Friday, March 12, 2010

Classic Movie Review: On The Waterfront

Being that Oscar season is officially over and out, and the movie landscape for the next few months looks decidedly sparse, I've decided to use the coming weeks to catch up on some classic films I haven't yet seen. I blogged about this a while ago, but now after listening to an Oscar-Snub edition of my favorite podcast Filmspotting* last week, I've realized that the gaps in my classic movie knowledge can't be ignored any longer.

The first movie I decided to watch was 1956's On The Waterfront, starring a young Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, a dockworker with ties to the seedy mob underworld of Hoboken, New Jersey. I'm tempted to make a 'New Jersey' joke here for JL, but I'll leave that to Gov. Patterson. The Mob has a iron grip on anything relating to the dock, and after Terry is used to lure a dockworker to his death (unbeknownst to him), he becomes an unwilling participant in a tug-of-war between the mob and the deceased man's sister. The stakes continue to grow as Terry begins to fall for the sister and a member of the church takes up the cause. It is during this tug-of-war that Brando delivers these iconic lines. The film virtually swept the Oscars, winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (for Brando), Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography and 2 others. It is currently ranked #112 on IMDB's Top 250 films and was selected by the Vatican's list of Top 45 films of all time (seriously).

The entire film is based on a series of 1949 Pulitzer-prize winning articles that detailed the rampant corruption and extortion on New York City docks. Brando's character was modeled after a real whistleblower (who actually sued Columbia pictures for using his story). The film is surprisingly profound and has aged well, with many of the tracking shots and individual scenes still affecting today's audience just as they did over 50 years ago. Brando's performance is still one for the ages, and has only served to bolster his legacy.

This is the first film of Marlon Brando's I've seen prior to The Godfather, and I was surprised with the amount of charisma he brings to the table, when so many other actors fall into tried and true archetypes. He doesn't have striking good looks or guiles, but his sincerity and everyman qualities make him eminently likable. He has the brawn to look the part of a washed-up boxer, but has the acting range to make the dramatic scenes ring true. The make-up on Brando here is also interesting. Maybe it's typical in films of this era, but Brando's angled eyebrows and eyeliner make his typically deep-set eyes very expressive. It also makes him look like a drag-queen, but it's Marlon Brando, so I'll give him a pass.

I hope to watch 'The Apartment', 'Sunset Boulevard', or some Hitchcock later this weekend, and will be sure to give them a review sometime next week. I also found this little gem on Google Reader earlier this week that is strangely appropriate.

*I don't listen to a lot of podcasts, but Filmspotting is really fantastic. If you like listening to people argue about movies. And I do.

1 comment:

  1. I want to watch Sunset Boulevard with you. Please let me know when you're going to watch it.