On the Waterfront is a critically acclaimed movie directed by Elia Kazan and written by Budd Schulberg. Both Kazan and Schulberg wanted to go for a realistic, rough, gritty feel. Kazan uses the mise-en-scène of the movie to shape it in the way he wants to audience to see it. Schulberg uses dialogue composed of metaphors and images that represent different things to get his point across.

The use of slang in this movie is used to make it more realistic. Pigeons are a reoccurring theme in the movie. Terry maintains a pigeon coop with a couple of younger boys. He idolizes pigeons, saying that they have it easy. Terry’s connection with the pigeons represents his desire to break free from the cage, in his case the cage is being involved with Johnny Friendly. Referring to a person as a pigeon means that they’re easy to manipulate and fool. The “hawks” in the movie, the gangsters, often refer to the longshoremen as pigeons. Terry mentions that the town is “full of hawks”, full of people who can at any time take the life of another. Canary and cheese-eater are colloquially terms that refer to people who rat on others; canaries “sing” to the police and rats eat cheese. Unlike today, people in the 1950s still harbored racism. “Potato-eater” is a derogatory term for a person of Irish decent. Father Barry called himself a potato-eater to show the longshoremen that he is real, genuine, and has nothing to hide.
Kazan put care into the location of the movie. This movie was shot on location in Hoboken to further add a gritty realism to the movie. Even a well-made set design can’t compare to a real dock, bar, or apartment . The costumes were bought from thrift stores, old discarded clothes that weren’t made to fit the actors in order to show that the characters didn’t have much money. When Terry goes back to his apartment after testifying, there is a rip under the arm of his jacket. Most directors would want the rip fixed but Kazan choose not to, a decision that solidifies how much realism meant to Kazan. In the bar scenes and alley scenes, a lot of low key lighting was used to create shadows in order to add to the threatening air of the scene. Often, gates and fences were included in certain scenes, such as when Terry tells Joey he’s sending up one of his pigeons and when Terry and Edie are on the roof by the pigeon coop. The purpose of these gates and fences is to show Terry’s struggle to connect with the characters because of his own internal problems.

“I could’ve been a contender”, according to many movie critics, is one of the most famous lines in movie history. The scene starts off Terry mentioning to Charlie that he wishes to talk about something with him, which is revealed to Charlie about halfway through the scene. Charlie brings up that the other men, Johnny Friendly mostly, is worried about Terry testifying. Charlie tells Terry to get some ambition in which Terry responds that he figured he’d live a little longer without it. There’s a slight pause here so that Terry’s previous line can sink in. Following this pause, Charlie tries offering and then ultimately begging Terry to take a job on the docks where he won’t “do anything… say anything”.  After Terry refuses, Charlie puts a gun to Terry’s chest and tells him to take the job. Some time passes before Charlie begins to talk about Terry’s failed boxing career that he blames on the boxing manager. Terry corrects him, blaming Charlie for his failed boxing career in which he utters the infamous lines, “I could’ve been a contender”. These lines don’t just apply to Terry’s ruined boxing career due to one fixed fight in which he could’ve won but to Terry’s life in general. Terry is upset that his brother Charlie didn’t protect him and ruined his life because he didn’t just lose that fight, he lost his self-respect and pride. Terry tells Charlie that it was Charlie’s fault for not protecting him that made him a “bum”.

Amongst many symbols in On the Waterfront, alcohol is probably one of the most overlooked. In the movie, whiskey represents power and wealth. A lot of Johnny Friendly’s business is conducted in a bar, where drinks are surrounding the men. The men at the docks are responsible for unloaded cases of liquor often in their careers yet; they’re unable to have it. They are the ones who make people like Johnny Friendly possible but they don’t even get the slightest share in the profits. Dugan was killed by a case of whiskey; power can crush those who are too weak. Beer represents the working class. Even Father Barry drank beer, showing his connection with the longshoremen.

On the Waterfront
is a movie that uses the careful decisions made by Kazan to represent so much more than a corrupt longshoremen union. The movie was used to respond to people who disowned Kazan for revealing fellow Communist writers. When caught between a rock and a hard place that both have harsh consequences, doing what is morally right to you is the best option.

-Amber G


Today, Professor Diaz came in to talk about cinema. One pretty interesting thing Professor Diaz mentioned was that movies are just a bunch of pictures that are played at a fast speed, sort of like a flipbook. It is pretty amazing thinking about movies in that way. I really enjoyed her lecture because she taught us how to analyze all films. Even though I wasn’t too fond of Manhattan, I can respect why other people enjoy it through the mise-en-scéne.

During the analysis of Manhattan, I noticed so many things that I wasn’t paying attention to and missed when I watched it for the first time in class. I thought it was clever that the background was used to show how Isaac was separated from the other characters. Something so small as a picture frame shows Isaac’s separation from the other characters during the dinner scene in the beginning. The empty spaces in the scenes reflect the questions the characters don’t want to address such as “What is the meaning of life?” and “Is there a God?” These observations made me think of the movie in a deeper, more intellectual way that I didn’t before.

Today’s lecture has taught me that I can use everything in a movie to back up my opinion about it. Everything in the movie is put there, for a reason, just like the details in a novel so, anything can be used to support or refute an argument. I think this is why you begin to notice more and more about a movie each time you watch it. I know after today’s class I will be looking at every little detail in a movie to use as backup for my opinion.

-Amber G


Today, we started talking about the Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I really enjoyed this novel. I find it surprising that Salinger was able to get this novel published in the early 1950s when things like sex were considered taboo. According to the American Library Association, the Catcher in the Rye is the second most challenged book, behind the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel has been banned and challenged from 1960 with the most recent case in 2009 for it’s profanity, sexual content, violence, and “moral issues”. I think children face much more profanity, sexual content, violence, and “moral issues” on television, the Internet, in music on the radio, and when playing video games.

In class, we discussed some of the slang and terminology used in the novel. I found it very interesting to see how people would talk back then, especially since movies during that time tried their best to make everything family friendly which this novel is definitely not. I think this novel is important because it shows people that not everyone was as proper or “square” in the fifties as we sometimes generalize in the present.

It also got my thinking about the changes in slang words even in the past five years. Five years ago, my friends and I would go around saying something was “phat” which meant it was cool. Nowadays, nobody says “phat”. A fairly recent slang word that arose in the past year is “tight”. If someone’s annoyed or angry, you can say that they’re “tight”.

– Amber G.



1. How does the camera function?: The camera functioned very differently depending on the scene. Sometimes it looked over people’s shoulders and in many scenes that had a bunch of people walking, it would follow from the front, moving along with them. Sometimes the camera would be in one place throughout the scene. Sometimes, it would go back and forth.

2. What is the director’s approach towards framing scenes with people?: This is one thing I made many notes about because this varied so often. Some of the things I realized was that many times the people were not in the central focus point of the scene. For instance, when Isaac and Tracy were in the apartment, toward the beginning of the film, they were off in the left hand side of the frame.

3. What impact does b.w v. color have?: As many of my fellow classmates, I was confused to why the movie was in black and white. I thought about it all weekend and there is a quote that is about black and white photography but I think it applies to this film as well. Ted Grant once said, “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But, when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.” Sometimes color can be distracting while watching a film and perhaps Woody Allen just wanted you to understand the movie for itself rather than focusing on colors.

4. Generally, how long do the clips (edits) last?: I don’t really remember the exact lengths for different scenes but between three and eight minutes would be my best guess.

5. Briefly describe the dialogue?: This is another thing I focused on quite a lot while watching this movie. The dialogue was relaxed, how people talk everyday. There were “mistakes” like stuttering and rewording in lines to make it feel more realistic and it didn’t sound forced either.

6. What is the role of costume in each scene?: Just like the previous question, the clothes were made to give a more realistic, normal, everyday feel to the movie.

7. What is the role of music in each scene?: Here is another thing I focused on. I think the minimal role music played in this movie helped to add of an everyday feel because, you don’t have a soundtrack playing in your life. The scene when Isaac was going to talk to Yale about Mary and Yale getting back together, the music played gave the audience the same sense of determination Isaac felt and I think that feeling would’ve been lost if the music wasn’t there.

8. What is the role of the set in each scene?: The set exuded the title of the movie. When Isaac and Mary ran for cover from the thunderstorm in Central Park, they ran into the Museum of Natural History, both landmarks in Manhattan.

-Amber G.


Today we finished the poetry presentations. Our final presentation was Stephanie’s performance of “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. Although I’ve heard the poem before, I only remember the last six stanzas from elementary school. I was wondering why Professor Kahan wanted Stephanie to go last and during the beginning of the poem, I was asking myself, “What is so important about this poem?” however once Stephanie said, “Give me your tired…” I completely realized why this poem was so important. It is the epitome of New York(ers) and on a larger scale, America(ns).

I think it’s important to mention that this poem is an Italian sonnet. Most of the sonnets I’ve read have been about the feelings of the poet, mostly about love. Sonnets aren’t restricted to only be about love but I think the style of the poem is something that is important. Perhaps the poet loved New York and America and felt using a sonnet would do a better job than any other poetic form. This poem makes me feel proud to be a New Yorker.

I’m pretty excited to start learning about movies. I know so many people who love movies and I haven’t watched many in my lifetime so, watching classic films that take place in New York excites me. I’m also pretty interested in learning about the different things that go into a movie and how they all get put together. I think learning about the things that go into making a film will help me appreciate films more.

-Amber G.


For today’s class we continued the poetry presentations. I’m going to start with the last performance of the day, Penina’s reading of “New York at Night” by Amy Lowell. I was very surprised when Penina started reading. I wasn’t expecting one of the quietest people in our class to start off as strongly as she did. I especially enjoyed how the last time she read it; she emphasized certain words to give the poem more of a visual image. I think it’s interesting to consider when the poet lived, 1874-1925, during the Industrial Revolution. Even thinking back to Washington Square, I was surprised to hear that parts of New York City where pretty uninhabited. As the city became more urban, more people began moving there so, it must have been strange to see trees replaced with factories and apartment buildings.

Another memorable performance was Rob’s reading of “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes. When Professor Kahan played background music for Rob, I could envision this poem being read in a speakeasy. I thought the background music Professor Kahan played for Rob to get into the groove of the poem not only helped him but also the class as listeners. While Rob read his poem for the last time, I was also playing the music in my head.

James performed “Ing Grish” by John Yau. I thought this poem was going to just be a little funny poem with little meaning but I was wrong. The literary devices used in the poem are not simple and the meaning is a pretty deep one. I think in one reading the meaning might fly over someone’s mind but upon careful and repeated reading, the true meaning of the poem is revealed. I think it was daring for the poet to write a poem with so much meaning in a comical way.

-Amber G.


Today, Professor Powers visited our class. He talked to us about architecture, which I never really considered a form of art until now. He was so excited to talk to us about architecture and it’s really nice to see someone so passionate about something. The quote, which opened the lecture, made me start thinking about architecture in a different way, “Architecture is a symbol of the ethos (a framework of what the ruler/builder thinks about the building and the people)…” I never thought of architecture as representing the thoughts and feelings of that time. This is where I see a correlation with music and art.

Before the lecture, I thought buildings like courthouses and federal buildings looked similar so that they would be easily recognizable to people like immigrants. I never really considered that the style, Greek and Roman, symbolized reason and balance. Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe it became so widespread that similar styles were used not only to evoke a certain ethos but also to aid in recognition.

I also find it interesting that the Gothic style symbolizes religion. The Gothic style of schools makes sense to me because during the Romanticism era when there was a gothic style revival, people began to question things and become more about the individual. It seems ironic to me that churches would be built in this kind of style especially when this is a time when people began questioning religion. The only thing I was able to rationalize why churches were built in this style was because of the towers and spires reaching up into the sky toward heaven. Again, I think that this type of style also became an archetype for immigrants to be able to identify churches.

-Amber G.


Today, we continued with our poetry presentations. I didn’t know so many well-known poets spent some of their lives in New York. Whether they were born here or spent years here; it’s pretty amazing to see how much of an inspiration New York is.
I love how we all learn something when someone goes up in front of the class and it’s always something different; sometimes it’s poetry related and sometimes it’s not but these presentations are such a learning experience. I also really love how these presentations our bringing our class together.

One presentation, which I particularly loved, was Naomi’s. I admired the way she gave the poems life and character. Her poems gave her a lot of wiggle room to play around with how she was going to present them and I think she did a great job.
I also enjoyed Andrew’s performance, especially his recitation of his own poem. It takes a lot of courage to open yourself up in front of people who you haven’t known for a while. While he was reading his own poem, I got chills and I could see how much of himself was put into his poem.

I’m excited to see the rest of the presentations. Some of the people who will be presenting I don’t know well and I think this will be a great time to get to know them better. I’m looking forward to the poem James will be performing. It will be interesting to see how he decides to perform it.

-Amber G.


Today, we began our poetry performances. I enjoyed all the different poems that were read today. Austin started us off with To Brooklyn Bridge by Hart Crane. I thought the sounds of this poem were very soothing. “Out of some subway scuttle…”, “…Accolade thou dost bestow”, and “…prophet’s pledge” were some of the things that stood out to me. I also liked how the poem used a lot of older modern English words such as thou, thy, and thee which I think added to the Biblical feel of the poem which I felt while the poem was being read.

I also enjoyed Night Funeral in Harlem by Langston Hughes. It reminded me of how some preachers dictate their sermons. The speaker of the poem asked a question that was follow by an answer. Looking at the structure of the poem, I can see how much it resembles a song. I think the structure of a poem is very important as it affects the way the poem is read. If this poem was one whole big stanza, I feel it would lose how it feels like a song. After Ariana read Love and Marilyn Monroe (after Spillane) by Delmore Schwartz, I thought the poem was a big joke making fun of how Marilyn Monroe tried to be taken seriously. After the poem was read a second time, I realized it wasn’t a big joke and the speaker was on Monroe’s side.

The poem Ariana read made me realize that sometimes poems need to be read more than once to grasp the meaning. Understanding the poem when someone is reading it can be quite difficult. Now, that I’m looking at the poem myself, I can analyze certain parts more in depth rather than trying to catch everything that was being said at the time. It’s not that easy trying to think about what the person reading the poem has just said and listen to what they’re saying in the moment. For the next presentations, I’m going to try to listen without thinking too much into things. When the person is finished I will begin to analyze the poem.

– Amber G.

10. 24. 12

Today, we started class with a short history on the Romantic era. It was interesting to see the shift in thought from the mid-18th century, individualism and skepticism, to the end of the century, moving toward realism. Speaking of this shift, I did some research on composers from the Romantic era. One of the composers that I think represents the Romantic era best is Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky wrote a whole piece about a revolution (1812 Overture). When you think about it, most of the literature taught in high school is from the mid- to late 18th century. A couple of these pieces include Moby Dick by Herman Melville and the Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Even some of the most studied poets in high school are from the Romantic era such as Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe.

The introduction of the Romantic era led us into our discussion of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman. I think it is evident by the poem that Whitman is a cross between the Romanticism and Realism eras. The Romantic elements of his poem are displayed by the theme. The Realistic element is in his descriptive writing of the scenery.

It was nice discussing the poem piece by piece because it helped me realize more about the poem. I was confused about the beginning of the poem, I couldn’t figure out why he was mentioning so many subjects and referring to them all as “you”. After it was stated that Whitman was changing the perspective, I realized it made sense that he was addressing different subjects to give us a big picture view. The symbolization of the seagulls completely flew over my head until Andrew mentioned it in class. This poem made me realized that not everything has to make sense, as long as I can see the big picture.

– Amber G