In February of this year, HMV launched a competition on Twitter (@hmvtweets).
Naturally, I voted La La Land, although I did prefer Arrival myself as i'm a huge fan of Denis Villeneuve. I subsequently won the competition. After my gift card arrived in the post I went to my local HMV in Huddersfield. It's a fairly intimate store, looking around the chart DVD's section I either had or wasn't interested in what they had to offer at the time. I wandered around the store for a bit until I came across the '5 for 30' section.
Now, for those that know me, that despite my watching of a lot of films over the years, I haven't watched some of the 'classics'. I mean, we're talking the likes of the Godfather, Shawshank, Saving Private Ryan... Browsing the shelves I made the executive decision to take my film education a little more seriously. I picked up the following; Stand By Me, Raging Bull, Argo, Requiem for a Dream and Magnolia.
Stand By Me 
This has been a film my brother has always nagged me to watch, I was always promised it was like my beloved Goonies - it even had Mouth (Corey Feldman) but given the nature of the content, a little more adult. Plus, it was the first film I've watched with River Phoenix in, granted he lived a tragically short career due to his death in 1993. I'd heard of Will Weaton from the Big Bang Theory and admittedly was a little biased towards his character. Not forgetting Jerry O'Connell, who I had otherwise seen serenading Neve Campbell in Scream II.
The film itself is based on the Stephen King novella, The Body which I have been subsequently advised to read, given the rise of releases of his material just this year alone with, The Dark Tower and IT. The stories narrative follows a gang of four young boys, who set out to discover a dead body of a young boy. The quartet explores all dynamics within social hierachy; the leader, the intellectual, the disturbed and the chubby little nugget.
I also enjoyed the narration by Richard Dreyfus, I'm a huge Jaws fan and love his distinct voice - no great whites in this one though. I couldn't decide if Keifer Suthland's domineering bully persona was more terrifying than his blonde dye job.
It was a fantastic film to watch on a Sunday afternoon; it made me laugh out loud and cry (a dignified singular tear). It's values seemingly transcend the test of time, a film that has a well placed nostalgia that was really endearing and worked well.
Raging Bull (1980)
I have watched a lot of Scorsese's more recent films and television projects; Shutter Island, Boardwalk Empire, The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence. But I shamefully hadn't indulged in the works that served to cultivate his directing prestige.
The same can be said for Robert Deniro, the director's muse before Leo DiCaprio came on the scene. I have watched the latter part of his career, which can be best described as little hit, mostly miss - see picture below. Although, I did like his performances in Silver Linings Playbook, Joy and the Intern, they had an endearing quality about them. But, I was assured they weren't in the same ballpark as his earlier films like Godfather II, The Deer Hunter, Heat, Goodfellas and Raging Bull. None of which I had seen.
Within the film, the palpable power and meticulous artistry of De Niro's depiction of La Motta is astounding. The dedication it took to craft the physical prowess showcased in the first half of the film. to the grotesque caricature seen in the latter - requring De Niro to put on fifty pounds during a two month recess from filming.
I like films that are based on some sense of true story, what I liked about the pretense of Raging Bull is that it seemingly gives an unromanticized portrayal of the boxer, Jake La Motta. It's narrative based on his autobiography penned by Peter Aavage and Joseph Carter and subsequently adapted into a screenplay by Maardik Martin and Paul Schader that pulls no punches. The film also gained critical acclaim for it's highly stylized aesthetic, it's succinct editing by Thelma Schoonmaker, emphasizes the sports brutality, blood spurting and slow-mo bone breaking punches only tempered by its monochrome filter utilisation by DOP, Michael Chapman.
It was a great opportunity to look at the foundations of both Scorsese and De Niro's career and I look forward to watching more of their earlier material in later posts.
This film has always been on the periphery for me, I have always been a fan of Ben Affleck as an actor - granted his career has had it's ups and downs. I was first introduced to him in Mallrats and Chasing Amy, traversing to the likes of Pearl Harbor and Gone Girl. My boyfriend, Luke urged me to watch The Town with him a couple months back as he maintains that Affleck is better behind the camera than in front - I was willing to entertain it as I had seen him direct in Gone Baby Gone, back in 2007 and was very impressed. I really enjoyed it and wanted to explore more what Affleck had to offer... cue Argo.
Naturally, winning three Oscars I was going in with big expectations and fairly intrigued by the stories premise. As I mentioned earlier, I'm a sucker for a true story. Acting under the alias of a Hollywood producer, a CIA agent engages in a dangerous operation in order to rescue a group of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980.
It has a heart racing pace right from the off, laying the scene with palpable panic from the foreign service workers, underpinned by a prologue that informs the audience of a synopsis surrounding the turbulent political climate at the time. Cut to the other side of the world, Agent Mendez (Ben Affleck) receives a panicked phone call, the US government needs someone to extract some of it's citizens out of a subversive Iran.
Named due to the fake sci film it was pretending to produce, Argo has a well researched fact driven dynamic that is reinforced by the eighties style cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto. The end credits were accompanied by real footage and photographs, showed opposite their film counterparts.
I enjoyed Argo and its examination of the fact that the illusion of making a film, proved the most viable option in a literal life and death situation - transitioning those who were government agents into the film industry and putting on a convincing performance.
Requiem for a Dream 
My first brush with Darren Aronofsky came in the form of Black Swan. I was blown away with what I saw on screen. The attention to the craft, giving as real a portrayal of the world of ballet as possible. The pressures that men and women put on themselves mentally and physically. When I echoed this sentiment with others, it was recommended that I watch Requiem for a Dream for taking a similar glimpse into drug addiction.
This an unapologetic showcase of both the physical and psychological effects of drugs. It is perhaps the most rooted depiction I have ever seen - their extreme paranoia and sordid actions really shock you to the core, due to their transition from rational and healthy individuals spiraling frantically out of control. It definitely reminded me of scenes with Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Black Swan, with her rampant hallucinations and frenzied behavior.
A motif that Aronofsky likes to indulge in is shocking imagery, that lingers long after the runtime of the film. In Requiem; the gangrenous arm, the electro shock therapy and the notorious sex show. Although I can see why this film receives it's cult status, it won't be a frequent watch - its pretty disturbing.
Granted I was late to the party with director, Paul Thomas Anderson, I have only seen Inherent Vice  - it had far too many great actors not to indulge in it; Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Joaquin Phoenix, Katherine Waterston, Jena Malone, Eric Roberts, Owen Wilson... Plus its tantalising plot of 1970's Los Angeles, a drug fueled PI investigates the disappearance of an ex girlfriend. Given my liking of this particular work, I was told to watch Magnolia and also, Boogie Nights. I decided to watch the former first.
It's a three hour masterpiece with more plot lines than Game of Thrones. Following the lives of seemingly a dozen characters living out their flawed existence's in the San Fernando valley. 'Magnolia' is the main street running through it. The valley is home to a lot of people that are attempting to get into the film industry, but can't afford lofty LA prices. Like the dream the characters are chasing, their stories become interconnected like the plot of a tv soap opera.
Anderson transfers between each respective plot device with confidence and skill, utilising the narrator and singer-songwriter, Aimee Mann - much like musician, Joanna Newsom in Inherent Vice. At pivotal moment in the film, the key players sing-along to 'Wise Up' on of Mann's own songs. It's proved a bit controversial with critics; some find it emotional others find it false, for me it was more the former.
I think what makes Magnolia work is it's message of preaching kindness and the pitfalls of chasing fame. This is a lesson that never goes out of date.
Next Time on Cult Film Club....
I will be expanding my film education to some of Jack Nicholson's earlier works; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest & The Shining. After thoroughly enjoying Raging Bull, I want to revisit the work of Scorcese, De Niro and Pesci which comes in the form of nineties gangster movie, Goodfellas. With the popularity of the series, House of Cards, I want to explore some of Kevin Spacey's earlier works, beginning with American Beauty. To end, a film that is usually deemed a beloved classic and also, garners the biggest shock in my not watching is the Shawshank Redemption - rest assured it shall evade me no longer.
In addition for an interim piece, I indulged in the 3 for £20 Arrow Films Promotion. After giving a brief outline of my favored genres I was given a recommendation of the following; Audition, Bicycle Thieves and Deep Red. Stay tuned to find out what I thought.
Alternatively, if you have any thoughts on what I should be watching or what I have written, please let me know in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: All views are my own and not associated with HMV.