Monthly Archives: February 2014

Film review of “On the Waterfront”

Elia Kazan’s 1954 award winning film On the Waterfront, tells a story of Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) a man who puts his life on the line to stand against the corruption created by the union leader John Friendly. The film emphasizes the moral (and physical) battles that Terry must fight to bring about the destruction of the dangerous union kingpin.

The film begins with Terry working with Friendly, to prevent another worker (Joey) from testifying against Friendly in a murder case. Terry was alarmed when the other men he works with killed Joey by pushing him off a multistory building. Adding the  shock from the murder he witnessed to a fixed boxing game leading to Terry’s loss,  Terry’s trust and faith in Friendly crumbles away. Terry states in the film, “I am with me”, stating that he looks out for himself, a very similar statement to the one that was made by Casablanca’s lead character, Rich “I stick my neck out for nobody”. And much like Casablanca, the viewer observes a transformation in the characters selfish attitude, or a breaking away of the hard outer shell. Much of this attitude shift was due to Father Barry’s guidance.  As Terry struggles with self worth the father asks “how much is your soul worth if you don’t [testify against Friendly]?” This question guides Terry to stop fighting for himself and take the first step over the threshold. The fathers role in this film is to guide and aid the hero to make moral choices. But is the father really the only one that fits the criteria of Campbell’s supernatural aid? Joey’s sister, Edie, a strong willed and eager character is also seen as a moral guide, she continually convinces and guides Terry to stand up against the injustice occurring on the waterfront.

After several confrontations and challenging trials, Terry makes his way to the heart of the corruption. The final and most powerful scene of the film starts with Terry calling Friendly out of the little shack down by the docks. In this scene, Terry is again confirming his role as the hero as he steps into Campbell’s “Belly of the whale”, in which crossing the “threshold is a form of self-annihilation”(Pg77). Terry is beaten within an inch of his life. But with the strength and encouragement with both his aids (The father and Edie), Terry is raised to his feet.

The camera work utilized in the final scene, creates a connection between the viewer and the character. As beaten Terry walks past the crowd of workers, there is a shifting in lens focus as if to see through the eyes of Terry as he stumbles along the walkway. As Terry pushes through this final trial in the film, we are brought into the emotion and pain through the use of close-ups and low-angled single shots at his stumbling feet and beaten face. The clever camera angles work together to create a greater emotional response from the viewer.

“On the Waterfront” Review

Each film we have watched in this course presents a hero. In the cases of the first four films of this course, the hero has without a doubt been the protagonist. Terry Malloy, the protagonist of On the Waterfront (1954) is certainly a hero, but not necessarily the hero. Without the heroic acts of Edie Doyle and Father Barry that opened Terry’s eyes up to the wrongness and the corruption of Johnny Friendly, Terry could not have been a hero himself.

It is pretty evident from the start of the movie, that the star, Marlon Brando, who plays an ex-prize fighter, will eventually come to his wits and overtake Johnny Friendly and his goons. What is not so evident are the two characters who aid him in doing so, and this makes their heroism all the more impressive. The first is Father Barry, a priest, who has no business taking down a mob. He is the one that attempts to mobilize the “Dumb and Deaf” workers, at first privately, and then in front of Johnny Friendly himself. If it wasn’t plain enough, Father Barry is not a run of the mill priest: he smokes, drinks, and has a pretty mean hook. Similar to the priest, Edie, for all intensive purposes, should not be poking around and trying to find answers involving a mob murder. A young woman, who studies at a women’s school in the country, has more courage than all of the workers put together. Even so, she stays and tries to find out more about her brother’s death.

Terry is a product of his upbringing – all he knows is what he has seen from his brother, who learns from Johnny Friendly. That being said, it is very hard to believe that Terry is naïve enough to believe that murder is not something Johnny Friendly is capable of…perhaps he fought in one too many fights and his head just isn’t quite right. Terry only realizes what he is a part of when Edie, who is “the only good thing that ever happened to [him],” came into his life. A turning point for Terry is the moment when he has interactions with the two unlikely heroes. He begs Father Barry for advice, then follows it and confesses his role in the murder of Edie’s brother to Edie. In easily one of the best scenes in the film, Edie and Terry are in the train yard while Terry is confessing. The train horns are going off, and the viewer can’t hear anything being said, but knows exactly what is being revealed by the extreme close ups of the sheer terror on Edie’s face. Terry can see that what he has done and what he is a part of is awful, and because of it, he is going to lose the woman he loves. Father Barry and Edie inadvertently work together to help Terry come to this realization.

Sure, Terry Malloy testifies and takes down Johnny Friendly and his crew, but without the edgy priest and the courageous young woman, the prizefighter would still be on the side of the villains.

Kazan, Elia, dir. On the Waterfront. 1954. Film. 23 Feb 2014.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Film Review

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” Film Review

Black and white films are considered classics, but are often overlooked by viewers. If one were to present the idea of a black and white movie to a class, it is fair to assume that an audible groan would be emitted from majority of the students. Black and white movies pale in comparison to modern graphics and high-speed action movies featured in theatres today.  This was my perception, until I saw “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. The movie is a 1939 political drama that stars Jean Arthur and James Stewart. From the very beginning this movie sparked controversy, as many feared the ramifications of the negative perception of politicians. James Stewart plays Mr. Smith, a naïve man, whom fate (and corrupt politicians) name the newest Senator. Smith’s boyishly worship for the government, innocence, and passion for the Ranger Boys help him not only capture his secretary Sauder’s (Jean Arthur) heart, but the audience’s affection as well. Mr. Smith’s love for the government and for Washington is soon tarnished when he unwittingly uncovers Taylor (Edward Arnold) and his boyhood hero, Senator Paine’s (Claude Rains) plan to use the government to graft near Willets Creek. Smith’s understanding of politics, dedication, and ultimate conviction is tested when he attempts to thwart Taylor and Paine’s plan and rid the government of the corruption that sneaked its way into the House of Senators.
Although “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” lacks modern elements of film, including color and intense graphic scenes, it still captures the audiences’ attention through humor, thorough character development and an interesting storyline. The director, Frank Capra, could not use explosions or flashy images to attract audience members. Instead, the movie relies on great writing, talented actors, and interesting subject matter.

Mr. Smith goes to Washington. Dir. Frank Capra. Perf. James Stewart . Columbia Pictures, 1939. DVD.”