Exploring Fordham’s Movie Streaming Platforms

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SAMANTHA MATTHEWS

The streaming services Kanopy and Swank are offered to students through the Fordham Library database and are used as educational resources by some classes.

By VANESSA SCACALOSSI

Many students in the Fordham community often overlook hidden gems in our library database. Swank and Kanopy are movie streaming services with a wide range of films utilized by academics of many disciplines. Although their target audience is mainly students studying film, sociology and foreign language, the platforms are also a great resource for Fordham students to watch some of their favorite films and discover new ones. 

I was introduced to Swank by history professor Christoper Dietrich in his Film, Fiction, and Power course, where we watched “The Deer Hunter” (1987, dir. Michael Cimino). Three friends from Clairton, Pennsylvania, gamble their lives going off to war in Vietnam. Cimino uses repeated sequences of Russian roulette in the film as an allegory for how Americans viewed the Vietnam War as unnecessary and wasteful violence. Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher Walken’s award-winning performances are suspenseful and heart-wrenching. This movie is for those who seek the emotional and mental tolls war has on these soldiers.  

The director’s cut of Giuseppe Tornatore’s film “Cinema Paradiso” is also available on Swank. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1990. The film follows a boy, Toto, who befriends the projectionist at the cinema in his home village in post-war Italy. The masterpiece is a reminder of the community that is formed when watching a film. It is reminiscent of the innocence of childhood, friendship, first love and the everlasting magic of movies, and the soundtrack by the late Ennio Morricone echoes these themes. I highly recommend this film for those who love movie-making and who are interested in going through a couple of boxes of Kleenex in one sitting. Tornatore brings the viewer through a whirlwind of emotions in this film, and it has an exhilarating, unforgettable ending. 

Another favorite film of mine available on Swank is “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006, dir. Guillermo del Toro). The political divide of post-Civil War Spain is mirrored through young Ofelia’s relationship with her stepfather, an army officer. She is introduced to a fantasy world by an old faun, allowing her to cope with the atrocities of fascist Spain. The Pale Man and Captain Vidal, Ofelia’s stepfather, function as fascism personified, with both characters gravitating toward violence to destroy free will. This film is an exciting combination of fantasy, horror and war.

My last recommendation from Swank is “Do the Right Thing” (1989, Spike Lee). The film revolves around a community living on a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant during the year’s hottest day. Spike Lee connects the lives of the people living in the racially diverse neighborhood through their stories. Tensions rise as the day progresses until the frustration and ferocity bring out the worst in everyone. Lee’s comedic approach to stereotypes and social issues is an ideal film for a movie night.

My honorable mentions for Swank are “BlacKkKlansman” (2018, Spike Lee), “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012, David O. Russell), “Her” (2013, Spike Jonze), “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991, Jonathan Demme), “Trainspotting” (1996, Danny Boyle) and “Sorry to Bother You” (2018, Boots Riley).

There is a broader selection of films to choose from on Kanopy. My first recommendation is “Hereditary” (2018, Ari Aster). Aster explores grief, trauma and a dysfunctional family through themes of horror. The ideal screening for this movie would be with friends so that you can cover your eyes together. If you are brave enough to keep your eyes open, you can catch smaller details that tie into the theme of the film and discuss as you go. 

Another great film available on Kanopy is Raoul Peck’s documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” (2016). It is based on James Baldwin’s incomplete manuscript for “Remember This House.” Samuel L. Jackson narrates the documentary. It is a must-see for those who wish to have insight into Baldwin’s writing on racial politics over the decades. 

Akira Kurosawa’s film “Rashomon” (1951) should not be overlooked when deciding what to stream on Kanopy. The film revolves around four people who describe their own version of the story of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife. It highlights the complexities of human nature and the philosophy of peace and justice. This format of this film has influenced many filmmakers over the years. I recommend this to anyone who is looking for a suspenseful classic. 

Other films available on Kanopy that are on my watchlist are “The Farewell” (2019, Lulu Wang), “20th Century Women” (2016, Mike Mills) and “The Lobster” (2015, Yorgos Lanthimos).

Clara Gerlach and Christian Madlansacay, both Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ’23, use the platforms casually. Madlansacay said, “For Kanopy, my favorite films on the platform are ‘The Disaster Artist’ (2017, James Franco) and ‘Ex Machina’ (2015, Alex Garland). For Swank, my favorite films are ‘Inception’ (2010, Christopher Nolan) and ‘Interstellar’ (2014, Christopher Nolan).”

Gerlach’s favorite films on the platforms are “Pride and Prejudice” (2005, Joe Wright) and “The Intouchables” (2012, Olivier Nakache, Éric Toledano). She describes “Pride and Prejudice” “as if cottage core and light academia had a baby—a soft, delightful two-hour romance.” As for “The Intouchables,” she said, “It will leave you crying one minute and laughing the next—a wonderful movie that leaves your heart full, but your tear ducts empty.”

Swank and Kanopy provide endless options for movies that are life-changing. Whether that be because Aster’s “Hereditary” will forever scar you, or because you have a new perspective on love and loss because of Tornatore’s “Cinema Paradiso,” the decision is now in your hands.