About Maxim Avshalumov

Most people call me Max. I am a student at the Macaulay Honors College at CSI and proud to be one. I am originally from Russia and currently live in New York City.

What’s Up at the Waterfront?

The director, Elia Kazan, has been praised by numerous publications for his Oscar winning film, On the Waterfront[1].  The eight Oscars this film earned merit Kazan’s vast attention to detail and creativity. It would not do the film justice to simply watch it without analyzing all that Kazan had to offer.  From the cinematography to the motifs, the film has much to admire and examine.

First and foremost, the director should be commended for the film’s authentic use of mise-en-scène and effects.  The gritty docks, shadowed alleys and the unwelcoming industrial factories of Hoboken, New Jersey fit the bleak underworld of urban corruption.    Furthermore, the filter used for this film is very suitable for this picture. Although more and more films started to be filmed in color during the fifties[2], this film is more fitting in black and white.  It provides the movie a Noir-like aesthetic, especially considering all the urban corruption, street crime, and the classic trench-coated law enforcement that are in the story.

Speaking of Noir, the film definitely associates itself with its mid-twentieth century era.  Out of date terminology is abundantly used throughout the film.  Terms such as cheese-eater and Stoolie both contribute to the 1950s ambiance.  “Cheese-eater” is probably the more obvious of the two, clearly a term used to mock and label those who gave away secrets, or ratted on somebody.  A perfect example would be in a conversation between Friendly and Terry, “I got that one lousy little cheese-eater, that Doyle, goes and squeals to the crime commission.” The other term, Stoolie, is highly significant; it’s a word that is associated with pigeons, as in “stool pigeon.” In fact, there are multiple references to pigeons in this film.  The protagonist himself is called “Stoolie” by one of the Union heads, “Where are them cops of yours, Stoolie?”  Clearly, there is a metaphorical connection between Terry and pigeons.  A pigeon is known to be a wild animal, but a stool pigeon is designed to deliver confidential messages, so they are cooped up animals.  This relates to Terry, a person who has vast ambition but feels as if he is trapped, or cooped up, in his self-proclaimed “bum” life.

Terry’s low sense of self-significance is strongly depicted in the cab scene, during the conversation between him and Charley.  The scene takes place in the back of a small cab.  The camera frequently closes up on their faces, focusing on the constant emotional ups and downs of the two. Essentially, the camerawork and small setting lets the viewer focus on the interactions between the brothers. The confident and assertive, Charley, contradicts his own character. Throughout the scene, he fidgets with his gloves and cannot bring himself to make eye contact with Terry. He also does not argue when Terry outright blames him for his “bum” life.  Charley’s downhearted facial expressions show acceptance of the fact that he is the reason for his brother’s sorrow.  As for Terry, he always seemed like a character pent up with sadness. In this scene, he finally pours out his pent up grief to Charley, and as said before, blames his brother for the lackluster life he leads. Meanwhile, the non-diegetic soundtrack was highly complementary. The music was melancholic and heart pumping at the same, letting the viewer both sympathize with Terry and feel his vigorous outpour of grief.  Perhaps the most significant part of the scene is that even though Terry lets it all out, he knows his life is not fixed.  Terry does in no way seem content after his talk with Charley.  The scene is an ode to the idea that an individual cannot blame their problems on someone else, they have to resolve their conflicts with action rather than look for a scapegoat.

With the help of Father Barry, Terry was able to find a resolution to his problems.  After the death of Charley, Father Barry guides Terry towards the downward spiral of Friendly’s gang.  It’s ironic actually, one thing that shows that Father Barry helped Terry is something a man of religion would look down upon, alcohol. Whiskey and beer are motifs that symbolize good relationships between characters.  The scene subsequent to Charley’s death has Terry drinking his life away at a bar.  After he stirs up a ruckus, Father Barry comes in to turn Terry’s life around.  Once Terry is calmed down and convinced to bring down Friendly in court, the father orders two beers, one for him and Terry.  This shows that the two characters are in agreement with each other.  In contrast, this motif can symbolize disagreement.  Earlier in the movie, Terry develops a strong liking towards Edie and wants that affection back, so he invites her to go drinking.  The film uses beer again to represent the relationship between characters. Edie does not finish the beer and leaves, showing that since the drink is not wanted, the characters are not in complete agreement with each other.  Motifs are a different way to understand the relationships between characters.

The film is certainly not a simple work of cinema.  Kazan constructed a movie that required effort from the viewer.  From beginning to end, the components of this film are in-depth as well as cleverly constructed.



Today in seminar we had a cinema professor visit us.  She basically ran down the fundamentals of cinema and related them to numerous films, particularly Manhattan.  When we were watching the opening scene of Manhattan, I noticed a motif in the movie.

In the beginning of the movie, Woody Allen’s character, Isaac, talks about his view of New York City.  It was clear that Isaac had a lot of trouble making his views of the city clear.  In fact, as a character, Isaac seemed to be very indecisive.  Other than his talk about the city, Isaac had a lot of trouble making up his mind in his love life.

Throughout the film, Isaac jumped back and forth between Mary and Tracey.  It took him a few stumbles and a revelation towards the end of the movie to realize that he wanted to be with Tracey.  However, this does not mean he became a decisive character or anything like that.  In my opinion, it was not a hard choice for Isaac to pick Tracey because Mary made it clear that she was not romantically devoted to Isaac.

Essentially, the motif is Isaac’s indecisiveness.  It’s funny actually, whenever Isaac spoke, he never stated anything with certainty.  He talked and talked with a lot of wit until he got his point across.  This is especially relevant at the middle and end of the film in which Isaac tried to manipulate Tracey.  Both times, he kept blurting out excuses and reasons for Tracey to either leave him or come back to him, respectively.

I enjoyed this session of Seminar, talking about film is always a treat.  As a matter of fact, my Intro to Film class is my favorite class this semester.




At the beginning of the semester, I was looking through the syllabus and noticed that we were going to read The Catcher in the Rye.  This made me pretty excited for the class since this is my favorite novel of all time. I know this book has been given enough praise in its lifetime but it deserves it.  My favorite part about the book is that every single line in this novel is intricately placed. Everything in the story contributes something to the reader or another part of the book.

There is so much that the novel executes masterfully but one thing that I want to talk about is Holden’s tale of adventure.  You can trace everything in the novel to Holden’s mono-myth styled adventure. There are many forms of mono-myth but it can be generalized into a few steps.  Firstly, the protagonist experiences a call to adventure.  This is an easy one, Holden’s extreme hate for his schoolmates, faculty and failing grades force him to run away and seek solace in New York City.  Secondly, the main character would face harsh obstacles .  There are plenty of these, including the fact that Holden could not socialize with anybody in New York City, the incident with the prostitute and the obscenities in the school and museum.  The third step is the protagonist’s revelations and transformation for the better.  This is towards the end of the novel when Holden submits to Phoebe’s wishes and does not run away permanently.  The last part is the main character’s return to home, or the place where he was before the call to adventure. In Holden’s case, he tried to run away from the society he did not fit in and at the end it is clear that he returned to society.  The mental institutions in which he wrote his story is the return to society.  Considering that a mental institution’s goal is to help people conform to society, Holden definitely settled back in society.

It is always nice to discuss Catcher in the Rye and I plan to have fun with the respective assignment.


Earlier today I went to class eager for two reasons, it was my last class before Thanksgiving break and we were going to watch A Bronx Tale.  I have seen A Bronx Tale once before and loved it, so kicking back and watching this film sounded great.  To my surprise, there was a last minute change and we watched Manhattan, a movie that I took a liking to.

During the first five minutes of the film, I was a bit saddened because I dislike black and white films.  I consider most of the black and white movies I watch to be a bore so my initial impressions of the film were not too great.  As the film progressed, I started to really enjoy it.  My favorite part of the movie was Woody Allen’s character, Isaac.  I thought that he was a selfish and manipulative character but still very lovable.  His character is similar to George from Seinfeld, they are both self-centered and always try to sway other characters’ opinions for their own selfish benefit.

The camerawork in this film does not do anything all too special. The camera considers the viewer as the typical type of audience, it does not pull you in as part of the world but rather a spectator of Isaac’s life. One other noteworthy thing about the camerawork was that there were a lot of exposition shots, wherein notable Manhattan areas were shown.  Woody Allen purposefully shot scenes in which the beauty of a Manhattan landmark was emphasized, such as the Central Park scene.

Even though I usually dislike black and white films, this filter seemed like a perfect fit for this movie.  When I picture Manhattan, I see it in black and white, mostly because I derive mental imagery of Manhattan from black and white photography.  Other than that, the editing of the movie is worth talking about.  When I watch a movie, I sometimes notice that some shots drag on and others seem like they were designed for people with really short attention spans.  The shots in this movie are not too long or too short, perhaps because it came out in 1979.  A time when film was not too similar to theatre and attention spans were longer.

Aside from the camera work and editing, the characters themselves had very witty dialogue and were dressed like typical, urban middle class adults that would live in Manhattan.

The music in the film ranged from upbeat jazz to orchestral music.  The film’s soundtrack complemented the film very well, using pieces that would be found in Manhattan jazz clubs and in and off Broadway shows.

Last but not last, I want to talk about the setting, which was a character of its own.  The city and its culture seeped into every aspect of the film; the music, the camera work and especially the story.  Manhattan is dense with the flaws of modern society, such as frequent affairs between married people and constant divorces. This was basically the basis of Manhattan‘s story.

It was a joy to watch this film and if I can, I would like to recommend the movie, I Love New York.  It is a film about the different types of people who live in Manhattan.


Last year, in my senior year of high school, I took a college level English class.  I loved this class, my teacher had so much interesting insight over everything in the curriculum.  In fact,  even though I paid five hundred dollars and none of the credits of the class was transferred over to Macaulay, I never resented taking the class.  What really made the class memorable was the study of Transcendentalism.  The beginning of the class led up to the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau and the topics for the rest of the year revolved around their ideas.

The sole reason I am bringing this up is because Stephanie’s poem was favored by Emerson, who is one of my favorite people of all time.  Over the past couple of days, I was trying to establish a connection between her poem, “The New Colossus,” and Transcendentalism.  After a little bit of research, I found out that Emma Lazarus, the poet, considered Emerson as her mentor.  Clearly, Emerson influenced Lazarus’s works and I wanted to find traces of Emerson in the poem.

Reading the poem, it was clear that Lazarus was a follower of Transcendentalism.  My favorite aspect of Transcendentalism is the idea of how traditional societies trump a person’s sense free thought.  I think the Lazarus pictured America as a place where society does not oppose free thought, “Give me your…Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  However, I may be wrong because Emerson wrote about how American society does the opposite. One day, may be for a future English class, I will invest a great deal of time to search up legitimate, research based, relations between the two.


Wednesday’s session of Seminar was filled with interesting discussions.  The poetry presentations were highly entertaining and talking about the poems was enjoyable.  James’ poem, Ingrish, was by far my favorite poem that day due to a couple of reasons.

Ingrish was, without a doubt, a very unique poem. I have never read or listened to a poem about the poet not wanting to learn his ethnic tongue.  Although I do not have too much in common with the poet’s issue, I still find this poem very relatable to my life.

About a year ago my dad told me that it would be a good idea to learn Chinese.  As a traveling businessman, my dad explained to me that knowing Chinese would be highly beneficial for my future.  Initially, I was extremely turned off to the idea.  Learning another language, let alone a language so different from my own, is difficult and time consuming.  As a teenager in my senior year of high school, the last thing I wanted to do is spend my free time learning a different language.

Just like the writer of Ingrish, I was opposed to the idea of learning Chinese.  Our reasons might have been different but our goal was similar.  However, I came around to the idea of learning the language.  In fact, I am taking Introductory to Chinese next semester and it is pretty much the only class I am looking forward to.

Hopefully, the final day of presentations will have another poem that is amusing and relatable to my life.


Usually, my blogs have one focus but today’s class had multiple topics worth talking about.  Firstly, I just want to say that Professor Richard Powers was funny and had a very likable personality.  On top of that, his last name is awesome, he drives a motorcycle and he looks like David Letterman (acts like him too).  The professor’s presentation was full of interesting content, particularly the parts about the Monticello and the United Nations building.

Thomas Jefferson is one of my most favorite people throughout all of history.  The man was extremely successful in his life; he was the third president, one of the founding fathers, an intellectual and was vastly rich.  A really interesting fact about Jefferson was that he had a very contradictory nature; although he was so successful, he had a tendency to never finish anything.  One of his unfinished works was one of his most famous, the Monticello.  That’s right, a building that is a prime example of excellent architecture, was never finished.

During class, Professor Powers brought up the classic film, North by Northwest.  Recently, I learned in my Intro to Film class that the United Nations’ scene was filmed illegally.  Hitchcock was not allowed to film in the building, he snuck in his crew and filmed the scene as fast as possible.  In addition, a replica of the building’s surroundings was made for the subsequent scene.

Lastly, I want to mention Rockefeller Plaza.  The ice skating rink in Rockefeller Plaza is one of the most popular attractions in New York and has a small but significant part in The Catcher in the Rye.  Hopefully, one of our next class trips will take place in this plaza.

I appreciate the visitors we have in Seminar and I look forward to the next one!


11/7, Maxim Avshalumov

Throughout my entire school career, I have been reading and analyzing poetry.  Although I have read, literally, hundreds of poems in my life I cannot recall any of them.  If somebody asked me about a significant moment in my life that involved poetry, I would not have a response.  Other than music, poetry has had extremely little influence in my life up until the most recent class of Seminar.

There were two parts of the class that I took a liking to, the first of which was Andrew’s poem.  I am going to be honest and say that I was not expecting much when Andrew said he wanted to share his own poem.  I figured it would be a few clever rhymes but my assumption was clearly wrong.  The first line of the poem was by far the best, it is a perfect hook, “Lights pass by me hundreds at a time, but none can illuminate my night.”  I can easily relate this line to my life; I drive by hundreds of lamp posts on a daily basis but it never gives me that sweet embrace of hope I get when I wake up to a sunny day.

The second part I really enjoyed was a line in Christian’s poem.  I cannot perfectly recall the line but it was the segment about the web and the hardy cab driver.  I did not have any deep relations to this poem but I just adored the analogy of light hitting a spider’s web, symbolizing the cabby’s defense mechanism.

When the time arises in which I may need to discuss poetry, I will have these two poems in my arsenal.


It was nice to jump back into seminar after a week off from classes.  This session was very enjoyable since the class had plenty of engaging discussions.  However, even though the discussions were a blast, my favorite part was rereading my poem to the class.

At first I felt uneasy about my second reading, I thought that it was not the way it was supposed to be read.  The recording of Langston Hughes on Youtube had been in a very slow and mellow tone.  I realized after the session that my personality and the way I read Night Funeral in Harlem the first time did not flow in harmony.  Instead, presenting the poem with a sarcastic tone was a much better performance.

As a matter of fact, Langston Hughes was known as a comical man.  Imagining Hughes read the poem in a manner such as mine would not be too farfetched in my opinion.  Perhaps Hughes was at a very old age when the recording was made, which would justify his slow and smooth reading.

Even though I initially felt uneasy with my second reading of the poem, it was still a good time.  In all honesty, I think of myself as a great presenter. I was in a presentation team for a business program in my senior year of high school and I did pretty well.  The program had multiple competitions in which the presenters had to present lengthy business plans and sit through grueling Q & A sessions.  The reason I did so well was due to the fact that I presented with my natural personality; I did not try to mimic someone else as I did with Langston Hughes.

Hopefully, we will have more presentations in the future.  Presentations are vastly more enjoyable than a meer essay.

My Poem

Today in Seminar, all the students received a poem to study and recite for the next class.  While Professor Kahan was giving out the poems, I was eagerly waiting for mine.  In all honesty, I was hoping for a comical poem and was a bit disappointed when I was given, Night Funeral in Harlem by Langston Hughes.  Fortunately, this poem was an enjoyable read and I had a good time analyzing it.

From reading the poem over and over, I developed a brief analysis.  I think the poem was about a poor family or group of friends in Harlem that were not able to afford life insurance.  Since they could not pay for life insurance, they were not able to provide a professional funeral service for a loved one that passed away.  Instead, the friends of the loved one paid for a cheap funeral service in which they did the majority of the work.  Even though the event was not an expensive one, it was still a highly meaningful funeral because the friends of the loved one came together to mourn his death.  Essentially, I think the poem portrayed that as long as there were loved ones to mourn the death of a friend or family member, the financial aspect of a funeral held little significance.  In addition, since Hughes placed the setting of the poem in Harlem, he probably thought that funerals such as these commonly occurred in Harlem communities.

I was surprised that I enjoyed reading this poem so much.  Usually, I dislike reading poems but since we started going over poetry in Seminar, my thoughts on this medium are changing.