Sunday, September 19, 2010

1954: On the Waterfront

Terry Malloy could have been a boxing contender, but he threw a fight for mob boss Johnny Friendly and is now a bum on the waterfront, which is totally controlled by Johnny and his sidekick, Terry's brother.  Terry feels guilty about sending a potential squealer to his death, especially when he falls in love with the dead guy's sister, so he starts having second thoughts about working for the mob.

This is one of those films that I've been meaning to see for a long time but never got around to until now.  I definitely need to watch it again at some point because for the first twenty minutes or so I was extremely confused.  But once I finally caught on, I was hooked.  This film has already been praised to the skies by film critics and historians and viewers alike, but at the risk of being superfluous, I'll tell you what I liked about it: pretty much everything except the premise.  I'm not really into mobster films, so at the beginning I didn't think I was going to like this one much.  But this is not just another mobster film.  This is a film about people making difficult choices.  All the characters are believable, and the casting was brilliant.  Of course, I can't say anything about Marlon Brando that hasn't been said already, but suffice it to say that I now understand why so many people think he was one of the best actors ever.  He won Best Actor for this film, and it would have been a crime if he hadn't.  Eva Marie Saint and Rod Steiger both gave fabulous performances, especially since they were playing opposite him (she won Best Supporting Actress; he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor).  And Karl Malden was, as always, a magnificent supporting actor (he was nominated for an Oscar, too).  The performances alone could have made this film great, but it's the performances combined with everything else that makes it a timeless classic.

The camera work is phenomenal, perfectly capturing and enhancing the actors' performances.  The score is intense at all the right times.  It was filmed on location, which makes it seem all the more real.  The story is intriguing, albeit somewhat confusing at the beginning.  In short, this film is kind of hard to watch, and it's certainly not a fun movie, but to anyone who knows even a little bit about filmmaking, it's pretty awe-inspiring.  Thank you, Academy, for restoring my faith in you; I was getting a little worried after 1952.  At least this year, you picked the right film.

Stay tuned for: Marty

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