Unstreamable is a weekly column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.
USA, 2006, 98 min, Dir. Kirby Dick
Kirby Dick's documentary on the nonsensically prudish Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA's) film rating system was one of Netflix's big hits during the platform's early days. The fun doc follows Dick as he and an excellent lesbian detective fall down the MPAA's rabbit hole, attempting to doxx the people behind the system. That's really what the doc amounts to—a doxxing. In the end, Dick gives viewers a bunch of MPAA reviewers' names, a thing that felt punk when it came out but now would have Twitter contrarians fretting over its ethics.
The thing that stood out to me on this rewatch was how dated it is. The great trouble with the MPAA's system is its impact on film distribution in movie theaters, specifically its outsized impact on independent female- and queer-directed films. But today, in the age of streaming, the power of ratings has fallen by the wayside. I'd pay to see a new investigation into how much ratings matter now.
Still, I continue to be pissed that But I'm a Cheerleader scored an NC-17 rating. I'd say fuck these MPAA prudes, but they don't deserve fucks. A lifetime of chastity on every one of them. CHASE BURNS
Canada, 1996, 100 min, Dir. David Cronenberg
Based off a J.G. Ballard novel of the same name, Crash follows James Ballard (James Spader!), a film producer in a sexually unfulfilling and open relationship with his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger). When Ballard gets into a gruesome car crash, he and Catherine slowly become involved with a group of car crash survivors who have eroticized their accidents and the injuries sustained during them. They get wet over car crashes.
Together they grab each other's genitals and watch car crash simulations. Take pictures of bodies in twisted metal along the highway. Fuck each other's leg wounds. Their desire seems to be as mechanical as the vehicles they get hard for, but instead of thinking of their crashes as traumatic events, the group sees them as the pinnacle of eroticism. Slamming into another vehicle is one of the most intense feelings one can experience and survive, after all. "The car crash is a fertilizing rather than a destructive event," says Vaughan (Elias Koteas), the pack's de facto ringleader. And you know what, I almost believe him.
Italy, 1980, 95 min, Dir. Enzo G. Castellari
This recommendation is purely for the vibes—specifically, the title track by Paolo Vasile, which makes up approximately three-quarters of the reason to watch this great Euro Crime crap. The track is a full mood: scuzzy, jazzy, stinky. It's something to play on a redneck beach in Florida. It's how I think Joe Biden feels when he puts on Aviators. The other quarter of the reason to watch this movie is Franco Nero, the Italian poliziotteschi actor, with his iconic swag and stache. The poliziotteschi subgenre peaked by the time this film came out—but, again, we're here for the vibes. Of note: the disco fight scene involving a villain described as "a homosexual, the worst kind: violent."
The plot, if you care, follows Italian crime-fighter Larry Stanziani (Nero), aka THE COBRA, a man who thought he could retire in San Francisco—until he's called on to return to Italy to solve a crime. There are chase scenes on roofs, chase scenes on docks, chase scenes through city centers. Bullets. Grime. Dark profiles against fuzzy cityscapes. But none of that matters because we're here for The Cobra. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1977, 136 min, Dir. Richard Brooks
Based on both a wild true story and an immensely popular novel of the same name, Looking for Mr. Goodbar was a box-office success. But the disco-filled soundtrack was only licensed for a VHS distribution, preventing the film from releasing on any other format and reaching a wider audience. It's incredible that Keaton gave such varying performances within the same year. I think had Looking for Mr. Goodbar gotten a better handle on its music rights, Keaton's performance as Theresa Dunn would be as iconic for younger viewers as her performance as Annie Hall.
Also, brace yourself for a brutal ending. 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.