On the Waterfront- Andrew

On the Waterfront is a classic film about the struggles of Terry Malloy, as he tries to balance a life of organized crime, love, and a disturbed conscience. Directed by Elia Kazan, the film consists of excellent cinematography, music, dialogue, and storytelling. It is a successful portrayal of the corruption and malice of organized crime in an urban setting.  Many elements of the film symbolize the hardship and growth of Terry as he makes the toughest decisions of his life.

The costumes used in the film were all purchased second hand, and this helped portray the working class lifestyle that many of the characters lived. The appearance of the dockworkers, and of Terry, consistently represent struggle. Terry wears a checkered jacket throughout most of the film, which symbolizes his confused character. It is difficult to define the color of the jacket, or his personality. He continually changes his roles as a boxer, mobster, bum, and lover.  The film is filled with fantastic pieces of music that guide the audience on an emotional journey throughout each scene. During the scene where Terry goes to Edie’s apartment to claim his love, the driving music fills the audience with excitement, nervousness, and romance. The music is playing so fast when suddenly, Terry grabs Edie and kisses her. The bewildering tune abruptly ends, and their love is manifested. Some great camera shots take place when Terry returns to face Johnny Friendly at the docks. The director has Terry stand on a bridge, which acts as pedestal and symbolizes his newfound moral values. Meanwhile, Johnny stands below him with his deceitful, grimy business tactics, and lack of morals. There is also a clip of Johnny leaning on and standing behind a pole while they talk, showing how much of a coward he truly is, by relying on things and people around him.

The dialogue used in the film often draws the line between the educated and uneducated. Those who work on the docks are very uneducated, and this is apparent by their constant use of slang and poor grammar. Father Barry, who is an Irish immigrant, or “potato-eater,” is an educated man as one may see from his inspiring speech after K.O.’s death. However, he uses many slang phrases to relate to the men. He says the bosses “fixed K.O. for good,” because he was going to “spill his guts” in court the next day. There are many animal references in the dialogue as well. The terms “cheese-eater,” “rat,” “canary,” and “pigeon” are all used to describe an informant. The term pigeon is also used to describe cowards and low-lives, since pigeons are dirty, eat whatever they can, and flee from people. Tommy, the boy on the roof, yells, “A pigeon for a pigeon!” at Terry, after he “ratted” in court. Pigeons also represent the men on the docks, who are plenty in number, and have no real direction in life. As opposed to the mobsters, who are referred to as hawks, powerful animals that are scarce in number compared to pigeons.

In the famous taxicab scene, Charlie is faced with the difficult task of either killing Terry, or securing his loyalty to the mob. He maintains a determined look while Terry, who is distraught in his situation, looks upset and confused. Charlie has never guided Terry in the right direction; he has only looked after himself. He has become a rich man while Terry has nothing. This is symbolized by their clothing, particularly Charlie’s checkered scarf and Terry’s checkered jacket. The scarf represents power and intelligence, while the jacket appears low-class. However, they are the same design, symbolizing their distant brotherhood. After Charlie pulls his gun on Terry, he puts it down and a distressing, frightening piece of music cues in. The music lets the audience know that their relationship as brothers has been destroyed. As the camera closes in on Charlie, we see he now realizes that he is wrong. As Terry blames him for his failed boxing career, it is seen how every word pierces Charlie’s black heart by his increasingly remorseful expression. The action has shifted to Charlie having the distressed look, and Terry looking determined. This symbolizes Terry’s maturation and Charlie’s realization of his cruelty and selfishness.  Terry explains that if not for Charlie, he “could have been a contender”. Charlie realizes at the end of the scene, that perhaps the only thing he can do to reconcile their broken relationship, is to let Terry testify.

Alcohol plays a significant role throughout the film. Irish whiskey represents hope, happiness, and a comforting sense of home for the Irish immigrants. The men working on the docks long for the days they get to import whiskey, so they can enjoy a taste of home, and escape their dreary reality on the waterfront. It is irony at its finest when K.O., an Irishman who said he couldn’t wait till a shipment of whiskey came in, is killed when a ton of it crashed down upon him. Perhaps this is to show that alcohol is dangerous, and should not be used to mask one’s troubles.  Whiskey is also seen when Terry and Edie go to the bar and have a shot. This drink symbolizes the start of their romance and even a loss of innocence for Edie, who is a prudish character. The 1950’s was a proper era, in which religion played a heavy role. Having Father Barry drink consistently throughout the movie was a bold decision made by the director, but one that accurately portrayed the brave character the Reverend was.  The beer he shared with Terry symbolized Terry’s maturation; he wouldn’t fight Johnny using the same dirty tactics as Johnny himself. The beer unified the two as a force against the mob.

The mise-en-scène used in On the Waterfront combines to form a fantastic piece of art that tells a superb story. Different elements such as camera angles and shots change the way we perceive a film. Terry Malloy is often filmed as the only person in the focal points of the camera, reminding the audience that he is fighting the battle alone. The musical score of the film is a powerful, emotionally guiding soundtrack that matches the scenes perfectly. The actions and words of the characters often symbolize a deeper meaning in this film, and the theme of treating all people with equality is apparent.

Wednesday 11/28 – Andrew

In class this Wednesday we were visited by Professor Diaz, a film professor at CSI. She gave a lecture about cinematography which briefly covered a broad spectrum of things related to film making. Her lecture and powerpoint were chock full of a lot of information that was new to me. I’ve never really studied the mechanics behind film making, and I have to say, it’s incredible how much careful thought and hard work go into a film. Its hard to believe that nearly every decision involved in the movie making process all lands on the director. Seems like a very stressful job.

Some things I found interesting about film making included the screen ratio in which the movie is filmed, for instance Manhattan is filmed in a wide format, to help accentuate and bring the long New York skyline to life. Camera angles and distance is also very important. They both help to shape the scene by changing the way we perceive what is on screen. If a director shoots a character looking up to them, the audience may see that character as a mighty, powerful being who towers over them. The lighting is essential to any film, as it can change the emotions felt by the audience entirely, at certain times. It may also symbolize underlying feelings, problems, or anything that is not directly stated. In Manhattan, we see Isaac’s very dark apartment with Tracy sitting on the couch with the only source of light on her. This can symbolize how she is the only beacon of love, happiness, and light in Isaac’s life. This was just one of the clever insights pointed out to us by Professor Diaz. She also made us aware of all the objects in the background of the movie that “separate” Isaac from people like his ex-wife and Mary as their relationship quickly crumbles. The professor gave me some interesting new tools to use when watching movies to more deeply immerse myself in the story, and possibly discover what the director wanted the audience to notice.

Monday 11/26 – Andrew

This Monday in class we discussed Catcher In The Rye in a group circle. This was my second time I read the novel and I enjoyed it a lot more this time around. Not having to answer questions and read in class and analyze makes for a much more enjoyable read. Although, the analysis of the story and its elements that my former teacher taught during junior year helped me get deeper into the story on my own. The author did a fantastic job at creating Holden Caulfield. In my opinion he’s one of the most interesting protagonists I’ve read about. The book is full of irony pertaining to what Holden says and what he does. He says he hates the movies, then takes an old friend on a date to the movies. Most importantly he says over and over that he hates phonies, but outside of his false reality he is a phony himself.

A big part of the novel is the time specific dialogue. The book takes place in the 1950s and contains a lot of phrases and words that aren’t said too often by kids and people today. We started up a fun discussion in class trying to find words that teenagers say in 2012 to replace words that Holden said. Instead of calling people “phonies” its more common to hear some be called “fake”, as in not showing who they truly are, just what they think people want to see. Holden says all the time that things “kill him” when he finds them funny or cute. Someone mentioned that on the internet people always type “Omg. Dead.” You might think someone just died, but no, just a joke.

Wednesday 11/21 Andrew

In class this Wednesday we watched Woody Allen’s Manhattan. I’ve heard the name Woody Allen many times, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of his other movies. However, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this one. It had a well written story and some great actors, including Woody Allen as the star, along with being the director. It drifted between being serious, comical, romantic, and playful.

1) I noticed that the camera focuses mainly on the characters in the scene, but also almost always shows a bunch of items in the background. If they were in an apartment, househeld items may appear. If out in public, random people are always in site. This helps to capture the essence of Manhattan’s crowded streets and restaurants, and often small apartments. The camera was frequently set back looking on the characters in the scene from a side angle, not always directly aimed at them.

2) When filming scenes with people, the camera acts as almost another being in the scene. The camera was always walking with the people, sometimes backwards, behind, and next to them. It gave the audience a sense of closeness to the characters. I felt like a part of their conversation.

3) The black and white color of the movie makes the story feel like it took place in a different time period. It also seems to help drown out the surrounding environment and just highlight the characters and the plot. I also think it creates a sense of romanticism.

4) The clips in the movie last between two-three minutes each.

5) The dialogue in this film is very sarcastic, witty, humorous, serious, crude, and often frustrating in its hypocrisy. Isaac does the majority of the talking in this movie. His dialogue really gives a sense of what a New Yorker is like. They have a lot of problems, often internal ones, and they love to talk about them with friends and associates.

6) The costumes were mainly just normal city attire. The characters were dressed casually the majority of the movie and their costumes helped them achieve their roles of average citizens with some big problems.

7) There was not too much music throughout the movie, yet there were some scenes in which music was very prominent. The opening scene, for example, features some beautiful, romantic music over images of the New York skyline. It gives a sense of the type of movie you are about to watch. Also when Isaac is playing with his son, the dialogue is drowned out by music. This music does a better job accentuating the playfulness and love shared between the father and son than hearing their dialogue could.

8) The set of the movie is in no place better than Manhattan itself. The city streets and other locations capture the director’s goal of portraying Manhattan and its residents as complex beings that are full of variety and spontaneity.


Monday 11/19 Andrew

This Monday’s class was the end of our poetry recitations. The last couple of poems that were read all stood out to me with some unique imagery. Swathi’s poem Broadway created the image of a perfect night along lovers, and showed great detail to the environment of the poem. With the lines about the woman carrying bags and a lonely man walking by, I felt like I could be walking down the same street as these people and see the couple walk by. It is strange to be transported to the setting and emotional wavelength of a poem. I think it is easier to relate to most of the poems we’ve heard in class because they have been centered on New York.

Corinna’s poem In The Village was also a good one. I really liked the authors use of imagery. He describes a mountain range that gets coated in snow outside of Milan, and speaks of a great grey river, which is most likely the Hudson. I interpreted the poem as being about an internal struggle within the author, who without a typewriter, cannot write poems. He feels his emotions bottle up and overflow, and then reaches a state of acceptance for many internal problems. The last poem performed was The New Colossus. It made for a satisfying ending to many New York themed poems. This poem captured the essence of freedom in America and portrays it as the bright horizon that it has been for many people. I thought Stephanie’s interpretation and relation to the poem was very intelligent, heartfelt, and sincere. Her story is the perfect representation of the ideals in the poem.

Wednesday 11/14- Andrew

On Wednesday we continued our poetry recitations. I have not found one of these days to be boring. Every presentation has been great, and I feel that watching our classmates perform up front has brought us closer together. I thought James’ performance was awesome. The poem, In-grish, sounded at first like a lot of babble and nonsense. Indeed, some of it was, but it turned out to have more depth than I expected. It was full of jokes and James’ enthusiasm, facial expressions, hand gestures, and rhythm enhanced the experience. The whole poem was written in a sarcastic tone relating to the author’s trouble of never learning his native language, Chinese. The sarcasm and witty humor conveyed that he is not remorseful for only speaking English. However, as stated in the poem, his parents were remorseful.

Rob’s reading of The Weary Blues was another interesting performance. The poem had multiple layers of poetry within itself. The author was listening to a musician sing the blues on the street. The poem felt a little dry the first time it was read, but once Professor Kahan laid down a bluesy melody on the piano, it felt full of life and soul. The music helped Rob and the rest of the class find the rhythm in the words themselves.

Penina’s poem and performance both blew me away. She was given a poem that was written about New York in a very harsh, malevolent tone. The author was very frustrated with New York’s everlasting workforce, which persists through every hour of the night. This leaves no time for peace and quiet, and the author wanted to sleep. Penina definitely practiced the poem beforehand because she read it with an amazing flow and articulation of all the right words and syllables. The accents she used on the violent words included in the poem perfectly conveyed the author’s passionate dislike for NYC’s restlessness.

Monday 11/12- Andrew

This Monday our class was visited by professor Richard Powers. He is a very intelligent man and I enjoyed his well organized presentation of architecture. As a native New Yorker, architecture is a huge part of our culture. Manhattan is home to some of the worlds finest architectural achievements such as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge. Prof. Powers informed us that architecture is meant to capture the ethnos, or culture, of a society. Beginning the discussion with the Parthenon, the ruins of which stand in Greece. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Athena, and the architecture is said to symbolize reason, intelligence, and power in Western society. It is an instantly recognizable structure by its great pillars and rectangular structure. It was interesting to learn that the US capitol building was constructed with inspiration from ancient Greek architecture, and that both buildings were meant to symbolize similar ideals.

Some of my favorite structures I observed during the presentation were of design by Frank Lloyd Wright. He was a breakthrough architect who inspired and awed many with his work. I really liked “Falling Water”. It is a beautiful home set in nature and represents humanity’s ability to become one with nature. Another favorite of mine is his own personal home and studio. It is mainly dark colors and to me has somewhat of a modern gothic appeal to it.

It was interesting to learn some people’s opinions that the twin towers were obtrusive  structures, and that they created disharmony in the New York skyline. Personally I thought they were beautiful buildings and symbolized New York’s social, cultural, and financial prominence in the world. Losing the towers was New York’s most severe tragedy, but I am happy to see they are finally replaced by the Freedom Tower. This new beautiful building is now an icon of New York’s resilience  and unity.

Wednesday 11/7

This Wednesday began our second session of poetry recitations. During this class I heard a couple of very interesting poems from my classmates and presented three poems myself. Christian’s poem about the cab driver was written in a cool style. It allowed me to understand that poetry can be written in nearly any format. The content of the poem was about a “snapshot” of an unusual cab ride the author had experienced. The cabbie’s personality was more intricate than the author expected. This made me think about all the times I have wondered about the true identity or personality of bus drivers/cab drivers I encountered. Shumaila had a similar poem, in that it was also written as a snapshot of the author’s experience. The author was entertaining herself by thinking about alter egos that random people she saw may possess. I think its a lot of fun to use your imagination to think up a background story for someone or something you don’t know anything about.

I presented three poems to the class. The first was A Trip on the Staten Island Ferry. This poem was interesting and easy to understand; I enjoyed reading it. In my interpretation, the poem is a letter to a young person to cherish New York and the ferry, for it holds many wonders and mysteries that even the oldest souls have not discovered. Return of the Native was my second poem. This one was a bit more complex and difficult to capture in a performance. My reading led to everyone in the class individually saying “BangClash!” with some enthusiasm. The last poem I performed was called Time Shift, and I personally wrote this one. I figured since I had already wrote this poem, poetry recitations in class would be the perfect opportunity to share it. I read it with the expression I imagined it with, and that I had been practicing on the other poems. The class seemed to really like it, and I even got a lot of people coming to me personally to tell me they enjoyed it. Its an awesome feeling to put yourself out there and get some positive feedback. It was a very intrinsically rewarding experience.

Monday 11/5

On Monday in seminar class we began our poetry recitations. I was interested to see how the whole event would turn out. To my pleasant surprise, I enjoyed it a lot. Austin began with To Brooklyn Bridge. I easily relate to most of the poems recited because of their connection to New York City, which we are all a specific part of. This poem by Hart Crane was full of vivid imagery of the city and its inhabitants. I liked the author’s style, although it was slightly difficult to interpret at times.

I especially enjoyed Amber’s poem and performance February Evening in New York. Her performance was astounding with the combined effects of the sounds of the city audio background, and her devotion to read the poem with passion in the way she interpreted it. I respected her devotion to her performance and it gave me some inspiration to later read my own poem.

The last poem that really had me thinking was Ariana’s poem about Marilyn Monroe. The poem instantly stood out among the other poems I was hearing as something more explicit and sensual. The author revered Marilyn Monroe instead of bashing her like many people during her time. I found the mixed opinions and impressions of her among classmates interesting. It showed how we can all perceive media and history differently.

Wednesday 10/24 Andrew Garafalo

During class this Wednesday we focused on the analysis of Walt Whitman’s poem, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. I really enjoyed the poem and feel like it stands out especially to me being a New Yorker. We discussed the author’s use of repetition to convey meaning. In this case, the repetition was used to emphasize the theme of longevity of the author’s connection to New York and the harbor, and to those who will observe the same scenery in the future. Walt Whitman found intense beauty in the city, and he does a masterful job of expressing this even for someone who has never seen New York. It was interesting to learn that the author was a gay man. This seems to slightly change the way you look at the poem, to try to see if his writing style is influenced by his sexual orientation.

Along with the analysis of the poem, we listened to the song ” A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan. I love the song, personally being a Bob Dylan fan. In comparison to the style of Walt Whitman’s poem, it is very similar. Many lines start off with the same word (I met, I heard, I saw). BD uses a lot of repetition and similar rhythm in his verses. To me, this creates a comforting feeling, yet if you listen carefully to the lyrics they are often distressing. There is a consistent shift of emotion in the song through the lyrics, and this is contrasted by the simple melody of a few guitar chords. The chords also happen to be major chords that give a bright tone to the song. The listener is not necessarily pointed towards any particular emotion they should feel.