James Baldassano 12/9/12 On The Waterfront

James Baldassano

On the Waterfront



No color? No problem. At least not for the cinematic experience of watching the film, “On the Water Front”, anyway. This black and white film was one of the most intriguing and interesting films ever. I’ve always been a sucker for gangster movies, and this one did not fail.

Unlike  “Manhattan”, the Woody Allen film, I feel this movie would have been better if filmed in color, but it was created at a much earlier time, so color was probably much more rare in films. Maybe there was a bigger reason that went over my head, but I feel the color would have expanded the feeling of the film. The camera zooming, however, stayed true to the times. In older films, the camera seems to focus on both people in a conversation, and staying until neither is speaker, while in newer films, it will flash back and forth between the two. This occurs especially in the famous scene with Charlie and Terry Malloy in the backseat of the car. The camera stays focused not too close, but enough to have them both be the center of attention, for the duration of their conversation. The background music, by famous American Composer Leonard Bernstein, was vital, especially in the opening scene.

The speech in this film, although it took place in Hoboken, New Jersey, was almost indescribably similar to that of Brooklyn. All of the heavy, old school Italian accents really brought it out. Maybe to me, but that’s just my opinion. The vocabulary that these “ayyye fuhhgeddabout” accents used though was nothing like modern vocabulary. The characters, which were predominantly adults, barely cursed or swore. Although there were a few choice words thrown in here and there (which I am told was already extremely edgy), the words were mostly censored. Don’t get me wrong, it was definitely not elegant, but it wasn’t like a modern film, where people would be saying much more explicit things.

There was an interesting use of slang, with words such as “Cheese-eater”. This would probably be equivalent to a modern day, “bum”, or “scum” (no rhyme scheme intended!).  It was also quite common to be compared to an animal, especially birds. One of the most common was to be called a canary, which meant you were a “squeal”, or you couldn’t keep your mouth shut. I imagine it is because canaries are famous for their singing, and the singing was a metaphorical equivalent to “blabbing”, or squealing.

Not to skip around, but if we take a little return to the scene between Terry and Charlie, for a little more in-depth analysis, we can truly go in to why it was one of the most famous and memorable moments from this movie. Lets start off with the line “I coulda been a contenda’”, said by Terry. It clearly is a reference to his fighting days, when he was forced to lose so his brother and Johnny Friendly’s crew could win a bet. It killed him inside, and this line was said in this scene, for Charlie was telling him that Johnny Friendly and his crew were forcing him to do something against his will again. This time, they wanted him to lie in court.  You could see the discomfort in Terry Malloy’s face, and the urgency in Charlie’s. The acting was so realistic, especially when Charlie pulled his gun on Terry. It was so obvious that Charlie did not want to be doing so, and the way Terry gently shoved it away was just so realistic. They portrayed the scene as a very intimate moment between two brothers.

On to the topic of being drunk. Only kidding, but I am going to discuss the concept of alcohol in this film. Whiskey and beer primarily. I felt they represented a surrender of suspicions and tensions, as in the scene between Terry and Edie, when he first takes her out. As she drinks, she becomes less and less suspicious and wary of Terry, and more open and affectionate towards him. Then, they start discussing her philosophy, in comparison to Terry’s. Her mindset consisted of “Everybody cares for one another”, in comparison to his “Do it to him before he can do it to you.” It really shows the extremes of these characters, brought about by the alcohol

There really is no way to end a paper on this film that does it justice. With all the little details, intricate character development, interesting symbolism, and just fantastic plot, it truly was one of my favorite movies I have ever seen. This black and white romantic mobster movie intertwined the two aspects of the tough guy with a rough past, and the beautiful lass with a heart of gold, with immaculate precision.

On the Waterfront: 12/9/12

On the Waterfront is a 1954 film directed by Elia Kazan, famous for its underlying message and its costume, cinematography, music, and mise-en-scène. These cinematic techniques help to show that the film was not only for enjoyment, but was Kazan’s portrayal of the political and social climate of the 1950’s.

There are several cinematic techniques that stand out in the film. The costume design accurately depicts the low economic class of the 1950’s. One costume that was particularly prominent was Terry’s checkered coat. It seems his checkered coat is a symbol for his confused and conflicted personality, always considering right vs. wrong and good vs. evil. When considering framing of images, Terry was frequently left alone in the shot. For example, at the beginning, after Joey has been killed, Terry is standing with Charlie and two of Johnny Friendly’s henchmen. After they finish talking, Charlie and the other two men leave the frame and we see only Terry. In addition, as Terry walks away after the bar scene where Johnny Friendly gives him money, he is enclosed by a fog, suggesting the uncertainty of his character. Both instances occur at various points in the movie; this suggests that Terry tries to be an individual because he is always yearning to do the right thing, unlike the others.

The movie attempts to truly mimic 1950’s American society. Kazan included dialogue with heavy slang and the constant portrayal of alcohol, particularly whiskey. The slang includes various ethnic slurs and animal references, often combined to create one phrase. For example, the men often use “cheese-eater” and “potato-eater,” which respectively mean a “rat” or “tattletale” and “an Irish immigrant.” It is ironic that they make fun of the Irish immigrants, seeing as they make their livelihood boxing and sending Irish whiskey. A “cheese-eater” is often used interchangeably with “pigeon” or “canary,” when the workers are referring to one of their own who has gone and ratted them out to the police. There is significance to the bird references; birds exist in flocks, in groups, like the dockworkers. However, if one flies away from the group, or turns its (his) back, it likely will not survive on its (his) own. Finally, the priest uses slang terms such as “gravy train rider” and “turnaround collar” in reference to himself. What he means by these terms is that they all think he’ll preach about change, but he will not get involved, because he lives a luxurious lifestyle. In reality, he tries to tell them he will stand alongside them and is willing to help them however he can. In addition to the use of slang, one of the other defining characteristics of the group is the use of alcohol, especially whiskey. Alcohol is the source of their livelihood and income; and, most of the men are Irish Catholics, known for their drinking habits. Whiskey also serves as a way to help people calm down. In the bar, after Joey’s death, Johnny hands Terry money and says, “Here kid, here’s half a bill, go get your load on.” Then, we see Terry and the priest, a religious figure, drinking whiskey in the bar after Charlie has been killed. It isn’t just “drinking away the sorrows”; it is a way for the group to protect their identity and to help them come to terms with their actions.

The most famous scene of the movie occurs in the backseat of the taxi, during a conversation between Charlie and Terry. The scene is intense, as Charlie tries to decide whether to follow through on his order to kill Terry. The music seems to take on a life of its own, narrating the dialogue even without the use of the actors’ words; it is a mournful piece, as if to signify the death of the relationship the two brothers once had. Terry finally confronts and voices his feelings that he is not entirely pleased with what Charlie did to him or for him. Charlie turned Terry from a “somebody” to a “nobody.” The dialogue is full of regret and honesty; it shows Terry finally coming to terms with his own thoughts and who he is. The camera employs the use of close up in this scene, enabling the viewer to see the pain and hurt on both Charlie and Terry’s faces. Kazan also depicts both Charlie and Terry sitting slouched over, as if to signify defeat, but a different defeat for each man; Terry for resigning to live an unhappy life and Charlie for not doing right by his brother. Terry says, “I coulda been a contender,” meaning that he had opportunities ahead of him. This quote has been used by writers for characters in other films with similar situations. The dialogue helps Charlie to finally understand Terry’s point of view and character; it is this confession that leads Charlie to understand why Terry is finally telling the truth about the union bosses.

The main character represents the archetypal hero – an ordinary man with the ability to inspire change. He is a leader, who set forth to overcome the difficulties of his situation and succeeded, changing the fate of his life and the lives of his friends.

James Baldassano November 28th, 2012

In our seminar session on Wednesday, we had our final guest speaker of the semester. We were paid a visit by Professor Diaz, a film and cinema professor. We were given a lot of information on the production of movies. There were any interesting things she taught us!

One thing that I really found interesting was that the films are actually a series of photos all edited into a sort of flipbook motion, which creates the appearance of a video. They go at a rate of 24 frames per second, or a frame every 4.17 milliseconds. Now when I watch movies, I’m going to try and focus on that, even though it is probably untraceable to the naked human eye.

We also learned about different aspects of the frame itself. There were different angles and different levels of how close or far the camera shoots. It creates a different atmosphere or opinion of the viewer. It could make the viewer feel like a part of a conversation as another character, or a sky view, to create a different feel.

The lighting also has a major impact on a scene. Dim lighting could imply the focus is supposed to be on the dialogue, while brighter lighting could imply that the scenery is meant to be the focal point of the viewer’s attention.

One final aspect I will talk about is the music portion of movies. Background music is a vital essence to the emotional appeal, or to the focal point. Silent background music could make you focus on the dialogue (like dim lighting) while emotional music could augment the feelings radiated from a scene.

All in all, there were many things I learned from this guest appearance. I had never realized how much had gone into the making of a film, how every little aspect of a film, was meant to be the way it is.

11/28/12 – Christian Siason

On Wednesday, we sat through a cinema lecture from Professor Diaz. I actually found it really interesting, though I expected to be bored out of my mind. I wouldn’t say that I watch a whole lot of movies, but when I do watch movies, I usually end up amazed at how they’re filmed. After Professor Diaz’s lecture, I have an even better understanding of the filming process.

We learned that cameras record movement at 24 frames per second – that is, cameras take 24 separate pictures in one second. Later we learned about different types of camera movement, like panorama (when the camera rotates from side to side), tilt (when the camera moves up and down), the dolly or tracking shot (when the camera moves along the ground, following the subject), and the crane shot (when the camera views the scene from behind). I’ve always found different points of view interesting when watching movies, and the way the camera moves is very important to making these points of view possible.

We also learned about continuity editing. A movie seeks to present a story and continuity editing, as the name would imply, ensures continuity in the story. It allows space, time, and action to flow over a series of shots and it condenses the action. If films weren’t edited for continuity, they would go on for ages, and would likely lose the audience’s attention. Films today are usually one and a half to two hours long, and I think that that’s the perfect length. It’s not too short that someone wouldn’t want to spend their money to go see it, and yet it’s not too long to bore them to death. Of course, some movies like The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers go way beyond that mark, but in cases such as those, the sheer amount of action is enough to keep the audience enthralled throughout.

I really appreciated learning about these things in class on Wednesday, and I think I want to take a cinema class at some point in the future now.

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.

November 26th, 2012 James Baldassano

November 26th, 2012 James Baldassano

In seminar on Monday, November 26th, 2012,  we were given our assignment for Catcher in the Rye. Since I first read this book in my junior year of high school, it has been one of my favorite books. I was always disappointed that it was forbidden to create a movie for it, but I feel that a movie would take away from the imaginative image given to Holden Caulfield and his adventure.

This is one of my favorite books for it has such an interesting main character. Holden is a one of a kind character, who’s traits personify his true being. Contradictory. He is all about the preservation of innocence, yet he curses, drinks, lies, and even hires a prostitute named Sunny at one point.

The reason I am excited about receiving this assignment is because it gives me the chance to modernize what is one of my favorite books. Holden always uses such strange word choice when speaking (“It really killed me”, etc) and since he is so open with people, especially strangers, it intrigues me how his persona would be perceived in modern society. Even though it is my own mind coming up with the situation, it is really going to allow me to expand on this topic. I feel today, people’s language is more colorful and abrasive.

We also discussed the music from “Manhattan”, and how it was used to create a somewhat romantic feel to it. It allowed to viewers today to feel like they could really connect with the loving, happy feel of the scene.


In Wednesday’s seminar class, we watched the movie, Manhattan, directed by and starring Woody Allen, one of the most iconic actors of the 20th century. His acting and directing style are definitely unique to say the least, and his witty and quirky personality is reflected in every role he plays. After watching Manhattan, I noticed the little parts of the movie we discussed as the miss-en-scene:

1 & 2) The camera angles in Manhattan are not very direct and ordinary. In some scenes, such as the beginning of the art museum scene, or when Woody Allen interrupts his friend’s class and talks to him in the classroom, I noticed that the camera puts the characters in the side of the frame, or in the background, rather than right smack in your face. This has the effect of making all those watching feel like they really are present in the movie and just eavesdropping on everything that is going on,;rather than having the characters perform for you, you are just watching what is taking place in their lives. The camera isn’t perfectly steady, but this all adds to the onlooker feel.

3) The black and white camera adds a simplistic and minimalistic feel to the film. At times, the frame is very dark and soft, to portray a romantic or very emotive feeling.

4) The scenes are generally quick and to the point. They don’t carry on too long to lose your attention.

5) The dialogue in Manhattan is typical to Woody Allen, but not very ordinary when compared to other movies. Woody Allen has a famous dry sense of humor that is inserted well into the dialogue. He has the ability to get the point of the scene across and almost remain serious while adding his witty and quirky sense of humor into the dialogue.

6) The costumes in the film aren’t elaborate and colorful like the ones in Turandot; rather, they are typical streetwear of people in 1979. This enhances the intimacy of the film and makes it seem casual, rather than feeling like the characters are performing written material in front of an audience.

7) The music creates dramatic effect. When Woody Allen is frantically walking down the hallway to his friend’s classroom, a whimsical yet frantic tune plays with fast horns and drums rising in pitch as he gets closer to the camera. The music is not too frantic to seem like he is about to murder someone, but it is whimsical and frantic enough to let us know that he has something on his mind he is determined to speak about.

8) The set of the movie is realistic and simplistic. It is set in Manhattan, obviously. The intro scene is a vivid view of Manhattan to set the scene in, well, Manhattan. The scenes are crafted and chosen to realistically simulate being at a social gathering, a museum, or a classroom.


November 21st, 2012 James Baldassano

November 21st, 2012 James Baldassano

In our seminar class on Wednesday, we watched “Manhattan” by Woody Allen. It was a black and white movie made in 1979. “Manhattan” was an interesting movie, for it was made in a time where color had already been incorporated into films, yet Woody decided that this film should be in black and white. It was an interesting blend of satirical comedy, intimate relationships, and a fat paced lifestyle which is customary for someone who lives in New York City.

The camera function in this movie was primarily on the characters who were speaking, but not a close up. It was a general view which included the scenery as well as the characters.

When filming, the camera followed the other people like another person. It was like a silent, ever-present character who was involved with the conversation that was occurring in the scene.

The black and white color was interesting, for as I stated, the movie was made in 1979, long after colored movies were introduced into mainstream cinema. It creates a more romantic feel, like a sort of “Casablanca”, and really makes me feel like its a love story. It is often contradicted, however, with Woody’s many sarcastic comments.

The clips in this movie have a varied length, some as short as 30 seconds, other up to 3 minutes.

Woody Allen’s character was involved in pretty much every scene, and he was mostly witty, and very sarcastic. His speech was interpreted by characters as condescending, but I felt he was just overly sarcastic.

The wardrobes in this film were very stereotypical for middle class New Yorkers, but hey really accentuated the lifestyle we lead in this city.

The music was another varying part of the film, for in the beginning it was very loud and crazy, while also dramatic. This to me represented the narrator’s inability to describe New York without getting angry and insulting it. Most of the movie has no background music, but certain parts do, and those parts have very sentimental music. I recognized one of the songs “Someone to Watch Over Me”.

Manhattan is the perfect place for this movie, for it was a big mashup of relationships, all moving very fast paced, with bumps and turns. The city that never sleeps seemed fitting for it.

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.

11/19/12 – Swathi Satty

Wednesday was the last of the poem recitations and I was the first to go. I was quite nervous but the experience was helpful because I learned something new about my poem. I was initially reading it almost like it was a song but then I learned that if I use pauses in appropriate places, I can properly portray the meaning of the poem. I enjoyed my poems because they’re such a contrast to each other and New York was integrated well into the poems. The toughest part for me was actually going up. But I realized that after you actually go up, you just recite the poem and get into character and the presentation goes back much faster.

My favorite poem recitation of Wednesday was Stephanie’s because she brought life to her poem. Her physical behavior was very patriotic which is appropriate to the poem. I learned a lot from this experience because I always used to read poems all in one way. But now I realized that different poems must be read in different ways to properly project the meaning of the poem.

I also realized just how good of an inspiration New York since so many different poems were based off of the culture in New York. It makes sense since New York is so diverse and it’s a great melting of different emotions. Overall, I enjoyed this entire experience.