I’m fairly disappointed with the number of silent and classical era films I saw in August (a full list of the films seen in that month can be found here), but I do feel I saw some truly brilliant films throughout the month. I have included 2 animated films within my top 5 of the month, and that is primarily because I feel that animation does not get the recognition it so often deserves, and these three were so wonderful that there is no way they couldn’t find themselves in my top 5. So, here are my top 5 picks for the new-to-me films I saw in August, and a little of summary of what makes them worthy of that place.
5) Robin Hood (Wolfgang Reitherman, 1973)
I’m not quite sure why I never watched this film growing up, afterall, I’d seen pretty much every other major Disney film, and I have always been a fan of the Robin Hood legend. Nevertheless, I watched it in August and it is well deserving of a place in my top 5 for the month. Blending sassy comedy, memorable songs, and creative spins on the legendary characters, turning them into animals that match their distinctive characteristics (Robin Hood as a cunning sly fox perhaps? He’d need to be to rob the rich!), this Disney classic is bound to be remembered for all time, and is well worth multiple viewings, even if just to learn the lyrics to the catchy Robin Hood and Little John.
4) The Odd Life of Timothy Green (Peter Hedges, 2012)
This sparky little gem from Disney is a live-action tale of a couple who desperately want a child, but are unable to conceive. One morning however, after having buried a box in their yard filled with wishes for a child, a young boy appears, The boy is different however – he has plant leaves and stems attached to his legs. Very much like the story of Pinocchio, his deeds help him to transform into a real boy, washing the film in all the magic traditional of Disney. Underlying the innocent fantasy however, is a story very true to many people all over the world – the desire and need for a child, and the lengths people go to to have one. There is a lot of emotion and even sadness twisted in with the narrative, making this a fairytale more for adults than children. It is one of the most enjoyable and memorable films of the year, but very little seen compared to how lovable it is, much like many of the live-action Disney films unfortunately are.
3) Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006)
Marie Antoinette is a biopic of the beautiful, charming, naive, and independent princess of Austria of the same name. In the hopes of settling an alliance between Austria and France, Marie’s mother forces her daughter to move to France and marry the Dauphin of France, Louis Auguste. In a stunning display of luxurious colour, it is easy not to desire falling into the film which resembles a romanticised patisserie, Coppola distinctively captures the romantic elegance and upper-class life in French palaces. Antoinette however is stifled by the dull life she is forced to lead, and is outcast by those in the court as a foreigner, and likewise blamed for not producing an heir, despite her husband being at blame. Coppola both wrote and directed the film, and her style is distinctive throughout, brought to life through a charming cast with Kirsten Dunst in the lead role, and magnificent in it. I have enjoyed every film Sofia Coppola has made, but Marie Antoinette has to be at the very top, offering nods to other costume dramas, but straying away from them significantly in terms of style.
2) This Is England (Shane Meadows, 2006)
I had wanted to watch This Is England for such a long time due to my love of British underclass cinema. Quite unlike the overtly optimistic messages of films such as The Full Monty and Billy Elliot however, This Is England was brutally dark in comparison. With outstanding performances from the young cast, particularly Thomas Turgoose as Shaun whose debut acting role earned him the Most Promising Newcomer award at the British Independent Film Awards alongside him being nominated for several others. Contrasting to the typically picturesque country postcard style British heritage films, or the romanticised day in the park and bump into the soon to be love of your life British rom coms, This Is England is completely washed out of all the idealistic images that Britain and American attempt to create of the UK (that only really tends to be set in the London based area), and instead focuses on a more realistic, working class Britain, although the film is still far from the truth of real British life. The film was highly impressive in terms of its screenplay, directing, and performance, and it thoroughly deserves to earn 2nd place on this list.
1) Azur & Asmar: The Princes’ Quest (Michel Ocelot, 2006)
Michel Ocelot is one of those rare animators who truly captures the beauty of movement and life in his characters. His style is so stunningly distinctive, particularly in terms of colour use, and can be traced across his other hidden gems Tales of the Night (2011), and Princes and Princesses (2000). This gorgeous tale focuses on two boys, Azur and Asmar, who are as close as brothers. One day, Azur’s father banishes Asmar, and his mother who nursed the two boys as they grew up, and sends Azar to school in the city. The nurse had told the two boys of a Djinn fairy when they were children, and Azur, haunted by memories of the tale, journeys to Asmar’s homeland to seek it out, leading to the two boys reuniting and the formation of a competitive quest. The animation in the film is thoroughly gorgeous, and certainly reminiscent of African and Middle Eastern art and is quite unlike any other animation of the 21st Century.