Tag Archives: The Great White Silence

Top 100 Films – Full List & Stats

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Top 100 Films – Full List

100. Rope (1948) (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
99. The Jerk (1979) (dir. Carl Reiner)
98. Office Space (1999) (dir. Mike Judge)
97. American Movie (1999) (dir. Chris Smith)
96. Touch of Evil (1958) (dir. Orson Welles)
95. Zero Dark Thirty (2012) (dir. Kathryn Bigelow)
94. The Wrestler (2008) (dir. Darren Aronofsky)
93. The Virgin Spring (1960) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
92. United 93 (2006) (dir. Paul Greengrass)
91. Brokeback Mountain (2003) (dir. Ang Lee)
90. Election (1999) (dir. Alexander Payne)
89. Close-Up (1990) (dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
88. Minnie and Moskowitz (1971) (dir. John Cassavetes)
87. Chungking Express (1994) (dir. Wong Kar-wai)
86. Stand By Me (1986) (dir. Rob Reiner)
85. Blazing Saddles (1974) (dir. Mel Brooks)
84. Metropolis (1927) (dir. Fritz Lang)
83. Boyz n the Hood (1991) (dir. John Singleton)
82. A Man Escaped (1956) (dir. Robert Bresson)
81. Manhattan (1979) (dir. Woody Allen)
80. Sunset Boulevard (1950) (dir. Billy Wilder)
79. All That Heaven Allows (1955) (dir. Douglas Sirk)
78. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) (dir. F.W. Murnau)
77. No Country for Old Men (2007) (dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
76. The King of Comedy (1982) (dir. Martin Scorsese)
75. Short Term 12 (2013) (dir. Destin Daniel Cretton)
74. The Fighter (2010) (dir. David O. Russell)
73. Ben-Hur (1956) (dir. William Wyler)
72. There Will Be Blood (2007) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)
71. Playtime (1967) (dir. Jacques Tati)
70. My Darling Clementine (1946) (dir. John Ford)
69. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) (dir. Andrew Dominik)
68. The Sting (1973) (dir. George Roy Hill)
67. Sherlock Jr. (1924) (dir. Buster Keaton)
66. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) (dir. Michel Gondry)
65. Kagemusha (1980) (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
64. Citizen Kane (1941) (dir. Orson Welles)
63. Raging Bull (1980) (dir. Martin Scorsese)
62. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) (dir. Sidney Lumet)
61. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) (dir. Wes Anderson)
60. Some Like it Hot (1959) (dir. Billy Wilder)
59. Pulp Fiction (1994) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
58. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) (dir. Jacques Demy)
57. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) (dir. Frank Capra)
56. This is Spinal Tap (1984) (dir. Carl Reiner)
55. M (1931) (dir. Fritz Lang)
54. When We Were Kings (1996) (dir. Leon Gast)
53. The Gold Rush (1926) (dir. Charlie Chaplin)
52. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) (dir. Roman Polanski)
51. The Wages of Fear (1953) (dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot)
50. The Great White Silence (1924) (dir. Herbert Ponting)
49. Autumn Sonata (1978) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
48. Withnail and I (1987) (dir. Bruce Robinson)
47. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) (dir. Wes Anderson)
46. Before Sunrise (1995) (dir. Richard Linklater)
45. True Romance (1993) (dir. Tony Scott)
44. Before Sunset (2004) (dir. Richard Linklater)
43. Inglourious Basterds (2009) (dir. Quentin Tarantino)
42. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007) (dir. Cristian Mungiu)
41. The African Queen (1951) (dir. John Huston)
40. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
39. Days of Heaven (1978) (dir. Terrence Malick)
38. Rushmore (1998) (dir. Wes Anderson)
37. What We Do in the Shadows (2014) (dir. Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi)
36. 12 Angry Men (1957) (dir. Sidney Lumet)
35. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012) (dir. Don Hertzfeldt)
34. Casablanca (1942) (dir. Michael Curtiz)
33. Scenes from a Marriage (1973) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
32. A Woman Under the Influence (1974) (dir. John Cassavetes)
31. Brief Encounter (1945) (dir. David Lean)
30. The Godfather Part II (1974) (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
29. Do the Right Thing (1989) (dir. Spike Lee)
28. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) (dir. Vincente Minnelli)
27. The Godfather (1972) (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
26. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) (dir. Stanley Donen)
25. Wild Strawberries (1957) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
24. Seven Samurai (1954) (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
23. All That Jazz (1979) (dir. Bob Fosse)
22. Fargo (1996) (dir. Joel Coen)
21. Dersu Uzala (1975) (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
20. Grizzly Man (2005) (dir. Werner Herzog)
19. The Thing (1982) (dir. John Carpenter)
18. A Serious Man (2009) (dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)
17. The Searchers (1956) (dir. John Ford)
16. Dazed and Confused (1993) (dir. Richard Linklater)
15. The Social Network (2010) (dir. David Fincher)
14. The Apartment (1960) (dir. Billy Wilder)
13. Rear Window (1954) (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
12. Winter Light (1963) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)
11. The Graduate (1967) (dir. Mike Nichols)
10. Harakiri (1962) (dir. Masaki Kobayashi)
9. The Night of the Hunter (1955) (dir. Charles Laughton)
8. Paris, Texas (1984) (dir. Wim Wenders)
7. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) (dir. Frank Capra)
6. Rocky (1976) (dir. John G. Avildsen)
5. Harold and Maude (1971) (dir. Hal Ashby)
4. The Exorcist (1973) (dir. William Friedkin)
3. Annie Hall (1977) (dir. Woody Allen)
2. City Lights (1931) (dir. Charlie Chaplin)
1. Punch-Drunk Love (2002) (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)


Top 100 Films – Statistics

Movies by Decade:
2010’s: 6
2000’s: 15
1990’s: 13
1980’s: 9
1970’s: 18
1960’s: 8
1950’s: 15
1940’s: 8
1930’s: 3
1920’s: 5

Best Year:
2007 – 4 (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days)

Most Popular Actors/Directors/Writers:
Ingmar Bergman5
Diane Keaton – 4
Wes Anderson – 3
John Cassavetes – 3
Seymour Cassel – 3
John Cazale – 3
Joel & Ethan Coen – 3
Robert De Niro – 3
Akira Kurosawa – 3
Richard Linklater – 3
Bill Murray – 3
Al Pacino – 3
Brad Pitt – 3
Talia Shire – 3
James Stewart – 3
Max von Sydow – 3
Quentin Tarantino – 3
Billy Wilder – 3
Owen Wilson – 3


Counting down 100 films in just 50 days was one heck of an adventure, and something I was fully prepared to give up on halfway through. The list got me through some tough times recently, and provided a nice goal and distraction for me to build towards. I’ve never been more proud of myself as a writer, and seeing #1 finally pop into my feed has been the most rewarding experience yet here at Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Film Club! Thanks to everybody who joined me in the journey, liking, sharing, and commenting on posts, and to all those who read them in their spare time. Your support means the world to me, and I couldn’t have done it without you. Here’s to another great year of films and writing for everybody!

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Top 100 Films #50 – The Great White Silence (1924)

 

the-great-white-silence-5#50. The Great White Silence (1924)
Directed by: Herbert Ponting
Written by: Herbert Ponting
Starring: Robert Falcon Scott

Herbert Ponting’s pioneering documentary about Antarctica is definitely the newest addition to my list of favorite films, and for good reason.  The Great White Silence tells the story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated voyage to Antarctica, where the Captain and four crewmates would die of exposure. Herbert Ponting documented much of the journey to Antarctica, up to the point of Captain Scott and his crew leaving to reach the South Pole in order to beat the Norwegian team attempting to do the same.  The events that take place on the voyage to the South Pole are told through still photographs and title cards, as Herbert Ponting was left with the rest of the crew at base camp.  The film tells the tragic story of Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his crew with the utmost respect, even without any real visual support – the final act of the film features some of the most heartbreaking storytelling I’ve ever seen in a documentary.  The Great White Silence became one of the first documentaries to capture penguins, seals, and killer whales on camera in their natural habitats, and the first to shoot the unlivable continent of celluloid.  Ponting also employs the use of comedy and wit in his title cards, telling the story of the journey in a playful, fun way in order to hook audiences immediately.  The tonal shift in the final act of the film is fitting and classy, rather than jarring or unfitting – it works perfectly in telling the story of the Terra Nova expedition.  The Great White Silence’s breakneck pacing and playful attitude makes it truly stand out among other classic documentaries, making it stand out among its peers.  It’s a truly special film in its epic scope and Ponting’s eye for storytelling, and one of the most unique documentary films ever made.  To read my full thoughts about The Great White Silence, check out my Doctober review of the film here.

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Doctober II #5 – The Great White Silence (1924)

the-great-white-silence-images-f58fc9a1-8e7a-4bde-bd6a-55ac4c79620The Great White Silence (1924)
Directed by: Herbert Ponting
Written by: Herbert Ponting
Starring: Captain Robert Falcon Scott

The history of the documentary stretches back as far as the dawn of film as a medium, giving audiences a look at everyday events, wars, medical breakthroughs, foreign cities and ways of life, and in the case of The Great White Silence, expeditions. Herbert Ponting’s 1924 documentary chronicles the infamous Terra Nova Expedition of Antarctica, which took place between 1910-1913, and led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott.  Ponting is thought to be the first man to shoot motion photography on the frozen continent, making him a pioneer of both the film and journalism industries. Along with key moments of the expedition, Ponting became one of the first men in history to shoot footage of seals, killer whales, and penguins in their natural habitats.  Without men like Herbert Ponting, we probably wouldn’t have somebody like Sir David Attenborough and documentaries as epic in scope as Planet Earth.

The goal of the Terra Nova Expedition was simple: Captain Scott and his English crew were to plant a Union Jack flag on the South Pole, sailing to Antarctica from New Zealand.  Scott and his crew were to race a team of Norwegian’s to the destination, with the goal of both groups being the planting of their respective flag.  Along the way, Ponting documents the animals brought aboard the ship for the expedition (more than a dozen ponies, dogs, and a cat with a heck of a name), the massive glaciers and ice shelves along the way, and we get to know our crew by watching them celebrate, receive haircuts, and just generally take in the breathtaking scenery at the end of the earth.  Ponting gives the audience a sneak peak of the antiquated technologies used to travel, including primitive snowmobiles, and dog and pony-led sledges.  He carefully and comically chronicles his time spent with a large group of penguins, detailing their mating rituals, nesting habits, and other characteristics of the arctic birds.  Eventually Robert Scott and his four-man expedition team leave base camp for their ill-fated trip to the South Pole, leaving behind Ponting and smaller support teams to plant supplies for the journey back, and to document Antarctic life.  Captain Scott and his four crew mates would never be seen alive again, and Herbert Ponting and the support crew would travel back to England, with the film eventually being pieced together and released to the public.

The tragic story of the Terra Nova Expedition is one of the most famous stories of exploration in modern history, and watching it happen through the lens of Herbert Ponting in The Great White Silence is nothing short of extraordinary. Ponting’s camera captures sights and wonders that had never been seen by the common man at the time, and his attention to detail and appreciation for Antarctica’s desolate beauty is what makes The Great White Silence stand apart from almost any other documentary I’ve ever seen.  He gives equal weight to wildlife and to the continents many massive natural ice formations and glaciers, giving insightful and often very humorous commentary through the use of title cards between these scenes.  Ponting’s playful storytelling style works perfectly for the first two acts of the film, and then he switches to a much more serious and fact-driven tone when chronicling the tragic adventure of Robert Scott and company.  Even though he wasn’t actually with the five men at the time of their demise, he perfectly tells their story.  We find out how long it took the men to reach the South Pole, what exactly went wrong, when certain crew members were lost to the elements, and what led to the demise of the entire party. Ponting goes from playfully sly to dreadfully serious in his tribute to the five brave explorers, and it couldn’t have possibly been done better in my mind.  The Great White Silence truly is one of the greatest pieces of movie history that I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching, almost entirely due to the creative choices of its director. Ponting has an eye for scenery, and a knack for storytelling, and he uses them to craft what I consider to be one of the most perfect documentary films ever created.
the-great-white-silence-3
What I Liked:

  • The pacing is consistent and break-neck, even in the film’s more playful first acts.
  • Ponting spends just the right amount of time with his subjects (seals, penguins, killer whales, the crew), never stopping on any one subject for too long.  His camera respects all forms of life equally, and sees the value in all of their stories.
  • The framing of several shots was astounding, particularly when the Terra Nova first comes into contact with mountainous glacial ice shelves.  Another highlight is a naturally formed ice cave on the frozen continent.
  • Ponting’s inter-titles are hilarious, especially in his dealings with the crew and the colony of penguins.  His storytelling is unique and at times intentionally misleading for comedic effect.  My favorite example of this is “Soon after we had started on our way, an epidemic broke out aboard…of HAIRCUTTING!”
  • The director clearly had a great deal of respect for Captain Robert Falcon Scott, as his story is told with the utmost sincerity and gravity.  Herbert Ponting quotes from Scott’s journal, giving us a first-hand recollection of the events and letting us picture it for ourselves, since no real footage of the events exists.  
  • The BFI’s 2011 restoration of The Great White Silence features a haunting score by Simon Fisher Turner.  It suits the film perfectly, and compliments the visual storytelling.  They have also touched up the surviving sources, creating an incredible presentation for a film nearly 100 years old – and featuring footage from 1910-1913.

What I Didn’t:

  • Having been released in 1924, The Great White Silence is dated in its social conventions and in its science.  If you can’t handle the fact that Ponting’s views don’t match those of contemporary society’s, this film probably isn’t for you.  The primary example being the aforementioned cat with the peculiar name – the poor black cat’s name was literally the “N” word.  Despite this, the film has age remarkably well in other respects.

Herbert Ponting’s visual diary of the Terra Nova Expedition is truly something that must be seen to be believed.  It’s breathtaking in its beauty, incredibly funny and playful in some of its storytelling, and ultimately tragic and heartbreaking in the end.  The Great White Silence stands as one of the greatest achievements in documentary history, and has instantly become one of my all-time favorite films. The fact that it exists to this day is a blessing to moviegoers around the world.  I urge you to see this film at some point during your lifetime, there’s almost no chance you won’t be blown away.  The Great White Silence is a masterpiece, and gets my highest recommendation.

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