Stephanie Solanki, On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront is a brilliant film by Elia Kazan about the mob-like union leaders and their hold on dockworkers in the 1950s. He used many different artistic mediums to portray the message of his film. The mise-en-scene, dialogue, and symbols all contributed to the unique and profound quality of the movie. Each artistic device told a specific part of the story or quality of a character. This is why this film by Elia Kazan is an iconic masterpiece of modern American film.

In order to truly capture the spirit of the story’s setting and to add authenticity, Elia Kazan decided to film the entire movie in Hoboken, New Jersey, with New York City in the background. Many long shots at the docks showed cargo ships passing in the river and people bustling in the streets. This allowed the audience to fully understand the lives of the characters and the world they lived in. Another example is the use of a dolly shot when Edie and Terry were walking in the park. This camera angle followed the characters as they were trying to get to know each other. It showed movement in their relationship as they journeyed to the same destination together.

Another aspect of mise-en-scene that Kazan used brilliantly is lighting. When Terry called out to Joey in the beginning of the film, the streetlights casted shadows across his face because this act was to be kept hidden, or “in the dark.” Secondly, Edie always appeared to be very bright, glowing, and angelic. This showed that she had high standards of morality, and that her character was someone who was completely good in the film. The lighting was used to show good and evil in this film.

The score of the film was used to heighten suspense and display the characters’ emotions. An example is when Terry went to see Edie in her apartment after his taxi ride with Charlie. The boisterous, clashing instruments paralleled the characters’ clashing emotions. It then cut out abruptly when Terry kissed Edie. This kiss was a surprise to Edie, just like the abrupt stop of music was a surprise to the audience. This emotion was displayed through the music in a way that words could not. Nevertheless, words did play a very different but important role in this film.

The 1950s style dialogue added to the realism and authenticity of the movie. The language allowed the audience to understand the social classes of the characters. Many of the slang words in the movie were also codes that the mob-like union leaders used to conceal their agendas. For example, when K. O. Dugan was going to report the mob’s agenda to the police, they decided to kill him for not being D&D. This coded for “deaf and dumb.” The dockworkers refused to tell the police about the union leaders’ corruption for fear of never finding work again. The union leaders forced the workers to live by the D&D code just to survive.

Another slang word that was often used by the mob was “cheese-eater,” a word that coded for a rat or a snitch. Anyone who revealed the mob’s plans was considered a cheese-eater and was to be killed. Once the person had revealed the mob’s plans, his life had lost its value and he was considered a pest. The mob leaders needed to exterminate him before he confessed more secrets. To the leaders, the dockworkers were mere animals.

The mob also used the word “pigeon” to describe those who told the police about their corruption. When Terry was going to tell the police about Johnny Friendly’s corruption, the mob murdered Terry’s pigeons. Tommy, the little boy said “a pigeon for a pigeon,” as he held out a lifeless pigeon to Terry. Terry’s life was worth nothing anymore; he was only a threat to the union leaders. Just as they brutally murdered the pigeons, they planned to murder Terry.

The pigeons paralleled Terry in other ways as well. He found peace in his pigeons. He would go to the rooftop where he kept his pigeon coop to escape from the harsh world down below. He said the following to Edie: “Pigeons are a lot like people. They’re faithful and loyal.” He related with pigeons, which are helpless and defenseless birds. Terry had been bound to the mob from a very young age, and he was powerless with and without them. “This city is full of hawks,” he said. “They hang around on top of the big hotels, and when they spot a pigeon, they come in and take ‘em out.” Terry felt dependent on the mob for survival. He wanted to get out of this corrupt lifestyle, but he was tied so tightly that he couldn’t escape. They locked him up in a cage just like the pigeons were caged in the coop.

Terry told Charlie how he felt about his ties with the mob in the taxi ride. For the first time in the film, he was not defending or mitigating their corrupt tactics. He confessed that he felt victimized by them. The bright lighting on his face was used to show that he was completely honest about his frustration with the mob leaders and the binds they had on his life. He was not holding any secrets back from his brother. By saying that he “coulda had class,” he admitted that he believed that they ruined his chances of his having a wholesome and successful life. The camera zoomed in into Terry’s face to show his emotions. He was regretful, hurt, and disappointed in his brother. He felt betrayed by the one person whom he thought would always be “in his corner.”

The taxicab was shaking and rattling throughout the scene. The camera followed the bumps on the road to show that the brothers had a shaky relationship. They no longer trusted each other. Charlie felt betrayed by Terry because was going to confess to the police. Also, Terry told Charlie that he should have “looked out for [him] a little bit” when he was a wrestler. Terry felt betrayed by Charlie because he felt that Charlie was prioritizing the union leaders’ interests over his own brother’s. Terry had then realized his brother’s feelings towards him.

A symbol of realization and maturity in the film was alcohol. The alcohol in the film was beer and whiskey, which reflected the social standings of the characters. Terry, who drank beer often, bought Edie a beer on their first date. Edie once lived a sheltered life, but learned about the cruel nature of life when she got involved with Terry. The beer symbolized her transition from innocence to maturity. Terry also matured when he witnessed the death of K. O. Dugan. The mob killed him by dropping cases of whiskey on him. Terry finally realized how corrupt the union was. Lastly, the Father gave Terry a beer when he agreed to confess about Johnny Friendly. Killing him would have been revengeful, but to truly hurt Johnny Friendly Terry had to be mature and confess. Terry had matured in his dealings with the mob-like union leaders

On the Waterfront is filled with artistic details that deepen the significance and message of the work. The dialogue made the story unique, while the lighting, music, and camera angles displayed the aspects of the story in a way that words could not. Symbols were used to show the message of them film in a subtle, but profound, way. Elia Kazan brilliantly used many artistic mediums to tell the meaning of his the film.





Stephanie Solanki, 11/26/12

On Monday’s class, we discussed the book we had to read called Catcher in the Rye. I had read this book as a freshman in high school and was not impressed at all. I think that I was not mature enough to understand the major concepts and appreciate Holden’s perspective just yet. I am so glad that I had to chance to revisit this book. Reading it as a freshman in college is a very different experience from reading it as a freshman in high school.

My favorite part of the book is about the museum. When Holden goes to the Museum of Natural History, he thinks about how everything inside stays the same. This is what he loves about museums; he feels like he can have faith that everything inside will be there forever. It something that he counts on. The outside world may change, and he may change, but the museum will always stay the same. I think this is a major part of the book. Holden has a hard time dealing with the changes that occur in his life. He hates when children grow up and he hates that he has to deal with growing up as well. He wishes that everything would stay frozen in time like it does in the museum.

I really like that this book is told from Holden’s perspective. Was Mr. Antolini really flirting with Holden, or was he just being paranoid? The reader must decide for his or herself because the narrator is an unreliable source. This quality makes the book very unique, and adds an incredible amount of depth to everything that happens. Did it simply happen the way it did, or was Holden adding his own opinion and flavor?

I am enjoying the assignment that I am writing. Creative writing assignments are always the most fun because I can use my imagination and make the assignment my own.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/28/12

Today in class, Professor Diaz came and spoke to us about the movie Manhattan. She told us very common and useful film terminology. I thought it was interesting to think of one part of a movie as the “film space.” To me, a film is a moving object. It’s different to me to think that there is also a film frame. The camera’s viewpoint is also very thought about. Manhattan is in 2:85:1 because Woody Allen wanted to show the entire Manhattan skyline. Each shot is thought about in the film as well to show different things. For example, when Isaac broke up with Tracey, the camera zoomed in to her face to show her emotions. I never thought so deeply about movies in this way. Each frame and scene is very calculated and analyzed because the director wants to give off a message. The angles are very important in the same way. Each angle expresses a certain idea about the people, places, or things in the frame. Even the lighting has a very important effect on the movie because it highlights and lowlights certain relationships, dialogues, or even objects in the film. The movement of the camera helps to tell the story as well. Pan is when the camera “turns its head.” Tilt is when the camera’s “head” swivels up or down. This is how Professor Diaz described it. This is interesting to me because when watching A Bronx Tale I thought that the camera had a point of view that is its very own. In Manhattan, this was done to make the viewer feel as if he or she was with the characters. The camera’s viewpoint was the viewpoint of the audience. This was done successfully. I felt like I was with the characters in the movie and feeling the things that they were feeling. The 180 degree rule is when the camera turns its axis and stays on one side of the shot. The camera stays on one side of the characters. This also contributes to the idea that the viewer is part of the shot. When the characters were sitting in a restaurant, I felt like I was in a chair sitting with them because the camera’s view was from one side. It stayed in one place, like a person would in a chair. Even the sound was specifically chosen for a film. The sounds were very specifically picked to create a certain feel for the scene. I feel like I learned so much today about film and the different styles that cinematographers use. I am going to see every movie I watch very differently. I am going to be more aware of the choices the director made and try to figure out why they did what they did.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/21/12

In Wednesday’s seminar class, I watched my first Woody Allen film. I had heard of the name Woody Allen, but I never had had the opportunity of watching any of his work. I had no idea about his type of style or humor. When Dr. Kahan said that the film “Manhattan” was a Woody Allen movie, I was excited to experience a part of pop culture that was new to me. Dr. Kahan had told us to keep the questions we had answered prior to class in mind while watching the film.

1. How does the camera function? The camera has many different functions in this film. One scene in which the camera angle stood out to me is when Isaac and Mary were driving on the Brooklyn Bridge. The camera followed the car and did not show the inside of the car at all. The dialogue was heard, but the characters were unseen. Secondly, the camera zoomed in very close to the Isaac and Mary’s faces when they were in the planetarium. This shows that they were getting closer and bonding. In this film, the camera angles are used to make a point about the scene. It is not just a viewing mechanism for the audience. Its angles are specifically chosen to subtly deliver a message about the film.

2. What is the director’s approach towards framing scenes with people? The people in the scenes are very important, and are often the centerpieces of the scenes. However, the director very cleverly changes the focus by switching the camera angles and having the audience focus on the dialogue at times rather than the actors. The people are sometimes the focus, and sometimes the message in the dialogue is given more importance.

3. What impact does the b&w v. color have? The black and white adds a class and timelessness flare to the film. However, the film is very modern and deals primarily with contemporary issues. I think that the decision to use black and white was Woody Allen’s attempt to show that this was the new society in Manhattan, and this was the new normal.

4. Generally, how long do the clips (edits) last? The edits were fast; however I thought that the transitions between scenes were done very well. It was not abrupt, but it was not choppy like the edits in “All About Eve” were.

5. The dialogue in this movie was very contemporary. It was realistic. The lines did not seem scripted at all. It was natural and modern according to the time period.

6. What is the role of costume in each scene? The costumes were not a big part of this movie. I noticed that each character in this movie had a very particular way of dressing that set him or her apart from the other characters. This personal style lasted throughout the entire movie. This was to set the characters apart and show their individual personalities.

7. What is the role of music in each scene? The role of music in this movie was very minimal. I don’t remember much music in it at all. This is very ironic to me because music, I think, is a a huge part of the allure of Manhattan. I think that maybe the music would have detracted focus from the main characters or the message of the movie.

8. What is the role of the set in the movie? The sets in the movie did not look like sets at all. Everything looked like it was filmed in actual buildings or on the streets of Manhattan. This just adds to the realism of the movie and how it Manhattan not romanticized in any way. Everything is kept very real to show what Manhattan is really like.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film. The last line, which is spoken by Tracey, sums up Manhattan very nicely. “You should have faith in people.” In the big city, it is easy to become jaded and feel a sense of hopelessness. But at the end of the day, it is important to keep the faith, and have faith in people. I look forward to watching more films in this class in the future to broaden my movie horizons even further.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/19/12

On Monday, in class I performed my poem “The New Collusus.” I was very nervous to go up because I thought that I would mess up the words once I got there. For all of my life, I’ve never been afraid of performing in front of people. However, my performances have been musical, and not dramatic like this performance. I took Dr. Kahan’s advice, and just pretended that I was somebody else. After performing, I found that the hardest part is actually getting up there. While performing, my main focus was performing the poem well. I wanted to make sure that the listeners would feel the same emotions that Emma Lazurus would have been feeling when she wrote the poem. I changed the volume of my voice at different parts and fluctuated it. I emphasized different words to draw attention to it. My reason for not following the rhyme scheme is to make the poem very epic and bold in nature. I was trying to make America sound like the glorious and welcoming country that it is. This poem was perfect for me because it applies directly to my life. I wouldn’t be where I am if the perception of America was different from how it’s described in this poem. I’m really glad that I got the chance to perform it.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/14/12

Today in Seminar class, we resumed performing our poems. I was blown away once again by the amount of thought and love each person has put into their poems. I have yet to present, and it is because I feel that my poem is one that would be a great last act. It’s a very patriotic poem, and would leave a good impression on the class. I think that I am very prepared to present on Monday after watching the constructive criticism that Dr. Kahan gave to each presenter. I think that it will make my poem that much better.

I loved Rob’s poem. He performed it very well; it was the perfect poem for him. I loved when Dr. Kahan played the blues on the piano while Rob performed his poem. I felt like I should have started snapping! It was very powerful. The music added flow and rhythm to the poem. It was easy to “get in the groove” when Dr. Kahan played music. I could feel the poem come to life. It was really moving.

I really liked the way James performed his poem. It inspires me to let go of all my inhibitions and perform the poem to do justice to the poem. I really cannot wait to perform. I have been waiting for a long time, and I want to make my poem stand out. Hopefully, I can.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/12/12

Today in class, Professor Powers spoke to us about architecture and how it is a symbol of society. His thesis was “architecture tries to provide a context for the life that will go on in an around the building. Some scholars call architecture a symbol of the ‘ethnos.'” It is a frame for the society of the time. I never thought of architecture as a tool to set the tone and capture the feel of the time in which it was built.

The Parthenon is the iconic architecture of Western civilization. It symbolizes reason powering over brute force. Monticello was Thomas Jefferson’s effort to do what the Parthenon did for Western architecture. He wanted to show off the intellect of America. The ethnos of the founding fathers was enlightenment, reason, and order. The type of building shows the type of country that the rulers of the country wanted to have. The Massachusetts State House is a building that shows that the founding fathers were enforcing reason and intellect in their new government. Its architecture shows the world that the American government is rational and intellectual.  St. Paul’s Chapel in Downtown New York. CSI is Georgian architecture. It is a very rational and structured architecture. The US Capital is also Federal, Neo-Classical, and Greek in style. It shows an extremely rational approach to the world. Southern plantation houses were also Greek-inspired because the Southern people drew a parallel between their lifestyles and the lifestyles of the ancient Greeks in that they both owned slaves.

This next part was very interesting to me because of the irony of the situation. The Museum of the American Indian was once called the Customs House. Its architecture showed the way that the entire world was subjected under the English way of living. Beaux-arts architecture shows that Western civilization dominates over all civilizations. Now it is the Museum of the American Indian. American Indians were pushed out because the Western civilization thought it could dominate over them.

I’ve learned in various history classes that pointed arches symbolize Gothic architecture. This type of architecture symbolizes religion. The religion was tied into society. It is very appropriate for churches and schools. It shows a lot of romanticism. It is more about individualism, irrationality, and emotions.

Professor Powers addresses the Brooklyn Bridge as a building in New York City. I think this is very appropriate because the bridge is a very essential and iconic part of the city’s charm. The Brooklyn Bridge is a completely scientific building. It is all steel and suspension. However, the engineers wanted to tie it in to the notion that the country is tied into its religious roots. It has pointed arches; it is a Gothic bridge.

This contrasts the George Washington Bridge, which is a more honest kind of architecture. This means that a building should reflect its structure, purpose, and materials. Everything on the bridge has an engineering purpose.

After WWI a big change occurs in architecture. It is a rejection of traditional civilization. The carnage of WWI produces very left-wing engineers. They have an ethic that rejects all cultural associations of historical architecture. The buildings should be shaped logically and scientifically. The society was very scientific. It is called the international style. After WWII America starts to believe that culture creates a war atmosphere. The international style erases all culture, and it is more peace-favoring. The UN building is an example of this style. This type of building indicates the idea that work is more important than thought. This was the idea that intellect and culture should be trumped by the energy of the worker. The future belongs to the masses of the workers.

 I always thought that Central Park was created to be an escape from the urban lifestyle. Central Park has beaux-art elements. I learned today that it is romantically constructed, however. The paths wind in any which way. Central Park shows that even in a big city you can live in nature. However, it is very manmade because everything in it was moved from one place to the park. It is a work of art to become a symbol of romanticism. This shows that the urban nature of New York City is hard to escape. The creators of Central Park felt that the city needed a retreat from the harsh and dry city; however they had to plan out how this retreat would work. One can see that the idea of a retreat was structured and not spontaneous by looking at an aerial shot of Central Park. It is a perfect rectangle.

The Empire State Building was constructed in 1931. It shows that modern life is supposed to be fast and rational. These kind of buildings glorify capitalism. It shows the self-glorification of capitalism. This type of architecture reflects the lives we live not. They call our time the Commuter Age. We are always on the go and have very high expectations to meet. These buildings show that that we have to work hard and pick ourselves up from our bootstraps to get ahead in life. Rockefeller Center is also of the Art Deco Style. The dynamism and idea of maximizing profit was shown in these buildings. Ruthlessness was shown in this style. This ties back to the idea of an individual meeting his goals by himself and through hard work alone.

I really loved this class because I have always loved how the architecture of a certain place sets its tone. I never really thought what about the building sets the tone or why. It is really a very interesting subject. It makes me feel proud to live in New York because of the many different architecture styles that are right in my backyard. There’s so much to explore and learn about; the only thing we need to do is stop and think!


Stephanie Solanki, 11/7/12

Yesterday in class, we did more poetry performances. Again, the poems were really meaningful, and they made me think deeper. Christian Siason’s poem stood out to me the most. It was about a simple cab ride, but it was my favorite. I never thought that a ride in a cab could be, as Dr. Kahan said, an “adventure.” Hearing the poem was an eye-opening experience for me. It was so interesting to think of this poem as a “snapshot” of a moment in time. I’ve never thought of a poem like that, like a moment that is frozen in time. The poem included the poet’s thoughts and observations in that moment. These thoughts have been immortalized forever. Like Austin said in class, a cab ride is an experience that many New Yorkers have had and will have. It is part of the charm of New York City. This is a familiar experience to New Yorkers, but different too. What sets this cab ride apart is that when riding a cab, one does not think that he or she is on an adventure. The cab ride is just a transition from one place to another. It is not usually the highlight of the person’s day. However, this poem causes me to appreciate every moment of my day. Each moment is unique and fleeting. I really enjoyed “Interview With a Cab Driver” for these reasons.

I really like how each poem has to do with New York and each poets experience in New York. The poems are all from different time periods, but they live on. The poetic geniuses have immortalized their experiences in their New York and made it familiar and recognizable New Yorkers in the future generations. This is why we read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman as a class. Whitman was walking about New York in his present time and the future generations.

This class is really opening my eyes to appreciate poetry in a new way. I love the discussions we are having in class and hearing the analysis of the performers.

Stephanie Solanki, 11/5/12

Today in Seminar Class, we had poetry recitals. I have always loved poetry, and I have always loved hearing different interpretations of poetry. For me, poetry is like music. It has a rhythm and a beat, and the experience of hearing poetry is like listening to a concert for me. A person can express one poem in many different ways. It was nice to hear my classmates express themselves or different sides of themselves through their poetry.

I really liked the poems that were given to each person. It seemed as if the poem was meant for the person who performed it. Everyone shined through their poetry. Each poem emphasized certain personality qualities in the performer. I was able to “hear” the personality traits of the speaker through the performances. This was because of voice intonation, hand gestures, emphasis of words, and rhythm and beat choices.

We had a class discussion about zeitgeist and social perceptions on women. Years ago, Marilyn Monroe was considered promiscuous because she was comfortable in her body and flaunted it. In this era, we would not think that a beautiful women is a promiscuous. It is not a correlation that occurs to us. This then led to the discussion of power between the people and notorious celebrities. In my opinion, the people give celebrities their power through attention and gossip. Celebrities need attention to stay in the spotlight, and so they rely on the people to keep them there. I liked having a full class discussion and hearing the opinions of others. I think we should do that more often.

I cannot wait to perform on Wednesday, although I have touch acts to follow. My classmates did great jobs, and I hope that I will too.

Stephanie Solanki, 10/24/12

Today in Seminar, we looked at different types of books and music. I thought it was interesting that the times influenced the arts, and the arts influenced the times. This is zeitgeist, an idea we have discussed in class many times. The nineteenth century was when the romantic art period took place. Books like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were written in which the ethos is very romantic. In 1848, many revolutions took place because there was a sense of nationality. Afterwards, the rise of the middle class let the people enjoy the arts more. People were also trying to find their purpose as individuals. People wanted to find their place in the nature, or in the world. This was an age where people examined the dark side of human nature; some of the most famous books that came out of this period are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein. The romantic era was the very beginning of the study of psychology. In the 1880s, the Civil War had already occurred in the US. The economy has shifted from the farmland to the cities. The gentle and graceful southern class structure has now gone away. The industrial labor in America rises up and there is glory in that. The people now feel like they are downtrodden. This was a shift towards realism.

Walt Whitman falls in between realism and romanticism. For example, in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” he talks about a very real place, the Brooklyn Bridge, but he talks about it very deeply and romantically. He talks about the commonality of humanity throughout the ages. He ennobles the experience of riding the ferry. Whitman elevates the new industrial experiences of the society and economy in America. He shows an idealized America; “by the sweat of their brows, the average American is raising up his country.” The ideas of Abraham Lincoln are embodied in words by Walt Whitman.

In “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” Whitman creates a double landscape. This is so interesting to me because I never thought that this poem could create a picture of something as if it was on a stage. I only thought that a work that was meant to be performed on stage could be create an image like that.

I thought that the rocking pattern was very interesting. This pattern was created by the repetition of certain words in the poem. This makes a comforting feeling. Repetitiveness in any art form is very soothing. When we were listening to the song “Hard Rains Are A-Falling” by Bob Dylan, I looked up the guitar chords. It was the same three chords, D, A, and G, over and over again. These simple and straight-forward chords contrast the depth of the song. I thought this was so interesting, and I can’t wait to study more about how times have affected the arts.