Shumaila – On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront is a 1954 movie that was directed by academy award winner Elia Kazan[1]. The film shows the corruption among New York City’s dockworkers. The story takes place in Hoboken, across the Manhattan River.  Today, nearly seventy years later, On the Waterfront is considered a timeless classic, not only because of its plot, but because the elements that came into play during the production of the film.

During the movie, the mise-en-scène helped the viewer focus on certain aspects in each scene making them understand the story better. The viewers felt as though they were in the movie through the use of framing, editing, lighting, and camera shots.  The movie, for the most part, took place by the docks, with boats constantly in the background. Today, the camera tends to move with the character more, and stay stationary a lot less. However, in the movie, the camera shots were short two-second clips capturing the character from different angles. In the scene where the priest was standing by Kayo’s body delivering a sermon, the camera tried to capture several different views of him talking from above, below, and behind.

The music was used to set the mood of the scene. When Edie walked out of the restaurant, the fast-paced wedding music set the mood for a quick chaotic scene that lasted nearly ten seconds. The bride ran into the crowd and the men surrounded her. The lack of lighting showed how it was late evening. Again, the camera didn’t move much in this scene; it simply showed two views, one from above capturing all the men, and one from the front showing Edie reacting to this scene.  When the thugs were about to brake in to the church, it was the music that showed that something was going to happen. The scores played during action scenes set the mood, and prepared the viewer for what they would see.  The costumes were sometimes used to show transformations. Through the movie, Terry wore his plaid jacket with holes by where his elbow should be. At the end of the movie, he wasn’t wearing the plaid jacket anymore, now he was wearing Joey’s jacket.  Also, Edie transformed from the wrinkle-filled, hair knotted, estranged woman she was, to the more refined feminine figure at the end. The costumes worn showed that the movie took place at some point during the harsh winter, because the men and women were always wearing coats.

The 1950’s style dialogue was apparent throughout the movie. Their accents made it clear that the characters were from a different time.  When Terry was being questioned about Joey’s death, he replied “People I may know? You betta get outta here busta” and “Neva’s gonna be too soon for me shorty” He also mentioned that he wasn’t a pigeon, meaning someone who would be the informer, and tell the cops everything. There were two types of people in the town, as Friendly saw it; there was the D & D (deaf and dumb) and the canary. The deaf and dumb wouldn’t say anything to anyone about what they saw, and the canaries would speak the truth. The cheese-eaters would also be the informers, and the potato-eaters would be the Irish because of the potato famine.

The scene between Terry and Charlie in the taxicab essentially showed two men having a deep intense conversation. But what made this one of the greatest scenes in was the acting, filming, and wording coming together so perfectly. When Terry got in to the car, it was obvious that Charlie was nervous. He was playing with this glove, and he also blinked a lot when he tried to make his point. It was apparent that he desperately wanted more than anything else for his kid brother to just take the job. When it becomes clear that Terry wouldn’t take the job, Charlie held up the gun. However the way Terry calmly put down the gun showed how hurt he was. They didn’t say much during their conversation, but their frequent pauses and facial expressions got the point across. The conversation was so strong, that the viewer almost felt their emotions as though they were in the conversation. Terry explains how Charlie failed to look out for his little brother, and that’s why today Charlie is a bum. Charlie’s association with Friendly took Charlie’s boxing career. The way Charlie said “I could’ve been a contender” showed how deep Terry’s pain was, and that he may never be able to let it go. Their voices stutter with pain and crushing emotion that send trembles through the viewers.

The Irish were known to have control of the waterfront at that time in history. The constant use of alcohol shows how they like to show their presence in the lives of everyone who lived by the docks, since whiskey and beer is a big part of Irish culture. Their practices became a constant reminder of their influence in American life. The Irish were known to have a policy where no one would ever say anything against them otherwise they would suffer the consequences. The movie depicted that idea, and constantly reflected the Irish presence through the use of alcohol.

On the Waterfront is a classic example of how elements of cinema come together with a great plot to form a timeless piece of American cinema that is sure to be remembered even a century from now.


On Monday, we began our class with a discussion of Manhattan and then later “Catcher in the Rye”. We discussed the music in the film. The music wasn’t played much, but when it was, it represented certain milestones. In the beginning, the song “Rhapsody in Blue” was used, and it showed the typical fast life of New York. Another instance where the music was played, was when Isaac and his son spent a day together.

The next half of the class was a discussion about “Catcher in the Rye”. This was my first time reading the book, and I think it was an interesting read. However, I really didn’t see the symbolism as much until I began to discuss it with my friends. I started to see why certain objects held such an importance to Holden.   For example, I had no idea that Holden’s red hunting hat was a symbol of his alienation. After carefully rereading certain pages with this idea in mind, I started to see how this was possible. It protected him, and made him feel unique. The hat is also a symbol of Holden’s attachment to childhood—it’s the kind of goofy accessory that a proper adult wouldn’t wear. I was also fascinated to learn that Holden’s fixation on the ducks is also a symbol of his struggle with change and growing up. He wants things to stay the same, but the ducks prove that one must adapt to the environment, that one has to change in order to survive. At the same time, the duck’s offer hope: though they disappear each winter, they always reappear.

Overall, i thought that this discussion was very different from what I had in high school, and I look forward to hearing everyone’s modern day version of the book.


Today, in seminar we learned some general film vocabulary while we analyzed the movie Manhattan with Professor Diaz. We learned how to pay attention to certain aspects of movies that can be used to bring out details that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. Mise-en-scene is basically all the elements that are being placed on camera, including the props, costume, and framing. Cinematography is the use of cameras and other machines to record images. Editing is the piecing together of individual shots. Sound is the voices, effects, and music that blend on a film’s auto track. Framing can be used to capture a certain essence of a setting, for example capturing Manhattan’s skyline. Shots are used to capture certain details about characters or the setting.

I was most interested when I saw the first moving picture. It was fascinating to see how the still pictures of the house were put together to create a moving picture. That was the first idea that was later used to develop movies. We learned how movies evolved from what they began in 1895. The clips were much longer because there was no editing. However, as time passed and technology developed, the movie clips began getting shorter. Often camera cutting sequences were used in 1915 to tell the story. I especially liked seeing a wide array of examples that showed the advancements of the film industry through time.

We learned the difference in lighting which can be used to create stronger or weaker contrasts. In Manhattan, the director dimmed the lights for scenes where the dialogue was the focus. It brought all the attention to what exactly the director wanted you to see. The absence of color in Manhattan actually brought out the beauty of Manhattan by avoiding any possible distractions that can come from a colorful scene. It seemed to  get the view across more efficiently.


1. The camera had varying views. The camera was also used to capture the essence of New York City, and what the lifestyle was like. In a way, capturing the scenery set the mood. For example, when the characters took a stroll down Central Park, the viewer felt the calm serene mood. The camera focused primarily on capturing the dialogue over all else. The scene in the museum between Isaac and Mary, we could barely see their faces, but we could clearly understand their conversation.

2. Sometimes the camera followed the characters over their shoulders, as if the viewer was watching from behind them. However most of the time, the camera stayed in place, and the characters came in and exited the scenes. The scenes didn’t always frame the characters as the focus point of the camera. They sometimes appeared on the far left or the far right, this way the setting was also important.

3. The black and white gave the movie a classical look. It also forced the audience to pay a little more attention to the plot line rather than the minor details.

4.  From what I remember, each one of the scenes varied from a minute to about six minutes.

5. The dialogue changed based on who was in the scene and the context of the conversation. For example, when Isaac and Marry were walking the dog together, the conversation was a mix of crude and witty language. Throughout the movie though, the dialogue seemed like everyday language, very relaxed. Isaac’s dialogue was often sarcastic, and it added a satirical aspect to the film.

5. The costumes basically showed how the people of New York dressed during the time period the movie took place in.

6. Music did not play much of a role in the movie.

7. The set was New York City. The movie showed the typical lifestyle of a New Yorker while highlighting the common landmarks that we all think of when we remember the city.


Final Poetry Performances

Monday’s seminar concluded our section of poetry for seminar. At the end, I was actually sad, and I found myself wishing that there could be more. It was pretty interesting listening to my classmates talk about New York City, and how the poetry all tied in together. I was also thoroughly fascinated to learn that each poem was assigned based on our personalities. With that in mind, Dr. Kahan’s advice, and the classes feedback just became more meaningful. We all got a better understanding of not only poetry, but also our classmates.

Each poem eventually tied back to New York City, they basically all represented how poets saw New York from their own perspectives. They depicted the city as a cluster of diverse cultures that came together to form a new lifestyle.

One of my favorites was Stephanie’s performance of “The New Colossus”. Stephanie read the poem with so much emotion, and she made the message stand out just by the way that she performed. It was the perfect ending to the poetry segment of seminar. The poem represented what America meant to us all. It was a symbol of freedom and a mixture of different people from all around the world. The poem represented how America is basically made up of immigrants and how we all have a story of where we came from, and the struggles that we underwent to get here.

Shumaila – 11/14/2012

On Wednesday, we continued our poetry presentations. I love how these presentations bring out a side of our classmates that we have not seen so far. It forces us all to be more comfortable around each other. Everyone has done an amazing job on each poem, making me look forward to what else they will do over the course of the next four years.

One of my favorites was James’ performance of Ing-rish. I think his personality meshed well with the witty mood of the poem, forming the perfect combination. Rob’s performance was also pretty interesting. He performed with Dr. Kahan, playing piano on the side. It made the poem feel more real, and it was quite moving.

Last Tuesday, our seminar class went to see Dr. Kahan at the Center for Arts as part of the Chamber Music Collective.  They commemorated the birthday of Claude Debussy by performing some of his best works. was given the chance to see Professor Kahan in concert at CSI. One of my favorite performances was the Opera piece. I was amazed by how loud her voice could be, and also how she managed to speak while her voice was so high pitched. It was nice to see all the different instruments coming together as harmoniously as they did in the beautiful performance.



11/12/2012 – Shumaila

On Monday, professor Richard Powers delivered a talk on architectural history. I had never really thought about how buildings actually capture the cultures of society and the time period when it was constructed during.  Professor Powers mentioned “Parthenon”, which was an iconic building of western civilization. The Parthenon was the center of society at the top of an acropolis that symbolized intellect.

I was especially interested when I learned that the US capitol building was built with ancient civilizations as an inspiration. The building modeled famous architectures of past successful powerful civilizations. I was also shocked to learn that the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park are considered the greatest buildings of New York City.

It’s interesting to learn, because they are not even categorized as real buildings. However, they are the best places that capture the essence of New York better than many other places.  Also, many buildings in the south were actually modeled after Greek civilization. We learned that this was because the Greeks successfully ran a system of slavery for centuries. The southern states in America often considered this to be a model of what America should be like.

Our class with Professor Powers was quite interesting. It has definitely reformed the way I look at architecture on a day-to-day basis. I feel that now when I look around, I wont just see the buildings, but I’ll wonder why or how their designs came to be. I feel that I’ve gained insight on a topic that I would have never thought much about had it not been for my seminar class.

11/7/2012 – Shumaila

On Wednesday, we continued our poetry presentations. Before my recital, Christian gave his presentation. Although it was initially a novel concept, after carefully analyzing the poem with Dr. Kahan, I was able to understand how certain poems are categorized as “snapshot poetry”. Most of the time, when we get inside cabs, we never think to talk to the driver. We don’t think that maybe the driver might be educated with a doctorate. However, in this poem, we see the driver and passenger exchange a conversation.

I was amazed to see how just the scenery of New York City inspired some of the best poetry. Additionally, I saw Andrew recite a poem he wrote himself. It was amazing to see how much emotion can go into a poem, and how communicated to the listeners. It definitely gave me chills listening to the way he performed his work.

One of my favorite performances was Naomi’s, I loved the way she put so much emotion into her work. She was able to tap into the emotion that the poet must have been feeling. I saw how researching the life of a poet could provide some very valuable insight into what mood the poem was meant to resonate.

Over the course of the last week, I have really enjoyed listening to all the poetry. I can honestly say that I wasn’t really looking forward to a week full of poetry recitations. However, I have grown a new appreciation for New York as well as poetry. I look forward to hearing the remaining students perform their poems, and to furthering my knowledge of literature and the arts.

11/5 – Shumaila Irshad

On Monday, we started our poetry recitations. It was different, because all semester we watched different performances, but we were never asked to be thee performers. It was my first time performing in front of a college audience, and I must say, it was quite the overwhelming experience. Everyone else’s performances were great, and so I felt compelled to deliver an exceptional performance as well.

Although I’ve discussed numerous poems in high school, I was never asked to recite a poem with so much emotion. Everyone’s poem covered a certain aspect of New York City, something that we could all relate to. I felt that everyone’s poem recitation somehow revealed their actual personality, and that’s how the performance came to life. We all had to tap into the emotion the poet might have been feeling when he/she wrote it. Everyone poem was unique, but this time I enjoyed it, unlike high school.

Ariana’s poem was definitely a memorable experience. I loved how we discussed aspects of Marilyn Monroe’s personality, and how she might have really felt. It made us all wonder that maybe Marilyn Monroe had more to her personality than just beauty and lust. It’s possible that maybe she used her popularity as a promiscuous woman to help fuel her acting career. I liked the overall message that the poem communicated, which was how all women would like to be treated respectfully regardless of their looks.

Overall, I enjoyed all the poems that were recited in class.  I liked how the poems took place during different time periods, but somehow they are understandable till today.  The poets made timeless works which could be related to the past and future New Yorkers. At the end of class, I could really say that I had a new understanding of poetry. I particularly enjoyed listening to everyone’s insights on their own poems, definitely making the experience memorable.


Wednesday, during Seminar, we began by discussing Walt Whitman’s Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. I like discussing poetry together in the class as a discussion, because I get to see certain elements that I would not have noticed otherwise. We learned about how his writing reflected the romanticism era in literature. Once I understood what the ideas of this era consisted of, I was able to tie certain details back to the poem. Also, I could infer certain details about the speaker.  We also discussed the era of realism, when people began to question things such as their roles in life. They wanted to make a real change. This prompted the idea of realism, where novels reflected reality and not just the classic fiction ideas that dominated the earlier centuries. Dracula, Frankenstein, and other works were released, and they depicted the darker side to humanity. Characters were shown as having deceiving personalities.

After we had a thorough understanding of the two time periods in literature, we continued our discussion of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry. Having written a blog on it earlier, I understood what each stanza meant. I had already tied certain feelings to the poem. However discussing it with the class brought many new ideas to light, and these ideas were something that I would not have thought of on my own.

I noticed that the starting words within each stanza were repetitive. We then learned that writers use this technique to convey feelings of irritability, anger, or serenity. Discussing the poem together helped answer some of the questions I had about the vague perspectives that were apparent to me throughout the poem.