph.

    The characters seemed like they could have been interesting, but the overlapping dialogue made it hard for me to follow exactly which ones I should be focusing on, and by the time I realized the characters I should have been paying attention to, it was too late in the movie for me to even care.

    I love all kinds of music, so I really did enjoy that aspect of the film, especially having lived in Nashville for about six months. Some of the music scenes were a bit drawn out for me but I didn’t mind too much since the music was good. I think my favorite part was during the last 15 minutes when the young waitress singer was standing terrified under a sign that read “The Replacement Party” right when she was being replaced by the girl who road into town with a fallback plan to fix cars. It’s true that in Nashville if you don’t take an opportunity when it comes your way, there will be someone else in line to take your place so even though it was subtle, I liked the way that played out.

    Finally, I have to agree with Nate in that I love Henry Gibson. My favorite Gibson movie was The ‘Burbs. Classic.

    Anyway, it was fun! Nashville is a fantastic place to live! Come visit any time!

    • February 23, 2010 at 11:25 AM

      I’ll respond more fully, but just wanted to note that my film studies friend is a real person, just the reason for her leaving was made up.

  7. Becky
    February 23, 2010 at 3:34 PM

    So it seems. You win this round, Capp. 🙂

  8. Allen
    February 23, 2010 at 4:14 PM

    I think I will have to jump on board here. I thought Nashville was interesting from a technical point of view, but I found myself drifting off at times because so little was actually happening.

    It seems like the dramatic action of this film is a muttered sentence fragment in the corner of a loud dive bar. I don’t know whether this was something Altman did intentionally or not. Everything does seem to be buried in the details though.

    John’s comments about feeling disconnected from the characters made me take a look at one of the strongest elements I noticed when I watched this movie — the pursuit of fame. It seemed to me that almost all of the characters were in search of their own brand of importance. The tone-deaf waitress wants to be the next Barbara Jean. Ned Beatty’s character tries to climb the ladder through subservience to Michael Murphy’s character (who himself is being subservient to Hal Phillip Walker). Even Henry Gibson tastes the sweetness of that next level of fame when Triplette suggests he run for governor, and Opal from the BBC hopes to elbow her way into the world of the stars by any means necessary.

    And here’s to Elliot Gould for seeing right through that game.

    There are many others in the film that each seek out fame or importance in their own way. It didn’t hit me until the end of the movie. When Barbara Jean gets shot, Sueleen Gay has her big break, but she has also just seen what fame and importance have spawned. And in the end, she books it.

    Like I said, John’s comments seemed to connect to this in a big way for me. The disconnection from the characters might be an intentional effort to help us empathize with them. That is, by separating us from their conversations through background noise and overlapping dialogue, Altman tries to make us lean in and want to hear what they’re talking about. We want in, just like everyone in Nashville wants in. And in the end, we have the choice to still want in or to book it with Sueleen.

    Also, like Nate and Becky, I enjoy some Henry Gibson. I will admit that he freaks me out a bit though.

    And it should be said that traffic jams in Nashville rarely escalate into cordial campout-style parties anymore. Such a shame.

    • March 5, 2010 at 12:19 AM

      Allen :
      That is, by separating us from their conversations through background noise and overlapping dialogue, Altman tries to make us lean in and want to hear what they’re talking about. We want in, just like everyone in Nashville wants in. And in the end, we have the choice to still want in or to book it with Sueleen.

      I really like this description. It makes me think of the film in a different way, that there’s an advantage to not feeling immediately drawn in emotionally to the characters or situations, that it forces you to make more effort to participate, and in that way, feel more connected to the story. Kind of like how reading short stories work (along the lines of a “less is more” kind of thinking). I’ll definitely have to give Nashville another viewing at some point.

  9. LMM
    February 24, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Well, it was definitely an Altman film. Not that I’m extremely educated in all things Altman, but having seen Prairie Home Companion (damn you LiLo!), Short Cuts (I heart Tom Waits), and Gosford Park (I thought, for a moment, that attending a murder-mystery dinner would be entertaining) you see his distinct style. Out of all of these movies, Nashville was my least favorite.

    I agree with what everyone is feeling, I didn’t feel connected to the characters. I tried, I did, but I never got to be around them enough to care who they were or going through or their connection to the others. At 2:40, I didn’t feel like I learned anything about these people; except that I think Connie White is a bitch.

    However, maybe that was the point. Maybe the point was that all these characters were constantly around each other, in the same circles, at the same gigs, but never really knew each other. The entertainment industry is full of people, but not full of friends. Like Becky pointed out, someone is always there to take your place if you don’t. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    I love overlapping stories, I love the randomness of life; the 6 degrees game. Everyone is connected on a bigger level, but I couldn’t really get into it in this film. Thin Red Line (beautiful film) is a wonderful example, but the one that came to my mind was Love Actually. I put off seeing this movie for a few years because I hate romantic movies, but this was so much more than that. At the end of LA, when they were all at the Christmas play, it seemed natural. Of course they all would be there, they are all connected. With Nashville, it became a bore. Of course they all would be there, where else would this movie go. Not to say it felt forced, but it wasn’t a happy surprise.

    The only surprise I had in the movie was the assassination. Granted, I realized that was going to happen about 5 minutes before it did. You start to think back on past situations, like the drunk conversation about the Kennedy’s assassination or how he didn’t want Shelley (Olive Oil!! OMG) Duvall to mess with his case. I love when movies reflect back on themselves, and if done right you realize it was a foreshadow element and not just banter.

    Overall, this movie didn’t move me like I felt it should have. I was disappointed because I didn’t get to know the characters more. I kept watching in hopes that I would, and just ended up settling on the fact that they were just apart of everyday life and didn’t need my attention. That’s not to say I wasn’t interested at all by the likes of Keith Carradine, Jeff Goldblum, or the mechanic girl (forgot her name). On a side note, for the ladies, how cute was Scott Glen.

    What I loved about his character was how he played the Veteran. He himself was in the Marines, and what they say is very true, Once a Marine–Always a Marine. He played Pfc Kelly with a vulnerability and affection. I appreciated that, especially after coming home from Vietnam, where many soldiers suffered and had PTS, he didn’t play him as a blood thirsty or crazy soldier. It made the military brat in me smile and sign Thank You.

  10. March 3, 2010 at 3:26 PM

    I think it’s interesting that this is considered Altman’s “Classic,” with the AVClub calling it the definitive movie of the 70s in their Inventory book (which is awesome and everyone should get it), yet here we are, a bunch of relatively intelligent people who were all disconnected from the film for one reason or another. I’ve noticed that, generally, you love Altman or you’re sort of indifferent (I’ve never encountered anyone who hates him outright). My feelings are I like several of his films, but never feel the need to revisit them (MASH excepted).

    Do you guys think that it’s our distance from the initial release of the film that makes it underwhelming? Is there just something about Altman’s aesthetic that takes a certain approach to film to appreciate? Does anyone here consider themself an Altman fan?

  11. March 5, 2010 at 12:12 AM

    I haven’t seen too many Altman films. I’ve seen Short Cuts, and that was almost like a re-hash of Nashville, at least in terms of narrative technique. I liked it because the author of the stories on which the film is based, Raymond Carver, is one of my favorite writers, if not my all-time favorite. But in the film Short Cuts, the ending felt so contrived and random that Nashville is a better movie in comparison.

    I suspect Nashville is more a film for its time than a film for the ages. It clearly made a huge impact, and perhaps it’s largely that impact and reputation, as opposed to everlasting, universal appeal, that has made it persist in all-time best movie lists. But since I didn’t like it or simply connect to it, perhaps that’s an unfair statement for me to make. It might be better appreciated over repeat viewings.

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