Posts Tagged ‘movie mania’

You should be watching movies like Wrestle, and you can if you take advantage of Kanopy, a free film streaming site offered by your local library.

In an ocean full of movie streaming options, Kanopy is that odd lil’ island tucked off in a far corner of the map.

Most travelers settle for the relatively swanky, easy-to-reach sites like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, or Amazon.

But, for the price of a library card (so … free), Kanopy offers a heady mix of high class and (sometimes very) grimy low class.

The site’s front page marinates in documentaries, foreign films, and art house gems.

Go down the wrong alleyway, however, and you can have a grand old time with scuzzy ’80s slashers like Blood Rage, modern-day gagfests such as The Greasy Strangler, or, and I’m serious here … Cannibal Holocaust.

Yes, your library system offers the official place to stream one of the nastiest horror films to ever be banned in multiple countries, in all its uncut “glory.”

Kanopy … where Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon shares space with I Drink Your Blood, and where you can create your own wildly mismatched double features, like¬†Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and Ralph Bakshi’s Coonskin.

All for free.

Your move, Netflix, and you already lost.

As you wander through Kanopy, a lot of big-name classics will catch your eye, but you also want to look out for small gems such as Wrestle.

A 2019 documentary about four grapplers, and their hard knocks coach, it’s set at a failing Alabama high school, and it offers something for everyone.

You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to sink deep into their stories, which offer some hard-earned hope, along with the frequent cold slap of reality.

As in the best sports doc ever crafted, Hoop Dreams, not everyone in Wrestle emerges a winner.

This is real life playing out in front of the cameras, and the student/athletes at J.O. Johnson High School in Huntsville face a myriad of obstacles.

There’s life on the mat, repping a school which gets little respect from the wrestling powerhouses in the region, and is on the list of failing schools in the state.

Then, there’s life at home, which offers its own challenges.

Directors Suzannah Herbert and Lauren Belfer offer an unflinching look at their subjects, not shying away from drug use, teen pregnancy, racial strife, and mental health troubles.

There are no easy answers to some of these problems, and the filmmakers, to their credit, realize this and allow life to play out in all its messy contradictions.

The relatively new team at J.O. Johnson is primarily made up of Black students, while coach Chris Scribner and Teague, one of four featured wrestlers, are white.

Scribner, a teacher who has been clean and sober for 10 years, carved out his own path of destruction in younger days, and has to face the reality he got second (and third and fourth) chances many of his current athletes won’t be given.

He seems to deeply care about his wrestlers, and wants to be a father/big brother figure to them in his own rough-and-tumble way.

At times, Scribner succeeds.

At other times, even those with the best of intentions can misread things or try to force something that’s not meant to be.

Of the four wrestlers we see the most, Jailen and Jaquan both endure run-ins with the police, made more tense by the difference in power held by white cops and young Black men. Even with cameras present.

Jamario, who is about to become a father, struggles with mental health as his relationship crumbles, while Teague, who endured abuse from a now-absent father, begins to spend more time chasing drugs rather than pins.

As the wrestlers and their coach pursue state tourney dreams, and try to find balance in their real lives, they do so in a world where it’s the moms who try and hold things together.

In a film full of moments which punch you in the heart, one in particular stands out, as Jaquan’s mom, with not an ounce of self pity, lays out, in quiet, concrete terms, how her son’s arrest for marijuana possession will upend all of their lives.

Against this backdrop, the positive moments, and there are some big ones near the end, resonate even more.

Things do not end well for all involved, and the fate of the school itself offers a particularly hard dose of reality.

But there are second chances, on the mat, and, more importantly, off of it.

You exit Wrestle, one of the best sports docs I’ve seen during a looooooong career of watching movies, believing in the power of hope and hard work.

It’s a movie to see, on a streaming site to get familiar with.


To take a gander at a whole new world, pop over to:


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Me and my Willy Wonka golden ticket.

Me and my Willy Wonka golden ticket.

Ticket stubs, as far as the eye can see.

Ticket stubs, as far as the eye can see.



I was never the same after the summer of ’89.

I had seen my fair share of films before then — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at age 10 in a huge theater in ’81 made me a movie nut and “The Right Stuff” in ’83 made me a film buff — but that was the summer it all changed.

The family had just moved from Tumwater to Whidbey Island and I was ticked because our sudden move meant I was going to have to do an extra semester of high school in the fall, while the rest of my THS Class of ’89 was done.

Video stores, which had barely made an impact on the scene before we moved, were about to explode, opening up the world of movies and putting it at your fingertips like never before.

And then I stumbled into the Oak Harbor movie theater (then known as Plaza Cinemas) and, basically, never came back out.

It started with “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” followed by “Ghostbusters 2” and then seven (at least) showings of the one true “Batman” with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

The summer of ’89 was one of the great ones, from “Lethal Weapon 2,” “The Abyss” and “Road House” to “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “Weekend at Bernie’s” and “UHF.”

A young Tom Hanks in “Turner and Hooch.” Robin Williams standing on a desk in “Dead Poets Society.” John Candy with the drill in “Uncle Buck.” The underrated James Bond adventure “License to Kill.” Clint Eastwood driving a “Pink Cadillac.” Ron Howard scoring with “Parenthood.”

Even the God-awful “Star Trek V,” to remind us just how bad our old friends could stink up the silver screen.

Later, thanks to VHS, I caught up to smaller summer films like “Do the Right Thing,” “When Harry Met Sally,” “Sex, Lies and Videotape” and “Roger and Me.”

And now I stand in the parking lot of the same theater 25 years later, a theater I have loved and hated and come back around on.

If I had hit my head in the parking lot in ’89 (possibly on the edge of the dearly-departed pay phone booth) and woken up in 2014, I would not know time had moved on.

Dairy Queen still sits across the street, dependable and delicious.

The theater, in all its strip mall glory, looks, sounds and tastes (you’ll have to trust me on the last one) the same. The water stains on a few of the ceiling tiles are as dependable in ’14 as they were in ’95 or ’04.

It will never be mistaken for one of the great movie palaces of the world. But it doesn’t need to be.

It holds memories, 25 years worth, of good times and bad.

Of the final films I saw in a theater with my dad (“A River Runs Through It”) and mom (“Deep Impact”) and the first film I saw in a theater with my oldest nephew, when he was still a baby (“A Knight’s Tale”).

It is the theater where I got food poisoning during “Interview With the Vampire” and my ride (my sister) declined to leave early.

The men’s bathroom that was my frequent companion that night is now closed off. Coincidence?

It is where I was the only male in a theater full of women watching “Thelma and Louise.” The mood was, shall we say, not lovey-dovey by film’s end.

The theater where I saw greats like “Pulp Fiction,” “The Usual Suspects,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Saving Private Ryan,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Drive,” “The Crying Game” and, unfortunately, a few films that ripped a piece of my soul away.

“Made in America?” Whoopi Goldberg, I curse you to this day.

But, through good films and bad films, I have never walked out on a movie in my life. Walking out is for wimps.

I have seen films where the theater was so full, people were sitting on the floor in the aisle. And more than my share of films where I was the only one in the theater.

Though sitting through “The Nightmare on Elm Street” remake by myself was nowhere as cringe-inducing as seeing a film called “Loser” in an empty theater in Burlington…

The Oak Harbor theater, sporting its low-key, slightly-shabby-but-I-like-it-that-way style, is my second home.

It is where I go to escape. To think. To simply zone out and take a break. To celebrate the movies or turn my brain off.

There was a time when I could say, without the slightest doubt, that I was seeing more films in that tri-plex than any other person on this Island.

There was a time when I got frustrated with the theater, when I took some time away.

And now we’re in a time when I am going back faithfully.

To celebrate my 25th year, I made the jump and bought a season pass — unlimited movies at Oak Harbor and its sister Anacortes theater for $325 — and I am taking that thing to town.

I’m collecting my ticket stubs to see how much profit I make by the end of my card’s 12-month run and, mark my words, it will be epic.

It’s good to be home.

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