Since the pandemic put an end to movie viewings in Viking Theater, St. Olaf has decided to partner with a streaming service called Swank, which allows students to access all sorts of movies.
I only watch two kinds of movies: artsy two-and-a-half-hour-long movies where nothing happens, and movies so rancid you can’t help but hope for the annihilation of film as a medium. The first thing I saw when opening up the launch page of Swank was “Moonlight,” winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture, next to “Cats,” a film that required staff whose sole job was to remove the CGI cat anuses from each shot of the original cut. I knew this was the place for me.
If you don’t want to watch the heights of critical acclaim or the bottom of the garbage pile, there are still some choices for you. Scrolling through the newly added section—the mind-boggling choice of the newly added “Baby Driver” notwithstanding — you will find plenty of box office champion movies like “Jumanji,” the “Harry Potter” series and the “John Wick” movies. St. Olaf’s package is missing most classic movies, recent releases, documentaries, indie films and movies by Disney, which is all to be expected; I’d prefer my college not to bankrupt itself with licensing fees.
Once you decide on a movie to watch, the service works perfectly. The multiple times I have ‘swanked it up,’ if you will, I have never had a technical issue. Deciding on a movie is the hard part. If you are anything like me, you look for a movie on streaming services by entering a mystical state in which your eyes gloss over and you scroll endlessly, realizing only after being snapped to reality that you’ve spent half an hour without any clue of what you’re going to watch. For better or for worse, you can’t do that with Swank. Looking at the meager mystery section with its three options or the singular Western movie really makes you realize that 250 movies is a small selection. You can more or less know of all the service’s offerings after scrolling for just a few minutes.
The streaming service is such a step down from something like Netflix that it’s sort of endearing. I found myself smiling at the (I admit) intuitive St. Olaf-branded interface, and experienced genuine joy watching the advertisements in front of the movies urging students to vote or follow the Office of Student Activities on Instagram. The service has the silly “je ne sais quoi” of St. Olaf programming. Remember, we’re replacing the Shrek marathon in Viking, not the Louvre. Despite not having Shrek, I think it’ll do. It’ll do.