Kostikas, Corinna 12/9/12

Corinna Kostikas

On the Waterfront Analysis

Some would agree that what makes a film great is it’s ability to slyly and effectively relay an important and strong message. It doesn’t need to be said outright, and many times the viewer won’t even see it coming.  But when the film ends, it hits you, and you’re taken aback.  On the Waterfront is one of those movies, and it has the wonderful use of metaphors, and of course, the general use of mise-en-scene, to thank.

A trend that is quite apparent when watching this movie is the constant mention of birds with a negative connotation.  For example, in the beginning of the film when Joey dies, a comment is made about him being a canary.  A fellow union worker says, “Maybe he can sing, but he can’t fly.”  Although you could take this line as a reference to the fact that he couldn’t fly to save himself from falling off the roof, it also seems plausible that he’s saying that although he could talk and tell of the gang’s criminal behavior, he could not run from them.  A canary is therefore someone who tells on, betrays, or exposes others.  Cheese-eater is another term used to represent the same thing.  Pigeons are also mentioned and starred in the film.  The way in which the word is used implies that aside from being a bird, a pigeon can also be a person that is easily tricked, manipulated or convinced.  Terry is accused of being a pigeon in the film, which seems suitable considering how much time and care he puts into them.  His talk about a fear that hawks will attack his pigeons in their coop seems to represent his fear of going against Friendly and his gang, along with his overall vulnerability.  Lastly, the use of a wide shot to film the scene where the men are waiting to get work at the dock, portrays the men resembling birds as they all flock into work while also picking at and fight for the tokens needed to get in for that day.

The film seemed to go back and forth between wide range shots and close-ups.  The more intimate scenes, such as when brothers Terry and Charlie have their last conversation on the way to what was supposed to be Terry’s murder, as well as Edie and Terry’s date which consisted of deep conversation, were shot close up.  In the end, when beat up Terry struggles to end the reign of Johnny and the corruption that accompanied him by walking over to the entrance to work, the screen shot goes back and forth from a close up of him to one of his fellow workers, which seemed to make it all that much more dramatic.  The lighting was also important to the film’s interpretation.  It was never very bright in any of the scenes, and there always seemed to be a thick fog whenever the characters were outside.  It may in fact be representative of the shadiness going on in the town, as well as all of the corruption and secrets.  The sound effects also add to this by giving off a feeling of mystery. The movie is filmed in black and white, which could go along with the view of the gang and it’s leaders who believed you were either their ally or their enemy.  This black and white effect also helps the viewers concentrate on the dialogue and facial expressions, as it seems to do in most cases.  Something about the set/scene that is worth mentioning is the view of New York City from the docks, which can be taken as an escape from the corrupt town they are living in.  The way it is placed in the distance is like saying that this better place is so close yet so far.

Alcohol is also seen repeatedly in the film and seems to have a less apparent contribution to the film.  Power is what seems to be associated with alcohol in a majority of the scenes.  Johnny and his gang hold meetings in the back of a bar, K.O. get’s a shipment of whiskey dropped on him which shows that the gang is more powerful and can destroy anyone that thinks of going against them, and Edie is drinking her first beer with Terry on their first date which shows her slowly giving in to him.  In addition, even the priest orders a beer after successfully convincing Terry to fight Johnny in court.  The whiskey in the film is connected to the country of Ireland, which is where many of the workers on the dock are most likely from.  The term potato-eater that is used in the film supports this, by referring to those from Ireland who have the reputation of eating a lot of potatoes.

The scene between Charlie and Terry riding in the car together would not have been as famous as it was without details such as the acting, filming, and dialogue.  The scene takes place in a close up shot, which helps relay the emotion that exists in this conversation.  The sad and slow music also adds to this and let’s the viewers know that this is a scene full of sadness, regret, and letdown.  During this scene, there are not many times where Terry and Charlie look at each other in the eyes, which makes the characters’ feeling of disappointment and regret more profound. Terry, saying that he could have been someone instead of the bum that he calls himself, shows that he had the chance to live his dream but instead he let it pass by. He is now left to deal with realization that it’s too late and that a mistake was made.  This is something that can be relatable to a majority of people, because unfortunately, people always find a reason to let go of their dreams, forget the importance of them, or let others tear them down.  Charlie on the other hand comes to see Terry’s point and begins to realize that he didn’t serve his little brother well.  He then agrees that the least he can do is cut his brother some slack and therefore lets him go at his own expense.

With the abundance of metaphors and well thought out mise-en-scene, it is no wonder On the Waterfront has gained recognition as one of the great American films.

Corinna 11-28-12

On Wednesday we had a guest speaker come in to talk to us about mise-en-scene and its use in Manhattan.  Professor Diaz seemed to have covered everything. She was prepared, and had a number of examples to help make her points clear.  One example that I enjoyed looking at was how characters would appear under certain light, which included key light, fill light, and back light.  I would have never known how different the characters appeared under each light without being presented with visuals. I also thought it was a good idea to make examples out of other films besides Manhattan.  When Professor Diaz was talking about canted angles being used when things are getting rough for the characters in the scene, Inception seemed like the perfect example.  This lecture really did help me better understand mise-en-scene and its importance in cinema. I never realized how much thought needed to go into the making of a film, and how much every decision, like which light to use, mattered.

Although I’d have to admit that many of the aspects we went over were not of much interest to me, there were certain ones that I was genuinely interested in.  Discussing different types of lenses was my favorite part of Wednesday’s seminar class.  I myself have a DSLR camera, and really enjoy taking and looking at pictures.  I have actually been looking for a new lense to add to my collection, so I knew a little bit about what the professor was talking about.  She added a few details about certain lenses that I was less familiar with, which I loved hearing about.

Overall, I found this class to be very informative and I feel as though next time I watch a movie I will know exactly what to look for and therefore get more out of the film.

Corinna – 11-26-12

This Monday we briefly addressed some of the aspects of mise-en-scene in regards to the movie Manhattan.  First, we discussed the use of music in the film. Due to the struggle I had when writing about it in my blog a few days before, I was eager to go over it in class.  Just as I had thought, there really weren’t that many scenes in the film with music.  Besides the reassurance I received from realizing I had remembered correctly, I also acquired a better understanding of the importance/role of the music in the movie.  For example, some of the music, including “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin, helped add to the romantic feel/style of this film.  The music, the idea of chasing your dreams, as well as scenes like the one in the planetarium where Mary and Issac are together in the dark, all make the film romantic I believe that the romantic style of this movie is actually the reason I enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

For the second half of class, we had a discussion on the book Catcher in the Rye.  What I really liked about this discussion was that it wasn’t just a bunch of question being asked in order to figure out who read the book and who didn’t.  I really never liked it when teachers did that in the past.  Our discussion was different in that to answer the questions, we did have to know the events and details of the book, but we also needed to get creative and think like characters’ and author’s would in certain situations.  I enjoyed assigning characters to archetypes, and also thinking about things such as what a kid like Holden would do on a regular day, or how things would be said with present day ling

Corinna 11-21-12

Our seminar class on Wednesday consisted of watching the Woody Allen film titled Manhattan.  I always knew Woody Allen was famous for his movies, but I was never able to put a face to the name.  When I first saw him, I realized that he looked exactly like I expected him to.  He was short and scrawny with gray hair and thick glasses.  He was also very comical, which I actually did not expect.

Due to the fact that we just learned about Mise-en-scene, I attempted to look for the kind of details we had discussed in class, when watching Manhattan.  This was a little difficult for me because, as I previously have said, I find it difficult to look for these details while also trying to give my full attention to the acting.

Regardless, I did pick up on a number of things involving the shooting of this movie. When looking at the way the camera functioned, I realized that there were number of times when characters were talking, but were nowhere to be found.  On this occasion, the screen was sometimes blank while the conversation was going on. However other times, such as when the characters were conversing in a car, the moving car was shown instead of their faces.  When framing the scenes, it seems the characters weren’t always the main focus.  In almost every scene where the characters were outside, the camera would occasionally not be zoomed in to the people.  I believe the purpose of this was to show the scenery/setting, which should come as no surprise considering that the film is titled after this city that is being shown.  However, when the dialogue was important and we needed to see the characters’ reactions, or focus on just the conversation without distractions, the frame would mainly consist of a close-up of the characters.

The film was in black in white, which I believe made everything seem classier, and helped bring focus to the characters’ expressions and lines as oppose to the colors surrounding them.  The lengths of the clips were not always the same.  The important, serious, and more emotional scenes seemed to have a longer run from what I remember.  The dialogue was very interesting in that there was a lot of intellectual discussion.  Decently large words were used, and the way in which everything was said made it apparent that we were listening to writers talk.

The costumes were not very flashy or extravagant.  The only purpose of the costumes seemed to be to show the time period.  The music in the film was only memorable in scenes when there was no dialogue, and we were expected to just watch what was going on.  One of these scenes is when Allen takes his son out for a day of fun.   The set seemed to be quite important in that it is what the movie is titled after.  As I stated before, one of the goals of the movie was to show the viewers the city of Manhattan, and mainly just the beautiful parts of it.  I feel as though this leads the viewers to more easily imagine what it’s like to live in such a city, and be one of these characters.

Corinna 11-19-12

Monday was the last day of poetry presentations, and more specifically, the day that I presented.  After hearing almost every one of my fellow classmates present, I was a bit worried considering how high they had set the bar.  Reciting and dissecting poetry is something I’d consider to be one of the least suitable things for me. This is due to the fact that I was never really into anything involving depth or emotion.  I actually was very surprised and impressed with how Professor Kahan picked up on this.  In fact, when I first read the poem that I was assigned, I was trying to figure out why I was given this specific piece. I probably would have never figured it out on my own, but now that I know, I realize Professor Kahan did a good job with assigning me a poem.  I thought for sure that I would have to repeat my poem over and over due to lack of emotion, but to my surprise, I had improved enough in just an addition read.  I really appreciated Professor Kahan’s tip of just emphasizing the word in each line that I thought was most important, and without this tip I probably would have never succeeded in making this poem as dramatic as it needed to be.  Overall, I feel as though the experience I received from this presentation will benefit me in the future, and I’m therefore glad to have been forced to do it.

With the little time left after presentations, we watched a clip from the movie All About Eve.  I was really excited when I found out that we were going to start watching films in class.  However, I never would have guessed how different the experience would be when having to focus on things such as how the camera functions, the framing of the scenes, and the role that the music plays.

Corinna 11-14-12

Wednesday’s seminar class was yet another day dedicated to poetry presentations.  Even before the first round of presentations, I remember thinking that by the end, I would probably lose interest.  As it turns out, this was far from true.  Every presentation so far has had something special about it.  For example, during Wednesday’s seminar class, Robert recited his poem, “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes, to a tune played on the piano.  The music made it more entertaining than when he first read it.  Because of this addition, I paid more attention to the words and the message of the poem. I felt as though I was in a different time period, listening to an artist perform a piece about his own personal experience.  Another example is James’ presentation, which stood out for the amount of enthusiasm and theatrics that were involved.  However, the poem that he was assigned was very unique and entertaining even on its own.  I loved the idea that a poem with so few actual words could not only have such meaning, but also be so relatable.  Just like in the poem, I feel as though I have disappointed my family by not knowing the language they grew up speaking.  Although I know that I am an American, I find myself having a hard time drawing the line between the two cultures I associate myself with.  To help make this piece a bit lighter and less serious, it seems the writer makes fun of the English language. This poem had me thinking about the flaws and illogical construction of our language, which I feel contributes to my struggle every time I have a writing assignment.

Corinna 11-12-12

During Monday’s seminar class, Professor Powers came in to talk to us about architecture.  I was looking forward to it because, unlike what we usually cover, I thought I actually had some prior knowledge and experience with what we would be discussing.  For a long time, I had a dream of becoming an architect.  I even took some architecture and design class in high school.  To my surprise however, what Professor Powers discussed in his presentation was actually new to me.  In the classes I took it was more about how to draw to scale or make floor plans, but Professor Powers actually went into detail about why certain buildings were built the way that they were.  I found this to be very interesting, and even loved how he brought together history and architecture into his presentation.  I would never have connected the gothic style of schools, and gothic revival in general, to the rise of romanticism. Irrational and sentimental are great words to describe this period, and because of this, it comes as no surprise that Christianity was beginning to be tied into America.  When taking this into consideration, the fact that all these schools were being designed in a style that symbolizes religion, during this time period, makes perfect sense.

Overall, Professor Powers helped me change the way I look at architecture. I have seen many of the building and bridges he talked to us about, however I never really gave much thought to why they were built the way they were.  I also never knew that buildings that serve the same purposes, such as banks, are usually designed with the same style.  I often find myself looking at all the buildings I pass more closely now, which definitely makes my traveling experience more enjoyable.

Corinna 11-7-12

This past Wednesday, we continued our poetry presentations.  Although I enjoyed a majority of the poems and discussions, there were a couple that stood out to me from our last class.  It probably comes as no surprise that Naomi’s presentation was the one that stood out to me the most.  Even though I expected her to do a good job, I was still very impressed with the acting that accompanied the reading of her assigned poems.   The attitude that she attached to them was an interesting addition to her interpretation, and also very amusing. Her background in theater really seemed to help her out with this assignment.   In addition, the poet that she was assigned was very interesting, and her poems were very fun and unique as well.

Aside from the odd set of poems Naomi presented, Christian’s and Shumaila’s poems were also pieces I enjoyed hearing.  They were both based on the same style, which we had discussed when looking at a different piece in an earlier class. Talking in such great detail about a basic and many times tedious event/experience is something I love to see when reading poetry.  In my personal experience, it opens your eyes to the things that you take for granted or simply look past.  After reading pieces such as these, I start to appreciate the normal things more.  Everything begins to seems more entertaining and you even start to feel happier.   This style also makes poems more relatable which I find to be very important for a poet to accomplish.

Corinna K. 11-5-12

Wednesday’s seminar class marked the start of our poetry presentations.  I was very curious as to how my fellow classmates would handle talking about something as complicated and deep as poetry in front of the entire class.  Everyone seemed to be nervous to some degree, and knowing that I was not the only one who felt a bit uneasy about presenting, made me feel better.  As more and more students went through their presentations, it became evident that there are so many different styles of poetry, as well as a wide range of topics that can be covered.  I was surprised at how much emphasis was put on the way in which each poem was read.  I then became curious about how the reader is supposed to know how the poet intended for his piece to be read.

The poem that stood out to me the most was the piece that Ariana was assigned, which focused on Marilyn Monroe.  I was interested in the poem from the beginning in that, I never really knew the details of why Marilyn Monroe was so famous or even who she was in the world.  Thanks to this poem, it was brought to my attention that Monroe’s personality and lifestyle were under much scrutiny, which she didn’t necessarily deserve.  I found the suggestion that Marilyn Monroe would not have had to deal with so much criticism if she lived in a later period to be riveting.  It was disappointing to hear that a positive and confident woman, such as Marilyn Monroe, could be perceived so terribly.

Corinna 10-24-12

At the beginning of seminar this past Wednesday, we discussed Walt Whitman’s poem Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, which we were assigned on Monday to read and analyze on our own.  I was glad we went over the poem together due to the fact that interpreting poetry is something I have a considerable amount of trouble with.  We covered things such as how Whitman was writing during a period of romanticism.  This was something I was unaware of when reading Crossing Brooklyn Ferry alone, but once informed, I seemed to have a better understanding of the poem.  It turns out that this time period is known for giving rise to the middle class and also nationalism.  In addition, the idea of the individual was new to America, which brought along questions such as “Who am I in the world?” Another piece of information that was brought to my attention was that Walt Whitman was a gay man.  Professor Kahan’s statement about Whitman defying stereotypes as far as physical appearance goes, but making it more apparent through his writing, was something I found to be extremely interesting.  It seems that Whitman’s imagery, and descriptive scenery is something that could give his sexual orientation away.  I certainly would never have been able to draw this conclusion on my own.

Although we did cover some things that had not crossed my mind, we also went over things that I had picked up on when reading it myself.  For one, we talked about how Whitman, through wonderful usage of imagery, turned something that is probably seen by so many as dreadful (taking the ferry) into something pleasant and interesting.  Also Whitman’s use of repetition was something I had noticed when reading.  This included the word “you,” in order to make everything more personal.  Even though I came into class knowing these things, it was nice going over them because it showed me that I had done a decent job analyzing this poem.