Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.
USA, 1969, 149 min | 154 min (TCM print), Dir. Bob Fosse
Not enough is said about Ms. Edith Head.
We also don't talk enough about Sweet Charity, Bob Fosse's first feature film starring Shirley MacLaine, featuring Chita Rivera, Paula Kelly, and Sammy Davis Jr, and costume designed by Head. That's probably because Sweet Charity is too long—over two-and-a-half hours, feels like three. A great Achilles heel of Fosse is his inability to pace a straight scene like he paces a musical number.
But onto Ms. Head. The record-setting Acadamy Award-winning costume designer, born in 1897 and dead in 1981, designed costumes for nearly 400 films, many of them with astoundingly large casts. Best known for her work in Hitchcock's movies and movies like Breakfast at Tiffany's and White Christmas, Head gets to really let her immaculate sensibility loose on a Fosse musical. The costumes here are the late '60s at its absolute vivid best. She makes even the party hats look couture.
While the film can drag, the musical numbers are still so sweet and bold and genre-defining that I found myself tearing up during this rewatch. "Rhythm of Life," starring Sammy Davis Jr., is one of the best things made last century. Watch a clip of it below, then watch it on DVD so the colors pop like they're motherfucking supposed to pop. CHASE BURNS
USA | France, 1997, 82 minutes, Dir. Gregg Araki
Watching Nowhere feels like taking MDMA—the bright colors and strobing lights, the urgent press of bodies, the intense emotions. The quick camera cuts in each scene mimic those weird eye twitches of the molly come-up. The plot bounces around the huge cast of weirdo characters—it's hot and loose, and nothing matters.
In addition to some wild cameos—Ryan Phillippe shoves chocolate up Heather Graham's puss in one scene—the theme of alienation is made literal with the appearance of an actual alien. There's even a graphic Metamorphosis reference at the end, which feels nihilistically Teen. Araki serves angst, pure and true.
Marc Jacobs recently included the film's iconic soundtrack in his Y2K-heavy Heaven collection. The music could be why this movie is hard to find; Nowhere has yet to be released on region-1 DVD. Here's hoping the fashion line leads to an Araki renaissance. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 2002, 118 min, Dir. Hajime Ishimine
I planned to do Mike Nichols' The Day of the Dolphin as my second pick today, but then I discovered at about ~1 pm that it's available for purchase on Kino Now. So, we're going with Frog River, a deeper cut that happens to be one of my favorites.
Frog River is an indie film released initially across a four-disc DVD magazine, of sorts, produced by Grasshoppa!, a team that included Taste of Tea director Katsuhito Ishii, the director closest to my taste and heart. A blessing on the Slog commenter who alerted me to the magazine. Scarecrow has each disc and the best feature from it, Frog River, on an individual DVD.
This story follows a hapless record shop clerk, played by the Bellevue-raised Ryo Kase, who accidentally pisses off some queers at a bar. It turns out the queers know kendo, and they challenge him to a duel. The rest of the movie mostly follows a bunch of queer dudes doing kendo, and it climaxes with a rather violent battle that starts with: "Those who laugh at queers shall pay for it with tears." I've never seen representation like this. Ishii writes the script, and it has his characteristic oddball bliss. I treasure it.
There's also a fun Crystal Waters dance sequence in it. CHASE BURNS
I’m tying to make my head live inside this scene (from Frog River, 2002) instead of doomscrolling. It’s going fine. pic.twitter.com/WaMmRCyHQ3
— Chase Burns (@chaseburnsy) October 29, 2020
UK, 1997, 105 minutes, Dir. Stephen Frears
Based on a biography by theater critic John Lahr, Prick Up Your Ears follows the short career of celebrated gay English playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) and his relationship with bumbling, insecure partner Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina). It's an interesting look at queer life during a time when being gay could send you to prison.
What fascinated me about the film was its portrayal of the deep and unnerving intimacy between the men. Though the couple seemed to struggle with sexual intimacy—Orton loved "cottaging" and had to coach Halliwell into having anonymous sex—they practically lived on top of each other in a cupboard of an apartment in Islington, London. It ultimately ended with Halliwell bludgeoning Orton to death in a murder-suicide in 1967.
The film expertly illustrates how the couple got to that point. Halliwell covered the walls with collage art, insulating them from the outside world and making the space seem smaller. They only had two twin-sized beds to sleep on, subsisting on £4 a week. Despite the men drowning in the toxic relationship, both Oldman and Molina portray an unnamed urge to cling to each other. They depended on each other to exist creatively, but Orton's runaway popularity threatened that precarious balance. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or any of the other 300+ streaming services available in the United States. We also couldn't find it available for rent or purchase through platforms like Prime Video or iTunes. We don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.