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The Cotton Club Academy Award Nomination! Academy Award Nomination! 

By Jeff Shannon

The Cotton Club is routinely eclipsed by the controversies that surrounded its tumultuous production, but the film itself offers abundant pleasures that should not be overlooked. If Apocalypse Now represents the triumph of director Francis Coppola's perilous ambition, then The Cotton Club represents the ungainly glory of uncontrolled genius, as brilliant as it is out of its depth. As an upscale homage to classic gangster films it's frequently astonishing, cramming a thick novel's worth of plot and characters into 129 minutes, gloriously serviced by impeccable production design, elegant cinematography, and stylistic flourishes that show Coppola at the top of his game.

What The Cotton Club lacks is cohesion. As written by Coppola and novelist William Kennedy (then enjoying the peak of his critical acclaim), the movie struggles to exceed the narrative scope of The Godfather, but its multiple early-'30s plot lines fail to form any strong connective tissue. It's three (or four) movies in one, with cornet player Dixie Dwyer (Richard Gere, playing his own jazzy solos) drifting from one story to the next--loving a young, ambitious vamp (Diane Lane, with whom Gere shares precious little chemistry), enjoying the success of a hotshot hoofer (Gregory Hines), and protecting his brazen bother (Coppola's then-newcomer nephew, Nicolas Cage) from the deadly temper of mob boss Dutch Schultz (James Remar). Bob Hoskins and Fred Gwynne also score big in grand supporting roles, but The Cotton Club is perhaps best appreciated for its meticulous re-creation of Harlem's Cotton Club heyday, and the brilliant music (Ellington, Calloway, etc.) that brought rhythm to gangland's rat-a-tat-tat.

Academy Awards

The Cotton Club received Academy Awards nominations for Art Direction/Set Decoration (Richard Sylbert - Art Direction, George Gaines - Set Decoration, Les Bloom - Set Decoration) and for Film Editing (Barry Malkin, Robert Q. Lovett).

 

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FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this soundtrack from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Rated RNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Stars: Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Bob Hoskins, James Remar, Nicolas Cage, Allen Garfield, Fred Gwynne, Gwen Verdon, Maurice Hines, Joe Dallesandro, Julian Beck, Jennifer Grey, Lisa Jane Persky, Tom Waits, Diane Venora, Woody Strode, Charles 'Honi' Coles, Laurence Fishburne

Released: December 14, 1984

Availability: DVD VHS CD


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