On The Waterfront

Jaclyn Trotta                      HON 121 Seminar: Arts in New York         December 5, 2012

On The Waterfront

On The Waterfront is a drama film directed by Elia Kazan in 1954.  It is considered one of America’s most valued films. The mise-en-scène, the language, the symbolism, and the directing of scenes were all incorporated together to make the movie a great form of entertainment.

Mise-en-scène is the arrangement of scenery and properties to represent the place where a movie is enacted. It was used in this movie to give a certain appeal or emotion to the audience. It also helps to foreshadow certain scenes and give information to the audience as well.  On The Waterfront was filmed in black in white as opposed to color, which can help the audience determine the time frame in which the movie was set.  The lighting in this film is also very important. There is a lot of dark lighting used in this film, which produces many shadows to represent the eeriness and the corruption occurring in the plot of the movie. However, Edie is always shown in lighter lighting to represent the goodness and morality in the movie. This difference in lighting is a way for the directors to represent the difference between good and evil in the film.  The costumes, just like the color of the film, also help determine the time period in which the movie was set. Since it took place in the 1950s, many women wore cotton dresses and had their hair in waves while the men wore trench coats and fedoras.

Since the movie was set in the 1950s, the use of language is very different from what would be used in a movie today in 2012.  When they used the word cheese-eater it often referred to someone who rats out what other people are doing. Johnny friendly used this term to describe Joey Doyle who got Friendly in trouble with the crimes commission.  The word potato-eater is used to describe someone who is of Irish descent. For example, Father Barry referred to himself as a potato-eater. The word canary is used to describe a person who is against and talks about the corrupt ways of the union. This word was used to describe Joey Doyle who was going against the corruption of Jonny Friendly.  The word pigeon was brought up many times in this film. In this movie it described someone who is faithful. Terry is often described as a pigeon due to his faithfulness to Johnny Friendly throughout the movie. Pigeons are a loyal bird and just like pigeons, Terry and the other union workers were loyal to Johnny Friendly. There was also the use of the word “stool pigeon” which has a negative meaning. Unlike a pigeon that is loyal, a stool pigeon is described as a tattletale or someone who goes against someone else.  At the end of the film, Terry is described as a stool pigeon because he finally went up against Johnny Friendly.

The most famous scene is when Terry and his brother Charley are in the taxi towards the end the movie. This scene is probably one of the most well known scenes in all American movies due to the great combination of dialogue, acting, and the use of the camera. The dialogue in this scene is somewhat tense. Terry disagrees with Charley’s involvement in the corruption of the union while Charley is trying to get his brother to think otherwise. They both want the best for each other, however, through different means. The acting in this scene involves a lot of body language, high-toned voices, and facial expressions filled with disgust. Since the scene was depicting a rivalry between two brothers, their tones were filled with resentment. They often got very close to each other ‘s faces and bodies while they were speaking to emphasize their anger with each other, especially when Charley held a gun to Terry.  The camera was used in this scene to focus the attention on the interaction between Terry and Charley. When body language was important in the scene, the director would place the camera where the whole body was shown. If the facial expression was important, then the director would zoom onto one or both of their faces. The camera would also not only show the actor when he was speaking, but would also show the reaction of the other actor while he was being spoken to.

Throughout the film, there is a lot of consumption of alcohol. The significance of the alcohol in this film is to symbolize the immorality and corruption that is occurring. One way in which this is shown is in the scene where Terry takes Edie out. When he buys her a shot of whiskey, it symbolizes the bad corrupting the good. Another example of how alcohol represents corruption and immorality is when Father Barry goes against his chastity obligations and drinks alcohol.  This also shows the corruption of religion and the church during that time as well.  In the film, they also describe the whiskey as Irish whiskey. Therefore, this can also represent the value of alcohol in Irish culture.

On The Waterfront is one of America’s greatest movies of all time.  The film won many awards during its time all thanks to the intricate use of mise-se-scène and the ideas of Elia Kazan. The mix of incredible acting and well thought directing created a masterpiece that will be viewed for many years to come.

Seminar Class 11/28/12

On wednesday, Professor Kahan invited a guest speaker to our class to discuss cinema and the aspects of putting a movie together. Our guest speaker was Professor Diaz and she teaches Cinema at CSI. Since I do not watch a lot of movies, I did not think I was going to enjoy the discussion. However, everything that Professor Diaz taught us was extremely interesting. There were even some aspects about movie making that I never knew existed.

The main theme of Professor Diaz’s discussion was based on the idea of mis-en-scene, the arrangement of people, places, and objects in a movie.  One part of the movie Manhattan where the mis-en-scene was very interesting was when Isaac and Mary were in Isaac’s apartment. Professor Diaz described that the wall barriers between Isaac and Mary was a form of mis-en-scene to foreshadow their separation due to their weak relationship. I thought it was really creative for the directors to use mis-en-scene in such a sneaky way.

Professor Diaz also showed the class various youtube videos on the creation of different sounds for movies. This truly amazed me. I never knew the different creative ways people made audio for the movie. One example shown in the video was how the dinosaur eggs cracked in the movie Jurassic Park. They used an ice cream cone to make the sound of the egg cracking and they also mushed a cantaloupe to make the sound of the substance inside the egg. It sounded perfectly! This was so cool to watch!

I actually really enjoyed Professor Diaz’s discussion. She helped me realize all of the work that is put into a movie to make it a great form of entertainment. Now, whenever I watch a movie, I will pay close attention to the small details that I never payed attention to before.


Seminar Class 11/26/12

On monday, Professor Kahan began class by starting a conversation on the film Manhattan. We mainly talked about the use of music in the film since many of us commented about it in our blogs the previous week. Many of us have agreed that there was not a lot of music used in this movie. However, the music that was put into the film was by George Gershwin. In the beginning of the film, his song “Rhapsody in Blue” was used. I thought this song was a great decision for the opening of the movie because I think it has  a New York theme or feeling. It gave a power and “proud to be a New Yorker” kind of emotion. The music also had a jazzy and romantic feeling to it as well. For example, the music sounded romantic when Isaac and Mary were together at the planetarium.

The second part of the class was a discussion on the the novel The Catcher In The Rye by J. D Salinger. This was the second time I had to read this book. Even though I enjoyed it the first time I read it, I enjoyed it even more the second time because I was able to analyze Holden in more detail knowing the sequence of events in the novel. I love this book because I feel that many teens can relate to it. Even though it took place in the 1950s, teens today are basically dealing with and experiencing similar things to what Holden is experiencing in the novel. I also find the book to be very funny so it was an easy read because it was very entertaining.

Our assignment for this novel, to me, is very interesting. I never thought I would ever say this in my life, but I am actually looking forward to writing this paper. I am curious to know what everyone’s interpretation of what the language would be like if the book was set in 2012 and I am also curious to what my interpretation will be as well.

Seminar Class 11/21/12

On wednesday, we watched the movie Manhattan in class. This movie is directed by Woddy Allen is about a forty-two year old writer who is trying to live a normal life in Manhattan. However, he has much difficulty in doing this due to many barriers, such as having a relationship with a seventeen year old girl.

1. I thought the the camera functioned in the movie very differently than it would in other movies. Even though the camera did focus on the actors during different scenes, it also did something different which I found to be very interesting. The camera would capture the dialogue between the actors, however, it would not focus its attention on the actors. For example, when Issac and his seventeen year old girl friend left the diner after school, the camera captured the dialogue between the two but did not show the audience the presence of the actors.

2.The directors approach with framing scenes with people was somewhat odd. As I explained before, there were some scenes where the director captured the dialogue between the actors but did not actually show them present in the scene. Although the majority of the scenes were with the presence of actors, there were a few scenes where this did not occur.

3. Since this movie was filmed in black and white, it had a different effect than it would have had if it were filmed in color. This actually confused me because the movie was actually set in modern times. I did not know why Woody Allen decided to set the movie in black and white. However, his decision definitely made it more interesting.

4. The clips in this movie did not last for that long. I do not remember any scenes where the clips were long and the scene was filmed in the same place for a good amount of time. I thought that the camera moved frequently and the different parts in the scene were brief.

5. The dialogue between the characters represented the time period in which the movie took place. It was somewhat modern and involved contemporary language.

6. The costumes in the movie usually describe the time period it was set in. Just like the dialogue in the film, the costumes described in what year the movie was set. The clothing and the hairstyles of the characters made me believe that the film was set in the 1970s.

7. Usually, the use of music in a movie plays a huge role. However, in this movie I rarely remember any music being played at all. I am sure there was some music played in the movie, but it did not play a huge role or had an important significance in the flow of the movie.

8.The role of the setting of the movie also is very important. This movie was set exactly where the title of the film tells us: Manhattan. I believe it was a great place to set the film. Since the protagonist is a writer trying to find normalcy in his life, Manhattan was a great place for him to reside. The director tries to make the setting as real as possible.

To be honest, this movie was one of craziest movies I have ever seen in my life. There were so many insane scenes and facts about this movie that made me want to slap every actor involved. As crazy as it was, I did wind up enjoying the movie.

Seminar Class 11/19/12

Monday’s class was the last day in which my classmates presented their poem recitations. Since I already presented my poem, I knew how nervous they were. Even if people seem to be able to speak well publicly, they will still feel somewhat nervous. However, I felt that the poems presented on monday were a great finale for this topic of study.

One poem that I particulary liked was Stephanie’s poem. She read The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. This poem was about how great of a country America is. It discusses the joy of immigrants as they come to America and see the Statue of Liberty for the first time and how lucky they feel to be in such a beautiful country. I love the fact that this poem is on display at the State of Liberty because it represents the feeling of all immigrants coming to America. Many of us can relate to this poem because we may have relatives who were immigrants coming to live a better life in this country. My grandparents were immigrants from Italy and when Stephanie read this poem it greatly reminded me of them and how proud they are to be Americans.

After the poems, we discussed topics of cinema and how the rest of our classes are going to be based off of different films. To give the class a taste of the cinema world, Professor Kahan showed us a clip from the movie All About Eve. We discussed how the camera plays an important role in the film and how long the different clips of the scene lasted. This was the first time I watched a movie and actually analyzed the movie. It was definitely a different experience from just watching the movie.

I look forward to watching more movies in class and discovering how they are thought of and put together to make a great form of entertainment.

Seminar Class 11/14/12

On wednesday, the class continued with their poem recitation presentations. Even though I already presented my poem, I was still nervous for my classmates who still had to present their poems. However, I was very impressed with the way they recited their poems. Everyone did a great job and I enjoyed every poem that was read that day.

One poem that I really enjoyed was James’ poem. He read Ing Grish by Joh Yau. His poem was about a chinese-american whose parents immigrated to America from China. Although he could not speak chinese, the poet pokes fun at the english language and how difficult it is for chinese speaking americans to pronounce some english words. I loved the humor involved with this poem and I thought it was the perfect one for James to preform. James presented this poem with the exact humor it needed. His accent and his hang gestures truly made it very entertaining for his classmates.

Another poem that I really enjoyed was Penina’s poem. She read New York at Night by Amy Lowell. This poem was about how New York City has changed during the night. Before, the city used to shut down at night time. Now, since the city was in the process of modernizing, the poet is understanding the true meaning of “The city that never sleeps.” However, the poet treats this new modernization of New York in an unappreciable  way. I was very surprised by Penina’s performance. Since she is a very quiet girl, I never expected her to perform with such character and emotion. She went outside her comfort zone and gave a great performance.

I think that my classmates are doing a great job presenting all of their poems. Even though some were more difficult than others, everyone put all their heart and focus into their poems, which was very noticeable by the rest of the class. I look forward to hearing the rest of the poems on monday’s class.


Seminar Class 11/12/12

On monday, we had a guest speaker come into class. Our guest speaker was Professor Richard Powers and he discussed his knowledge and love for architecture. I never really paid attention to the architecture of many famous buildings before. However, Professor Powers made me realize that architecture is more than just the design of the building.

One piece of architecture that I particularly enjoyed was the Parthenon. The Parthenon is one of the most famous,if not the most famous, buildings in Greece. It was a temple dedicated to the greek goddess Athena. Professor Powers said that was the tallest building compared to the surrounding buildings. The Parthenon is especially famous for its columns. The usage of columns in architecture was widely used by the ancient greeks and has become a great symbol of greek architecture.

Professor Powers also discussed how greek and roman architecture have been the basis and models for architecture in the United States. For example, many of the first forms of buildings in america included columns. One type of building in which columns were greatly used were banks. In fact, many banks in America resemble the Parthenon because they have similar architecture.

When Professor Powers discussed the different forms of architecture, he pointed out many forms that I never realized were actually considered “architecture.” For example, he said that Central Park in Manhattan was considered to be one of New York’s greatest forms of architecture. This surprised me because I always considered a form of architecture to include some sort of building. However, this does not always occur. Central Park is still a designed park with many great structures that make it so amazing for all people to enjoy.

I really enjoyed Professor Powers’ discussion. Architecture was never something that I really paid attention to. Now I realize how amazing it is to analyze a building’s structure and why it was built that certain way.

Seminar Class 11/7/12

During wednesday’s seminar class, we continued to recite the poems that professor Kahan gave to us. Knowing that I did not recite my poem on monday and that I had a good chance of reciting it on wednesday, I was very nervous. Not only did I recite my poem during this class, I was also chosen first to do so.

When professor Kahan chose me to preform my poem first, it caught me off guard. I automatically felt my heart racing. Even though I felt ready and I prepared my poem and my interpretations, I still felt uneasy when my name was called. My poem was The Harbor Dawn by Hart Crane. This poem describes the Manhattan harbor while incorporating his feelings for his true love as well. This had to be one of the most difficult poems I have ever interpreted. It was hard for me to find the flow of the poem and the true meaning of it. There are many interpretations of this poem. Some are simple and others are more in depth. Regardless, the summary of my interpretation is that the poet is having a dream of what he wishes his life could be life. That life is to live as a homosexual. When the poet refers to his loved one, he is not talking about a woman but in fact another man. In order for the class and I to understand the poem better, she made me reread the first part of the poem with the included notes on the side. At first I found these notes more confusing than helpful. Then I realized that they help set where the poem takes place and with who it takes place.

Overall I liked reciting my poem. It was good public speaking practice while also having some entertainment as well. Even though I was nervous, I still enjoyed telling my classmates my interpretations of the poem. I look forward to the other poems that still need to be preformed!

Seminar Class 11/5/12

On monday’s seminar class, we started the recitations of the poems given to us by professor Kahan. I was excited to hear everyone’s poems and their interpretations of the poems. Knowing that professor Kahan chose the poems for my classmates and I personally, I knew that this was going to be an interesting experience.

Austin,very bravely, volunteered to go first. He read a poem called To Brooklyn Bridge by Hart Crane. I was very interested to hear his poem because I too have a poem written by Hart Crane and wanted to compare the two poems to better understand Hart Crane’s writing style. To me, Hart Crane’s poems are very difficult to interpret and understand. However, I think that Austin did a great job!

My favorite poem of the day was Ariana’s poem Love and Marilyn Monroe (after Spillane) by Delmore Schwartz. This poem discussed Marilyn Monroe and how she is more than a just a beautiful and desirable woman. Even though Marilyn Monroe was known as a promiscuous woman during her time, she wanted the public to take her and her acting profession seriously. She basically wanted to be treated the proper way a woman should be treated. She did not want the attention just because she was a desirable and beautiful woman. I especially loved this poem because I believe that it is easily relatable for all women. All women want to be treated respectfully and properly for who they truly are and not because of what they look like.

I enjoyed all the poems on monday’s class. I know how difficult it is to present something to others, especially your friends and classmates, and I believe that all my classmates did an amazing job presenting their poems.