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Consisting of only a flimsy plot (about the preparations for a political rally in Nashville), Robert Altman’s ensemble satire crams more political commentary than most tightly plotted thrillers, while simultaneously mining laughs and well-crafted songs, earning Keith Carradine an Oscar for his song “I’m Easy.” Originally, Altman was approached to do a film set in Nashville. He turned it down but later was so intrigued by the setting that he sent his usual script supervisor, Joan Tewkesbury, to do research there. Her notes became the basis for the script, fleshed out with improvisations by the actors, who wrote their own songs and performed them live. Highlights include Ronee Blakley’s breakdown in front of an audience, modeled on Loretta Lynn’s famous meltdown; Lily Tomlin as the mother of two deaf children; Keenan Wynn as a man losing his wife; Geraldine Chaplin as an addled reporter for the BBC; Barbara Baxley as a show manager with a devotion to the late Kennedy brothers; and Henry Gibson as a tough-as-nails country star. Although poorly received in Nashville itself, the film was named the year’s best by critics like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, as well as the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics. (d. Robert Altman, 160m, DCP)

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