On the Waterfront – Brendon Ursomanno

Earlier this week, our class and I were grateful enough to watch a well-renowned film titled, On the Waterfront. Luckily, Professor Kahan and other avid supporters of this movie had nothing but great things to say about it. Because Professor Diaz had educated us prior to seeing this movie, I was able to implement my new “film knowledge” during my experience watching On the Waterfront. In these next couple of paragraphs, I will explain the mise-en-scène, the dialogue, and the symbolism that was used to make this movie, I believe, one of the staples of American motion picture.

By definition, mise-en-scène is all of the elements that are placed in front of a camera to be photographed. A more literal definition would be that it’s the way the scenery and any other elements are used to denote where the movie is actually taking place. Compared to today’s technology with filmmaking, black and white film was used, which sets a different tone, representing one of hardships, betrayal, and constant uneasiness. Another set of aspects of mise-en-scène is the utilization of costumes and lighting. Both of these are vital contributors to the overall feeling and persona that is given off by the two main characters, Terry Malloy, an aspiring fighter and Johnny Friendly, the boss of the Dockers union. For the most part, the clothing is plain, as it relates to the time period of the mid 1900s. Suits, trench coats, lace or cotton dresses, and wool hats are all part of the costumes and there is a distinct relationship to the emotions evoked by wearing such clothing. For example, Johnny Friendly’s role is the “mob boss” that resides over the whole union; therefore, he dresses in a tailored suit with a trench coat over it, to represent a sense of prestige and loyalty all of his workers must have for him. However, Terry Malloy wears overalls, which symbolizes his hard work and willingness to achieve respect. Lighting also plays a major part in the demeanor of these two men, in relation to their overall characterization. The shadows and contrast between dark and light lighting flows coherently, with the separation of good and bad. There are many instances when the camera focuses in on Mr. Friendly; a shadow is formed and dark unpromising lighting is used. Therefore, the lighting and clothing used in this film contribute to the development of each of the characters and the roles that they play.

The dialogue that was used was another unique aspect in the movie. When I first heard the words such as: potato-eater, cheese-eater, and pigeon I was perplexed and not until I dug deeper, was I able to come up with a logical reason for using such phrases. For example, “potato-eater,” is referred to a person who comes from a heavy Irish background because money was scarce and potatoes were cheap, making it a staple of their diet. For example, Father Barry specifically calls himself a “potato-eater.” The other peculiar phrase was “cheese-eater,” which I’m assuming relates to the idea of being a rat; and it was used to describe Joey Doyle in Chapter four, for ratting out on Mr. Friendly. Finally, the word “pigeon” was used frequently in the movie in relation to someone who is loyal, just as the bird is faithful to its family and most importantly, to itself. Up until the ending of the movie, all of the workers including Terry were in fact, loyal to Johnny. However, the tides quickly turned, when Terry has had enough of Johnny’s antics and turns away from his authority, being bestowed the name of “stool pigeon.” However, these are only some of the terms used, but by delving deeper into them, I was able to find a distinct correlation between them and the main characters in the movie.

There is a very powerful and well-known scene in the movie between Terry and Charlie Molly, which took place in the taxi, when Terry says, “I coulda been a contender.” One of the most important things that I noticed is the use of the camera. Due to the small space, the camera adds to the intensity of the dialogue as it relates to the scene. In essence, the camera use capitalized on the facial and body expressions evoked by Terry and Charlie. The dialogue consists of Terry reprimanding Charlie because he made him lose a fight purposely, which unknowingly ended Charlie’s fighting career. The acting and emotions that were used during this scene were so intense and passionate that it ultimately shows that the character Terry has matured in a man, and is finally aware of what he has done. This then enables Terry to stand up to Johnny and his crew, after Charlie had been killed. Again, the quote mentioned above conveys the idea of fighting the bad for the good of everyone else.

Finally, alcohol is used prevalently throughout the film. I think the reason for using it is to epitomize the overwhelming amount of betrayal and moral decay. For example, Father Barry is, according to his obligations as a priest, not allowed to consume alcohol, but does so anyway. In the Irish heritage, alcohol has a deeper meaning and in this movie, corruptions works hand and hand with it. It also relates to the character Terry Malloy. When he consumed this drink, it seems to me that he was worried and trying to keep his mind off it before he acted on his inner thoughts. In reality, beer is way cheaper than liquor, so the typical Irish hard worker, Terry drank beer, whereas, the boss, Johnny preferred the more expensive drink, whiskey. Again, by the use of mise-en- scène, dialogues, symbolism, and alcohol an overall theme had been established making the underdog Terry have the last laugh.

Professor Diaz Lecture on Cinema – 11/28/12

In seminar yesterday, Professor Diaz came into our class to discuss the world of cinema. At first glance, I questioned to myself how someone could possibly be a cinema professor, but ten minutes into her lecture, I was amazed at how much goes into making a movie, as well as the major details that I casually look over and don’t analyze fully. I thought it was crazy, how a movie that is displayed for the audience, doesn’t represent the amount of time and hard work that goes into making the particular motion picture; unless professors in that respected field analyze it thoroughly such as, Professor Diaz.

Instead of going on and on about the terms that were discussed in the lecture, I would like to highlight some of the important ones; which happen to be mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, sounds, and framing. Mise-en-scene is all of the elements that are placed in front of the camera to be photographed. Cinematography is simply the use of cameras and other machines to record images.The next term, editing is piecing together of individual shots. Sounds are the voices, effects, and music that blend on film’s sound track. Finally, framing is important because it actively defines the image for us. It’s not simply a neutral border. The frame, in cinema, imposes a certain vantage point onto the material within the image.

To be honest, I was kind of bored during the first half of Professor Diaz’s lecture only because she was just reciting cinema terms that didn’t really mean anything to me. But once she applied the new concepts to various well–renowned movies, I became interested and it definitely appealed to me. I never thought of movies such as the Godfather and other gangster movies in relation to the lighting and the clothing. I just took the movie for its face value and never dug deeper and examined the various terms that Professor Diaz discussed. Now I think of all movies in a different but unique manner. All of the concepts such as: lighting, clothing, scenery, color, storyboard enable me to formulate a more conceptual and idealistic view on the particular movie that can be supported by different scenes; instead of just coming up with a logical explanation without any concrete forms of evidence.

Manhattan/Catcher in the Rye 11/26/12

Today’s class mainly touched upon the movie Manhattan and the book Catcher in the Rye. All of the music in Manhattan is by, George Gershwin. In this movie, the opening scene has music, which function is to emphasis certain points of his life, such as: happy moments when he ran through the toy story, and introducing Manhattan as a bold city with powerful music. But, underneath it all, is a very diverse New York culture. In a way, the music brings out the romantic appeal of New York. The movie demonstrates Romanticism by socializing. There are certain times when New York isn’t romantic, but then there are times when it is, for example when Isaac is in the dark corner with his lover. Isaac, the main character in the movie is an idealist, and is chasing his dreams because in his mind there is something to strive for.

The Romanticism embodied by the characters is performed in an intellectual way, because the individuals are professors and authors who reside in nice apartments. It focuses on the upper class, or in other words, those who are very comfortable financially.

When Isaac lost his job, he immediately thought to himself that he can’t pay the check at restaurant, must move into a new apartment, no more house in Hampton’s,and no more tennis lessons. In reality he is worried about all the wrong things. Instead, he should be concerned with paying bills and more importantly, feeding his family.

All the characters in the movie are entitled to their leisure time, which isn’t a big problem, for it is part of the romanticism. In a way this plot is similar to the one in Washington Square.

Music is used towards the end of the movie Manhattan for numerous reasons. First, it is utilized to represent similar things. Also, it shows feeling, which happened to be bittersweet. Manhattan is great and is complimented a lot, but it also has some negative qualities, one being it’s decentralized. The bittersweet represents the good and the bad. New Yorkers are tough on the outside, but teddy bears on the inside. Therefore, the music satisfied the individual parts and details, but put together as a composite has beauty and meaning. The movie uses the book ending technique, in the sense that the same music in the beginning and the end frames the plot.

We then shifted topics, and began discussing The Catcher in the Rye. Holden, the main character of the story comes from a wealthy background. The spirit of the time after World War Two represented many things such as: patriotism, positive outlook, getting back on your feet, age of consumerism, buying more than necessities, good and services were cheaper, and feeling of less value for human being.  In essence, buying things becomes most important, and the deeper values of what you yourself is worth is diminished.

Fake was the word Holden used in 1949 to describe various things in his life. His experience in New York consisted of spending money on useless things such as: going to clubs and throwing money across the pond. He talks to many groups of people and presents himself as this person who is too mature for his own good.

He is torn between being a child and being mature, therefore, he is outward oriented, because Holden views himself in relation to others and also, is a protector of children and innocence. Archetypes are used in this book to transcend time and space and don’t stop at cultural boundaries. Some generic examples are the dumb jock, the dumb blonde, nerds, and the wise old man, which happens to be Mr. Spencer. People have heroes, mentors, and suddenly, become disillusioned and discover that the person isn’t that smart or intelligent after all.  Holden is questioning his own parents, sent to private school, goes to New York on mythic journey, which tends to be very ironic throughout the book.

11/22/12 – Manhattan, Woody Allen

Yesterday’s seminar class was probably the most enjoyable one out of them all. I was excited to watch A Bronx Tale for the millionth time in a row, but to my surprise, Professor Kahan decided to change the movie we were about to see to, Manhattan, directed by Woody Allen.

To be honest, I was very disappointed because I love watching old “gangster” movies such as: The Godfather, Scarface, and A Bronx Tale. Normally, I am not a big fan of black and white movies because I have grown up in an age where everything is in color, so a lack of color seems boring and prosaic to me. However, I do make a couple classic exceptions for black and white films.

Aside from my interest in old movies, yesterday we watched Manhattan, and at first glance it looked really familiar, but I couldn’t exactly pinpoint where or when I had heard of this movie before. Not until someone shouted out that Woody Allen directed it, did I realize, that in my old AP English class we discussed him briefly. All I can remember about him is that he was a complete weirdo and there was definitely something wrong with him, not only in the movie, but in real life as well, for he married his adopted stepdaughter. Personally, I find that very strange and he was a very odd man, to say the least.

As I was watching the movie the questions we had to answer for A Bronx Tale and All About Eve, began to quickly formulate in my mind.  The function of the camera in a particular movie is the key for the overall feeling and mood of the movie. In Manhattan, the camera wasn’t really quick moving as it was in A Bronx Tale. There are some times when it zooms into particular characters to emphasis the point he/she is trying to convey. But, overall, the camera shadows over the main characters and pinpoints where the audience should be putting their attention.

The costumes, music, and setting all played a vital role in driving the plot and series of events along. For example, the clothing portrayed a wealthy and superior nature. Whereas, the music shifts from jazz all the way to classical. By having such a wide rang of sounds, it adds to the high society persona. The setting had its roots in New York, a place all of us can relate to quite significantly. By doing so, we were all able to get a better feeling as well as understand some of the famous New York hotspots such as: Central Park.

The black and white nature of the film represents the “old Manhattan” feeling, and I was able to relate to the emotions evoked by the main characters. Woody Allen’s approach towards framing each scene was for the most part pretty similar throughout the entire movie.  From what I can see, he made sure all of the characters were placed in the center and by zooming in and out produced a contrast of framing.

I’d be remised if I didn’t discuss the dialogue and its importance in the movie. It varies from time to time because it can range from resentful humor, to calm and peaceful tones. The move in itself is a quick and eventful one, which is because of the characters diverse and noteworthy dialogues.

Overall, I thought this movie was a little abstract and creepy, but that definitely represents Woody Allen in a nutshell.  I am looking forward to hearing more about this movie in depth next week.

Final Day of Poem Performances – 11/20/12

Sadly, yesterday’s seminar class marked the last day of the poem presentations. I can honestly say, that by experiencing it as a class, I witnessed a side of my classmates; I never knew had existed before. Each of my friends have their strengths and weaknesses, and for some, public speaking wasn’t their forte. Each poem that was assigned, I think represented the person who read in some way or another.

I found it interesting how, Professor Kahan made Stephanie go last because her poem, I believe was the only one with a vivid and well-defined ending. Her poem was entitled, The New Colossus, and I personally think it summed up the ideals and beliefs all Americans embody. More importantly, the passion and enthusiasm it was spoken in, enabled me, as part of the audience, to get a much better feeling and understanding, behind what the author was trying to convey.

Each poem presented throughout the two weeks, touched me in a different way. However, ironically enough, they all described New York. I believe that this speaks quite highly of NYC, because it was analyzed and deciphered by different authors in completely different ways, but in the end, it all drew back to one common universal belief of New York. This feeling I got, mostly came from how well and effectively it was presented. Ultimately, if a poem that seems meaningless and prosaic is performed in a loud and enthusiastic manner, it will be absorbed much easier, and therefore I will understand it a lot better.

When Corinna presented her two poems, I couldn’t help but laugh, not at her of course, because I was in the same boat last week. We were both nervous and scared, but ultimately, we got through it and destroyed the barriers that once impeded our progression. By repeating your poem over again, the fears and worries disappear and you become one with the poem. I thought it would be a bad thing to have to redo my poem again and again, but it actually helped me understand it better as well perform it more artistically. Public speaking comes more natural for others, but the more that it is practiced, the better off you will be. This art is related to comfort levels because the more the person is comfortable speaking in front of a large group of people, the better and more informative their presentation will be.

Moving forward, we will be learning about cinema and having a guest speaker inform us about the world of movies and all it entails. Obviously, I am looking forward to watching movies in class, but I have to say, by doing these poetry assignments, I have a new liking for some poetry.

11/14/12 – Part 3 of Poem Performances

Today’s seminar class was another around of the poetry performances. Finally, it was my turn to go and I couldn’t have been more anxious and nervous. Unfortunately, both of the poets I was assigned to research had very little information on them; so my introduction was very short and sweet. Public speaking, is a very useful trait to master, and it definitely comes more natural for others. Reciting the poem in front of your friends and in front of the class are two completely different things. Although, I had practiced my two poems numerous times, nothing compares to actually speaking it and living in the moment.

I related to the second poem titled, Birthplace by Michael Cirelli a lot more than the first one titled, Checkmate. The prime reason being was the fact that Mr. Cirelli combined poetry and hip-hop into one, which I felt was incredible and mind blowing. I felt I had to read it as a rap in order to get the full effect. I didn’t realize how pronouncing each word can really skew with the meaning of the words and more importantly, the message the author is trying to convey. I have a somewhat New York accent, so I don’t pronounce some of the syllables entirely in the word. That is a difficult habitat to break, but with Professor Kahan correcting me when I mispronounce a word, I am slowly starting to fix the problem.

Because I don’t want to talk about myself in this entire blog, I will discuss James’s performance. His was done with such emotion and feeling, I felt as if I was in the poem acting out and thinking the way the characters had thought. Although, he pronounced some of the words incorrectly, I still give him credit for acting out the poem in a comical manner.

Poetry I believe is all about the underlying meaning; in other words delving deeper into the text and answering some abstract questions. I personally feel that my poem, Checkmate represented a multi-layered set of opinions that can be supported by direct quotes from the poem. After I finished reciting my first poem, Professor Kahan explained her take on the poem, as well as what she believed was the message. It differed a little from mine, but I can wholeheartedly see where she is coming from, and I respect the fact that she thinks about poetry and other forms of art in an abstract way. I hope by taking this course I can develop this skill even slightly, for it is a great trait to possess, and will be useful moving forward in life.

11/12/12 – Professor Powers Discussion on Architecture

Today’s seminar class was a little different because we had a guest speaker come in and give a presentation of the architecture and culture of New York. His name was Professor Richard Powers and he explained that architecture tries to provide a context for the life that will go in and around various buildings. Some scholars call architecture a symbol of the “ethnos.” Professor Powers talked about numerous building all over the world, but in my blog I will only be discussing the ones I felt were important or relatable.

The first building we looked at was the Parthenon: (447-438 BC), which was an iconic building of Western civilization. It is a symbol of the intellectual power and relates to the idea of reason rising up above nature, in this particular case, it infers Greece. It’s not a building symbolizing Romanticism or a Gothic Castle

The next building we examined was Monticello, which is a Roman type structure (1772), and imposes a feeling that the mind can gaze over and impose such order. Along with that came, Federal Style Massachusetts State House, 1798, giving the idea that the Founding Fathers were enlightenment figures. Following the State House is a new form of architecture called Georgian, which was used in St. Paul’s Chapel, Thomas McBean (1776). This structure is very symmetrical, and uses a lot trim around the window. The brick and white trimmings make me think of CSI, because they both are constructed in a similar manner. By definition, Georgian means part of the British Empire.

Another building touched upon was the Customs House (1907) by, Cass Gilbert, which is a museum of the American Indian at bowling green. The four “continents” were done in a colonial fashion, in which the whole world was subjected to western civilization. I think it gives a sense that we are living in western civilization that is dominating the world. In the late 1800s, there was a great shift from neoclassical to gothic architecture. For example, Trinity Church (1846) represents this distinct shift. Some properties of gothic style are pointed arches; symbolizing religion, more specifically the rulers were Episcopalian. The gothic architecture is appropriate for schools.

The Ethnos of America is changing and becoming more sentimental, religious based, romantic (gothic), and irrational. Another structure we looked at was the Brooklyn Bridge, which is a completely scientific building. It is made out of all steel and ties into living in a country that still has contacts with its religious roots. However, engineers wants people to know it’s not a break of the past because it is in fact a gothic bridge.

The list of magnificent architecture goes on and on, but I will stop there and start discussing the wonderful performance that Professor Kahan will be performing in tomorrow night at CSI. She will be playing the piano and also be a part of other instrumental performances as well. I am looking forward to witnessing Professor Kahan in her true element. I’m definitely ready to be blown away, to say the least. Today’s class was another side of art that made me think about life and all it has to offer, and moving forward I am excited to attend such a spectacular show tomorrow night.

11/7/12 – Part 2 of Poem Presentations

Today’s seminar class was part two of our poetry readings and despite the snowstorm everyone attended. Unfortunately, I still didn’t present my two poems yet, but by observing my classmates’ performances, I feel a little uneasy and wary. Public speaking is an art, that if not mastered can be nerve-racking and worrying. Most of my friends today, remained composed, and spoke with confidence. However, there still were some who let it get the best of them, and lacked emotions or feelings.

When I do present, my history of the two poets will be very concise because little information was present on the computer, due to their age and other such factors. However, I admire Michael Cirelli because he combined hip-hop culture and poetry. At first, when I researched him and found about this duality within his poetry, I was a little skeptical and unsure how it would turn out. But, after I read Birthplace, my whole viewpoint was altered greatly. Not only did I respect him, but began to wonder how creative as well as difficult it must be to combine the hip-hop and poetry world together.

Pertaining to today’s class, I specially enjoyed Naomi’s performance and Andrew’s presentation of the poem he wrote. Both were spoke with such emotion and enthusiasm I truly understood the meanings behind each of the poems. I was taken back when I heard Andrew’s poem, because I never knew he was capable or even into that type of writing. It was marvelous how he just sat down one day and wrote this heartfelt and ingenious poem. If he hadn’t had told us that he wrote it, I would definitely have thought some famous author wrote it back in the early 1900s. Also, Naomi’s presentation was empowering and vivid in nature. She used a lot of feeling and passion, making it enjoyable and pleasant to witness. I felt as if, I was in the poem acting out what was being said.

All and all, I learned different techniques to public speaking as to what works and what doesn’t work. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and as an individual, I must find what works best for me. I am looking forward to finally presenting my poems on Monday, and I hope I can be half as good as some of the performances earlier today.

11/5/12 – Poem Recitals

Today’s seminar class was definitely interesting and unique. Prior to class, each student was assigned one or two poems that had to be researched and recited in front of the class. Also, we were to give brief details we found interesting about the particular poet or poets that Professor Kahan assigned.

However, towards the end of class, the class got a little sidetracked and we began discussing the influence of the media on women and how the audience portrays them. For example, Marilyn Monroe was looked upon as a sex symbol because of the various things she had done during her life. This falls hand and hand with our discussion because, people during this time perceived Marilyn, as a very provocative and promiscuous woman, simply because the media and other forms of news reported her in this way. It’s very rare for people even in today’s world, to produce an opinion solely based on what they feel. This relates closely to the presidential election. For example, there are many news channels and radio stations that are either Pro Democratic or Pro Republican, and if one listens to these networks on a constant basis, their outlooks and views are greatly affected. This idea was one of the topics discussed in today’s class, leading me to question if I fall into this category, or if I base my judgments on what I personally feel, despite what the media and my family tells me.

But, I must touch on the fact that even though I didn’t recite my poem yet, I get the feeling that speaking in front of the class is easier said than done. Many of my classmates, had a difficult time expressing their opinion and speaking clearly, which is a very common problem during public speaking. Thankfully, Professor Kahan was able to clarify any loose ends within the poems, enabling me to get a better understanding of what the poet is trying to portray. Hopefully, when I present my poem on Wednesday, I won’t be corrected too much, but I take all corrections I receive in a positive way and try to use them to better myself.

Walt Whitman – Realism/Romanticism

Today’s topic to discuss dealt with Walt Whitman, and the connections made between his works, particularly, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and the periods of Realism and Romanticism. The romantic period examines the dark side of human nature and deals with the unconscious. Whereas, the realistic period, focuses on a particular scenario that is common as well as prevalent within any society.  Also, Romanticism relates to the idea that everything is more individual, which is the very beginnings of what we call, psychology. The Civil War, which occurred in the 1800s, portrayed an American economy that became more based on the cities, and work based opportunities were reflected in urban life. During this time period, in Europe, the author, Victor Hugo, the writer of Les Miserables, began to slowly shift the scene and moved towards Realism. A perfect example would be Washington Square, because it is about a timid woman that could be seduced by a handsome man. The realistic part of this novel is the fact that Henry James, the author of Washington Square, depicts real life.

Walt Whitman’s poem, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, doesn’t only discuss the journey people take everyday by means of the ferry, but takes the experience, and give his own unique perspective. He talks about how it relates him to future generations because in a way we are all related. We are all one, and we are all having this big common experience. The commonality of humanity is exemplified through the people riding the ferry everyday, enabling Walt to ennoble the experience. The tone when describing this experience is pleasant, and he uses repetitive words to say that the experience is beautiful.

During the 1860’s in the U.S, the Civil War happens, and the society as a whole as a result of the war, is quite confused because of the emancipation of slavery. The economy has to be reworked because it was heavily based on slavery and these once enslaved individuals, now go to the north to look for jobs. This imagined grace in the South suddenly, goes away, and the people who want to stay and work the land have to get a hold of it. The industrial aspect of the United States consists of: factories, mechanized labor, and the farm equipment is more sophisticated. Community is based on the urban capitalist system. The fact that these men and women who are now not oppressed anymore visiting the city and seeing big factories is quite cool and awesome to think about. Whitman elevates it in his poetry and at the same time he is creating imagery that is the equivalence of the beauty of the farmland. His poetry creates an idealized image of America that is made by the working person. I was surprised to find out that Walt is a gay man. But, he is a very big guy with an extraordinary face, representing both realism and idealism.

Whitman’s poetry, image, and idealism are larger than life; he is a very ecstatic man. When people started talking about the idea of homosexuality, Walt was represented as a quandary. He couldn’t be open about his sexuality, so Mr. Whitman put it in his poetry. In Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, he is symbolically addressing people on the ferry, (close distant), and also talks of future riders and clouds of the west (far distance). As one can see, there is a two-pronged perspective, which brings depth. With his words, he is creating a double landscape and by using repetition it makes his ideas very powerful and personal. After we finished discussing Walt Whitman’s life and Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, we heard a song by, Bob Dylan called, “Hard Rains Are A-Falling,” and through the repetition of sounds, I was able to draw a distinct connection with this song to Walt Whitman’s work. I am starting to develop a liking for poetry, and I’m looking forward to studying it more and more.