Ariana Z. On the Waterfront

Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront provides cinematic evidence for a gritty story full of corruption and its battle with integrity. Kazan does so through mise-en-scene, accompanied with language and symbols that speak for much more than their face value.

One of the best ways Kazan presents the tenacity of both the story and the main character, Terry Malloy, is through the use of a black and white film. In a way, the shades of grey produced by the black and white could represent the fact that nothing about this union is truly black and white; rather, it is a monopoly that has no concrete rules. Even the promise of a job for the day is nonexistent. The camera shots seem to obey the 180-degree rule and eye line match. The characters that are speaking are also centered in the frame. At some instances, however, like when K.O. Dugan is killed, Father Barry and Pop Doyle are raised above the other dockworkers, signifying their importance and amplifying the words spoken by Father Barry stating that Jesus is, in fact, everywhere. In some scenes the camera is placed behind a fence (like with Terry in the pigeon pen) perhaps to exemplify how they are all in the union’s cage. The costumes are typical examples of the two extremes, rich and poor, with the characters in expensive suits and hand-me-downs, respectively. The set design meshes well with the storyline of a small, hardworking town with a rugged feel. Leonard Bernstein’s score is also played throughout the film, mostly in moments of realization for Terry, like when his brother Charlie places the gun on him in the car.

This moment between Terry and Charlie in the car, and the lightning fast revelations that take place, surely make it a scene to remember. It unearths all of the feelings Terry has been trying to hide, and finally places the blame on his lack of opportunity. It becomes evident that Terry lost his hope for a future (and his conscience) after losing a match for his brother’s bet. At this point in the film Terry is in a large predicament, he must choose between doing the right thing and exposing the corrupt Friendly, or standing by his brother once again. In the cab the brothers are placed next to each other with equivalent body masses showing stating no dominance of importance; the two extremes of clothing are, however, evident. Once Charlie brings the gun out (though Terry knows he will not shoot) it becomes clear that Terry is on his own (evident through the close-ups on his face), and he finally releases his pain by telling Charlie that it is his fault Terry is the screw-up of the two brothers. The melancholy music adds to the despair. This scene is a way for Terry to realize that history cannot repeat itself and that he must do what is right.

This 1950’s film dialogue speaks for the time period; the slang words present and use of foul language (which was not a norm of the time) definitely place it in another decade. For example, words like “mug” and “bum” also aid in dating the film. The use of “potato eater” serves to expose the ethnicity of a character and goes along with the slang of the time. Another type of “eater” mentioned is with “cheese-eater” which stands for a major symbol of the film, being a rat. When someone is said to be a “cheese-eater” it means that they are a betrayer, a rat, providing for the connection to the cuisine associated for a rat. A rat or betrayer is also symbolized with a pigeon. The word “pigeon” in this film has duality in its meaning. The first is that many dub pigeons as flying rats, or vermin of the sky. They are notorious for being dirty and almost everywhere in the city, like rats. Pigeons also provide a metaphor for Terry. At the beginning, the “lost” pigeon is how Terry gets Joey to the roof and consequently, his demise. Terry then relates humans to the birds with their rituals of marriage. He is even envious of them as they have no worries in their lives, and later he becomes the “rat” and is distraught to find them all killed (by Tommy) after his confession. The other foul mentioned throughout the film is a “canary” which unlike the pigeon is representative of a caged bird, a pet, and inferior to someone higher– like the union.

The presence of alcohol adds to the gritty nature of the film, and meshes well with the job of these dockworkers, which is to load and unload products like Irish whiskey. In this film whiskey and beer have particular meanings. Whiskey, for instance, can be related to the Whiskey Rebellion where, after being unrightfully taxed for this profitable product, the residents rebelled against the tax[1]. This rebellion can be related to the character’s quandary, of deciding to overthrow an immoral superior. Whiskey, in Celtic, translates to “water of life.”[2] This provides perfect irony since K.O., who yearns for a shipment of Irish whiskey, ultimately meets his demise to this water of life. The fact that Irish whiskey, in particular, is mentioned lends itself to the many “potato-eaters’ that inhabit this town. The presence of beer can be seen as the poor mans wine. With hardly any access to food, let alone wine, beer is what Terry and his fellow dockworkers can afford.  The predominance of Father Barry and the religion of Christianity can also be linked to the fact that some Christians drink wine to signify God’s blood.[3]

Ultimately, On the Waterfront manages to expose Elia Kazan’s personal struggles with morality and loyalty, through the use of symbolism and a plot that leaves no room for glamour.

11/28/12-Professor Diaz-Ariana Z.

In yesterday’s seminar, we had a wonderful cinema lecture presented by Professor Diaz. I enjoy learning about cinema and love to hear about new symbols and their representation in different films, so this particular lecture enticed me. One thing I particularly preferred were the clips Professor Diaz used to provide examples for each new term. With the film The Birds I was quite intrigued by the suspense created by the classical cutting used. I have also recently discovered the ingenuity of Hitchcock films and the symbolism he has for every aspect of their mise en scene. When I get the chance I want to definitely watch this film.

In Orson Welles A Touch of Evil a long take was meant to create suspense, which it truly did for me. Compared to Citizen Kane’s low angle shots this scene showed how versatile Welles can be with his lenses and camera movement. The short film Professor Diaz showed was quite funny in the way that the setting was one place yet so many different characters entered and left the frame. At one point it even looked like the first character flew into the wall. The director used editing not for narrative purposes but for magic tricks. I seem to like the Orson Welles use of continuity editing, though, because it makes you feel more like you are one with the scene. Though most of the scene consisted a crane shot, you truly felt like you were an onlooker to the plot of the film and you were worried about when the bomb was going to go off. I also think that continuity editing gives the actors more of a challenge. It calls for less room for error and it seems to make the acting appear more real. I know that most soap operas have long shots. With a new script for every day’s episode I think that though they may not be the most famous actors they are some of the most talented.

Ultimately, I see how much film relates to recent history. By this, I mean that film can really be a time capsule of the time period they are from and create a perfect example of the time epoch of when it was created. This is evident from the transformations from black and white to hand tinted to Technicolor and now the development of three-dimensional films. The evolution from simply having music in the background to live sound also shows how much technology as well as the world has evolved.

11/26/12-Ariana Z.

To be honest when I began reading Catcher and the Rye I hated the informal nature of J.D. Salinger’s writing. I was at first taken aback by the way Holden’s thoughts completely spill out onto the page as you are reading. I also think this shock might have come from the fact that this is so different from the previous novel I read, Washington Square. Which in contrast had a formal style.

After finally getting used to the style of writing, I did start to enjoy the novel. The rawness of his thoughts (and the fact that he was so honest with the reader) really appealed to me.

Throughout the book I was shocked at some of the things he did, most of which being carelessly spending his money. If I were in his predicament I would have never spent my money on things like taxis when a subway was available.

I noticed that he used the prefix “old” a lot when talking about a person he knew or even just met. Like “Old Luce” for example, nowadays I rarely—if ever—hear that phrase being used.

When learning about “archetypes” I began to see how there is a set of them in most novels or films I have come across. Most of the shows I watched as a child consisted of the jock, the cool girls and the nerds. Most notably in That’s so Raven and Lizzie McGuire, which are two of my favorites.

I see myself being more aware of these archetypes in the future. The ending of the novel, though a great one metaphorically, did leave me desiring for a more “bread and butter” type ending. I guess after all of the detailed observations in the novel, I became accustomed to them and wanted to know what his parents reactions were to him being expelled. I also wanted to observe how he got through his illness. What I found most charming was that Phoebe symbolized the light in the spiraling hole that was his life, and was clearly his last tie to childhood and innocence.

11/21/12-Manhattan- Ariana Z.

On Wednesday’s seminar class we watched our first New York film. It was Woody Allen’s Manhattan (certainly a fitting title for our class). What intrigued me about this film was how similar it was to another film I have seen, also directed by Woody Allen called Husbands and Wives. Both films starred Woody Allen and both dealt with issues of infidelity. During the film I took notes to help answer questions similar to the ones we did for homework the class before. That homework, I should note, was quite enjoyable for me. I love analyzing a film and seeing how it could mean so much more then the plot thanks to the use of a director’s cinematic devices.

1) Throughout this film I would say the camera deviated quite a bit from classical cutting. At some moments the camera would be placed off to the side rather then with one central image and many times it captured the characters in the shadows, for example, when Yale tells Isaac about his affair their discussion is cast in the shadows. And when Isaac and Mary go to the museum the entire image is distorted and brought in the shadows. The camera stays in one position in most scenes of the film, it does not move from character to character when a dialogue begins. It stays stationary instead of showing the other people/person’s reactions.

2) In many of the scenes the director does not frame the characters in dead center of the camera. Instead it could be canted to the right or left and at times only the actors dialogue can be heard over a still image such as a diner. Some shots were also wide angle and depicted the entire setting of the characters rather then just the characters themselves (like with Isaac and Tracey in the large apartment).

3) The fact that this film was in black and white in my opinion adds to the New York image. Most of what makes up NYC is in black and white in its colors and the people that inhabit the city are what bring it life. It could have also been used to have the audience focus on the storyline rather then the colors of the characters and setting. Using black and white also creates many shades of grey, and with issues like infidelity some things really are never black and white.

4) The clips seem to last for a few minutes and they then transition to another clip.

5) The dialogue in this film is sarcastic, intelligent, and at times simple-minded (and even contains some profanity). This multi-dimensional dialogue of these characters is a great representation of the great diversity in only one set of people in New York City.

6) The costumes in this film speak to the theme of black and white and all of the people involved. No one really wears anything extravagant or noteworthy in the course of the film. Again perhaps to highlight the plot, and to represent how it is about working people trying to succeed in New York.

7) The music in this film is at times exuberant and is most utilized when it drowns out the dialogue of the characters. For example when Yale takes his son out, the music gets louder and louder and becomes almost a silent film—where, through the glass of the store window, we see Isaac’s movements exaggerated to display emotion.

8)The set of the film is New York City and it is meant to show the best aspects of it, the museums the parks the streets and the apartments. Shots of the city with fireworks and the pumpkins can be inferred as use of the set to display the passing of time (from the fourth of July, perhaps, to the Fall).

Ultimately, I enjoyed the ending and the analysis of my second Woody Allen film. I can definitely say that I now get a sense of his oeuvre in his films.



Final Poetry Recitations 11/19 Ariana Z.

Today’s seminar marked the end of our poetry journey. Swathi was first up to finish off the poetry recitations. After reading her poem, Union Square, Professor Kahan asked the class if the reader truly needed to present the poem in a “sing-song” way. After thinking it over, I see that the answer to that question, is no. However, if I was given Swathi’s poem I would have probably read the poem the same way. I imagine that this is due to the many nursery rhymes I have heard since infancy. This is why I think that Swathi read it in a “sing-songy” way. It seems to become natural for our generation to turn things we read into a song. With that said, I have come to the conclusion that a poem’s message, or meaning, is easier to comprehend (at least when listening to it) when there is not a song involved. In the presence of a rhyme scheme, I seem to be taken away by the rhythm of the poem. I become captivated by the author’s word choice and their challenge to make the poem rhyme, rather than focusing on the idea he/she is trying to portray.

Corinna also went today; her poem White Egrets, really appealed to me. Besides the relatable meaning, I loved the analogies the poet used. The first was comparing his typewriter being misplaced as a musician missing his piano. The comparison was so perfect for the way a poet feels about his artistic instrument. The line that states the poet is waiting for the sound of a bird to “unhinge” the beginning of spring also stood out to me. Using something like a bird rather then a clock or a calendar to signal spring is similar to what I feel about the movie “Home Alone” and the holiday season. As soon as I see a commercial for this movie, I feel the traditions of the holidays come to life. However, if that movie (for some odd reason) is being played during the month of May my internal clock seems to be caught off guard. My assumption though, is that the poet was using this bird to represent how much time had passed since his loss.

Looking back on the poems that my fellow classmates and I have presented I see how they personify what New York City represents. In my opinion, it shows that New Yorkers have an open mind about so many aspects of life. This is evident in the multitude of topics that made up our presentations, one day consisted of discussions of Marilyn Monroe and homosexuality while the next was “people watching” on a bus and learning the “Engrish” language. With so many cultures and personalities that make up this city, I should have realized how different these poems would be at the start of our recitations. It is not until now, however, I see that despite these poets inhabiting one region of the world when writing their poems, their topic choices seemed to have no bound.


Poetry Recitation-3 11/14 Ariana Z.

Tuesday night, the class was given the chance to see Professor Kahan in concert at CSI. As the Chamber Music Collective performed the pieces by Claude Debussy I recognized what professor Kahan had said about Debussy’s music seemingly having no true beginning or ending. As whimsical and enjoying as it was, there were many moments where I thought the piece had ended, and almost began to clap. I soon realized that the audience and I had to wait for cues from the musician to signify the piece was officially over. This uncertainty of its ending appealed to me, actually. Overall, I can say that the night was a great opportunity to listen to music that I otherwise would not have encountered.

On Wednesday’s seminar class we continued our poetry recitations. Brendon’s poem “Check Mate” seemed to be the poem we analyzed most. I thought that the connections between the chess game and 9/11 were quite brilliant. At first, I thought it was peculiar how the poet chose to use the word “fat finger” to describe where he grew up. As the poem went on however I saw the connection between the chess game and hands–which you play chess with.

Another motif that seemed to occur in the poem was the presence of “doubles.” With the twin towers, two cigarettes, two players in a game of chess and the presence of two rooks per player it is something you cannot ignore. I think the fact that I noticed all of these doubles is because it reminded me of Hitchcock’s Stranger on a Train, a film where seeing double is an understatement. Another thing that I found interesting was that the two cigarettes smoked by the poets father also represented the passing of time. Rather than taking the usual pack of cigarettes to finish their game, the poet and his father took only the time of two cigarettes to finish the game. Undoubtedly, from the excitement of his first accountants check. Ultimately, I enjoyed the poem and the cleverness of the connections.

Architecture Lecture-11/12-Ariana Z.

Today’s seminar welcomed Professor Richard Powers to our class. He gave us a lecture on the many things that go into understanding the aspects of architecture. What I enjoyed most about the lecture were the different hints Professor Powers gave us to recognize the different styles of architecture.

We first learned the word, ethos which means the whole culture of the society. Apparently, some call architecture a symbol of the ethos of a society. One example included the Parthenon, which was built in 447 BC and thought of as a pose to power. Essentially, it meant that you have to use brute force to get anywhere as a society. The Parthenon represented an intellectual power, symbolizing how reason rises above nature and towers over everything else. This making reason most important in a culture trying to move forward. The goddess of the Parthenon being Athena, the goddess of reason. Definitely fitting for this building.This style of reason is widely used for banks (which I found interesting) since of course banks should be reasonable. This makes perfect sense as when I go to the bank I am usually at my most serious state focusing on serious things.Having a bank look anything but reasonable would be quite confusing to my mindset since so much of it is dependent on the environment.

During the 1830s and 1840s, architecture made a shift from neoclassicism to Gothic culture.This was characterized by pointed arches otherwise known as the Gothic arches. Gothic architecture also symbolized the religion of the rulers of the time period, which tended to be Episcopalian. This exemplified how religion and the church was held extremely high. One example of it was Trinity church. Gothic style is also appropriate for school buildings.

One term that stood out to me is that the paths that people crate on their own, as a kind of detour path to a destination, are actually called “paths of desire.”

Another aspect of the lecture that intrigued me was the thought of Central Park as a building. With the beauty and nature that has developed in Central Park, it is easy to forget  that it is in fact, a man made structure. Central park is a romantic structure. It is not symmetrical and it reminds you that even in the midst of the big city, you can be in the middle of nature. It is a symbol of romantic nature.

The passion that someone has for their work never ceases to amaze me and though history is not my forte, I enjoy listening to someone like Professor Powers share the knowledge he has on architecture to our Arts In New York City seminar class.

Ariana Z. 11/7

On Wednesday’s seminar class, we continued our poetry recitations. One of the poems that really stood out to me was Christian’s poem. After he recited the poem the first time, I must admit I did not completely understand what the poem was trying to say. However, after further analysis by Professor Kahan, I began to see how this was a snapshot poem. It provided insight into how an outsider taking the time to describe and analyze his surroundings could see much more than just a cab driver. For someone who takes cabs or public transit, it is often easy to forget that the person behind the wheel is much more than a driver. In fact, that person could posses a fortune and have a PhD for all we know.  This poem made me think of how despite seeing someone everyday, you truly do not know a person until they let you in.

Another example of a snapshot poem that was more comprehensible, in my opinion, was Shumaila’s poem. As the author of her poem described her surroundings I became captivated by the way she gave alter egos to the people on the bus. The author let her imagination truly run wild when describing the caviar and adultery taking place in the bus drivers life. And I was shocked at her suggestion of the person of god in the poem, in reality being a mugger. When Professor Kahan asked the class what a “mugger” looked like I was actually stumped. There really is no answer to that, and though some may assume a mugger would look more like a hoodlum than a priest, you really do not know. Questions like that often get tested on shows like “What Would You Do?” (a personal favorite). When stereotypes are proven to be present it never ceases to amaze me. After our second day of poetry recitations, I can say that snapshot poems have become a preference of mine.

11/5/12 Ariana Z. (Poem Recitals)

Todays seminar consisted of our first round of poetry recitations. While listening to my fellow classmate’s poems, I was amazed to hear how different they really are. From homosexuality to coping with death, these poems had a plethora of meanings. I was shocked to find out that the poem I recited, “Love and Marilyn Monroe (after Spillane)” by Delmore Shwartz, happened to be the most talked about poem.

Ultimately, the class got into a discussion of how Marilyn Monroe, though known for her provocative image, was not actually promiscuous. The class seemed to conclude that Marilyn Monroe was more than simply a sex symbol. This is what I stated to be personified by the poem. The poem focused on the woman behind this overly sexual character. Professor Kahan stated that even though Marilyn Monroe had this image of a sinner (by the fifties standards) she did in fact try to live a “normal” life. Attempting to have children during both of her marriages.

When discussing this poem, I thought about how celebrities use certain characteristics to create their signature style. For example, who is Lady Gaga with out her outlandish outfits? And where would Katy Perry be had she not expressed her feelings about kissing a girl? These otherwise taboo forms of dress and behavior would probably label these women as “sinners.” In my opinion, these women are not truly these characters they portray. Instead, I think that they are brilliant business women. How? Simply for taking advantage of the human interest in all things that are not the norm.

Ariana Z. 10/24

On Wednesday’s seminar class, we spoke about the nineteenth century and all the wonderful pieces that made up that era. First, we discussed the characteristics of this time period. Some include a sense of nationalism, and a new desire to belong to more then a god and a king. This was brought about after the rise of the middle class. Since the new guilds began taking care of people, they were able to get more than enough food.With a better sense of well being, and ample time to do other things like read and write, more people desired to discover their purpose in life and ask “Who am I?” This was the beginning of individualism. Its amazes me how, with fewer things to worry about, a persons mind can truly expand. When I was a young child and had nearly nothing to worry about, it seemed so much easier to discover who I was, and to explore all aspects of my personality. As you grow older, there are more things to think about, less room in your mind, and less time to extensively work on who you are in opposition to nature. Nevertheless, as you get older and have more to think about, how you deal with these thoughts seem to state who you truly are.

We also discussed how the dark side of human nature was personified by its literature in the nineteenth century, probably due to the revolutions occurring at the time. One of the novels written during that period, that stuck out in my mind was Madame Bovary. In my opinion this novel epitomized romanticism and the dark side of human nature. As Madame Bovary planned her party, she was reminded of the the multiple love affairs she had after marrying her husband. Adultery, in my opinion is a form of the dark side of human nature. Furthermore, after reading this novel two years ago, I remember noticing how Madame Bovary might have used these affairs to become her own person. She desired to be an individual, and to live beyond the realms as “Madame Bovary.” With this new knowledge of the nineteenth century ideals and their influence on writing, I now see how this could have influenced the author of Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert.