John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands are a force in Love Streams.
John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands are a force in Love Streams. Courtesy of Criterion Channel
Every Friday, we write about four films that you can't find on major US streaming services in our column Unstreamable. We didn't have time to watch new picks this week because we were slammed with Sundance coverage (which you should really read right here). Instead, we're bringing you ten previous picks from each year of the 1980s that you can't technically stream. All of them fucking rule. (And yes, we know you can find many things online illegally, but we don't consider user-generated videos, like unauthorized YouTube uploads, to be streamable.)

TIMES SQUARE
USA, 1980, 111 min, Dir. Allan Moyle
Forgot to take a picture of the case again, but these two are definitely lesbians.
These two are definitely lesbians. Courtesy of Associated Film Distribution
Forgive me for wishing that every film ever made about two girls spending a lot of time together was secretly a gay romance. I’ve been proven wrong before (Bend It Like Beckham, anyone?) and I thought I was being unreasonable thinking the same about Times Square, despite its intense Sapphic overtones. I mean, two girls of different class backgrounds meet in a psych ward and decide to run away together, creating a home in an abandoned warehouse while, by day, they both hustle in Times Square for money, by night, sleep in the same bed, and form a punk band called the Sleez Sisters. Come on! That's basically gay fanfic! But when reading about the history of the film, it turns out that all the overt lesbian scenes had been cut by the production company against the director's will, leaving a disjointed story of two suspiciously close friends. Let the girls kiss, people!

Because of the chaos that went on during post-production, Times Square is almost a really good cult movie. But the jumbled narrative (and a weird scene where the girls sing a racist song) makes the film lack a certain gut punch. However! The soundtrack is incredible (and perhaps the reason it isn't streaming) and the film captures the seedy era of Times Square before it got cleaned up by Giuliani in the '90s, practically making it a historical document. Release the gay scenes! JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.

***

POSSESSION
France | West Germany, 1981, 124 min, Dir. Andrzej Zulawski
This scene haunts me.
This scene haunts me!! Courtesy of Bleeding Light Film Group
In Andrzej Zulawski's genre-bending Possession, Mark (Sam Neill), a spy, returns home from a long job to discover his wife Anna (the incredible Isabelle Adjani) wants to separate. It's another man, she tells him. Mark spirals, and the couple starts to fight violently over their child and relationship. But as they slide deeper into the abyss of divorce, it becomes clear that Anna has a much more terrifying and supernatural lover she's been attending to. One with a thirst for blood and her total existence.

There's a profound emptiness pervading the film. The streets, restaurants, subway stations, and apartment buildings of West Berlin seem completely devoid of people save for Anna and Mark. This emptiness—and camera operator Andrzej J. Jaroszewicz's dynamic Steadicam work—makes the couple's demonic marital breakdown the surreal center of a cold, blue-twinged universe located along the Berlin Wall.

And, my god, Adjani gives one of the most disturbing performances ever as Anna. A big moment for cinema. Possession (and Anna) will stay with me for a long time. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.

***

MAKING LOVE
USA, 1982, 113 minutes, Dir. Arthur Hiller
I can't decide if Lisa Rinna's husband was the top or bottom.
One of those torsos is Lisa Rinna's husband. CB

Making Love's genre is the most pitied film genre that exists, the melodrama. Big-budget jerk-off action films like Netflix's Extraction seem to me to be the most pitiful type of movies to exist but I understand that not everyone's taste has imagination. Lately I've been repeat-listening to the song that was created for the closing ceremony at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics—Amigos para Siempre, a song that embodies melodrama—and if you let yourself go, this song can take you to unparalleled heights. The truth is that melodramas can really slap.

This is how I feel about Making Love, an exceptional melodrama directed by Arthur Hiller (NOT Miller) and starring Kate Jackson (Charlie's Angels) as a TV executive in love with highbrow tragedy, Michael Ontkean (Twin Peaks) as her doctor husband who is not-so-tragically gay, and Lisa Rinna's husband Harry Hamlin as that husband's hunky side piece. Making Love knows what it is—there are meta-references to it being lowbrow drama—but it's also something very rare: a self-possessed, generous film about a woman and man navigating their relationship as the man comes out of the closet. I'm not sure there's anything like it from the early '80s. CHASE BURNS

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.

***

SILKWOOD
USA, 1983, 131 min, Dir. Mike Nichols

I read that both Meryl Streep and Cher were nervous about meeting one another. Icons!
I read that both Meryl Streep and Cher were nervous about meeting one another. Icons! JK

When we speak of Kurt Russell as a “Golden Globe nominated actor,” Silkwood is the movie we're referring to. While he does little more than look like a conservative American snack (blue jeans, Confederate flag and all), this is the movie that earned him his highest acting accolade. But Silkwood really belongs to Meryl Streep, who plays the real life Karen Silkwood, a whistleblower and labor organizer who worked at a nuclear facility in Oklahoma. In 1974, Silkwood died in a car accident under SuSpIcIoUs CiRcUmStAnCeS while driving to meet a New York Times reporter. Spooky, Big Daddy Capitalist shit. Cher (yes, that Cher) plays Streep’s butch lesbian roommate who dates a super femme funeral parlor beautician. Streep has the most intense—yet chic—mullet imaginable. And while the pacing can feel a bit meandering (this is the debut feature screenplay for Nora Ephron, who co-wrote the film), Streep gives a naturalistic, complex performance. As ever.

Also, shout out to Caitlin Lee of the Art Workers Union who tweeted about not being able to find Silkwood anywhere—this one is for you! JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available on DVD at the Seattle Public Library and for rental at Scarecrow Video.

***

LOVE STREAMS
USA, 1984, 141 min, Dir. John Cassavetes

Love? Its a continuous stream.
Love? It's a continuous stream. JK

This column does not have enough space to contain my love for this film. Love Streams was my introduction to John Cassavetes, and from the first frame I knew I wouldn't be able to get it out of my brain. The story follows Robert (Cassavetes), a lonely and alcoholic writer of trashy novels who fears being alone and believes—and repeats several times throughout the film—that all beautiful women have a secret that they must offer to a man. Needless to say, he's deeply unhappy.

And in that unhappiness he's joined by his sister, Sarah (Gena Rowlands), a recent divorcee who's lost custody of her child, which only deepens her obsession with her own family and the concept of love. She fervently believes and often repeats that "love is a stream—it's continuous, it doesn't stop," an idea that's rebuked by other characters in the film. Over the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, both Robert and Sarah find themselves providing shelter for one another—in their failings, insecurity, and emotions. It's circuitous, unpredictable and—despite the plot line—it never once falls into melodrama.

It's worth noting that Rowlands completely bodies her performance. Watching her is like witnessing a flame take to kindling, becoming a giant fire. Also, how does her hair do THAT!? JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Seattle Public Library and Scarecrow Video.

***

BETTER OFF DEAD
USA, 1985, 108 minutes, Dir. Savage Steve Holland
A smooth-faced John Cusack.
A smooth-faced John Cusack. Courtesy of CBS Theatrical Films
Lane Meyer, played by John Cusack, is hung up over his ex, Beth, who leaves him for a douchey ski captain. Though he feels he'd be, um, better off dead than without her love, the aloof but charming Lane eventually endeavors to win Beth back by skiing a challenging slope. The story features enough weirdo side characters, hot French exchange students, absurd gags, CLAYMATION, and zany heart to elevate it beyond teen movie cliche. It's essential viewing.

When it was released, Better Off Dead got shit reviews and bombed at the box office. Famously, Cusack walked out of a screening of the movie, upset that the final product didn't reflect the dark or surreal nature of the script. In an interview, director Savage Steve Holland said that the film's regular screenings on HBO and popularity with video store dirtbags propelled it to beloved cult classic status. And in a 2013 Reddit AMA, Cusack dispelled any rumors that he still hates the film.

"No, I just thought it could have been better, but I think that about almost all my films," he said. "I have nothing against the film... Glad people love it still." We still do, John! JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video.

***

'ROUND MIDNIGHT
USA | France, 1986, 133 min, Dir. Bertrand Tavernier

Best way to watch: 'round midnight, curled up on your side in bed, balancing a really full glass of red wine on your hip. Pretend youre in Paris.
Best way to watch: 'round midnight, curled up on your side in bed, balancing a really full glass of red wine on your hip. Pretend you're in Paris. JK
The legendary musician Dexter Gordon—in his first acting role, mind you—plays a brilliant and alcoholic saxophonist, Dale Turner, who slumps around the streets of post-war Paris drinking, galavanting, and somehow managing to make it to his gigs on time. Escaping the prejudice of bookers in the United States, Dale is freer to do as he pleases as a black man in Europe. But his fortunes change when an ardent French fan, Francis (played by François Cluzet, remember him?), takes him under his wing and cares for him in a totally not-at-all homoerotic way...

Though I think Dale sometimes has a whiff of an inscrutable Magical Negro, Gordon plays him with so much charm and empathy that he becomes fully fleshed out. And, by God, the music. This is where the film really shines. Though a bit plotless, 'Round Midnight is a delightful snapshot of the Paris jazz scene in the '50s. And there's even a young Martin Scorsese who makes an appearance. I think he's kinda hot! JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video, Seattle Public Library, and Netflix DVD.

***

SAMMY AND ROSIE GET LAID
UK, 1987, 101 min, Dir. Stephen Frears

Rare and wonderful.
Rare and wonderful. CB
I love director Stephen Frears (Dangerous Liasons, Florence Foster Jenkins, Philomena), but I especially love his earlier work with screenwriter Hanif Kureishi. The pair made two extraordinary movies: first, My Beautiful Laundrette in 1985, which features Daniel Day-Lewis playing a character in an interracial gay relationship; and then, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid in 1987, a film featuring freaky straights in a burning London. My Beautiful Laundrette is lauded, but Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is nearly lost, which is upsetting.

I could write 1,500 words on this film—veteran Stranger staffer Sean Nelson was planning on it—but we try to keep these blurbs around 200 words, so I'll stick with one point. When Sammy, a Pakistani, is told by his father to leave England and return home, he delivers an iconic line: "We love our city and belong to it. Neither of us are English; we’re Londoners, you see." It's a love letter to the city, a reminder that some of us pledge allegiance to urbanism before nationhood. But the film's London is so different from Seattle. The sexiest character in Sammy and Rosie happens to live in a homeless encampment (one that gets swept up, too), and he's still seen as sexy, radical, progressive, even aristocratic. His financial condition isn't a personal failure. It isn't the fault of London, either. Rather, those who rule the city are responsible. Sammy's London is a long way away from Mayor Durkan's Seattle.

The only copy I know that's available in Seattle is a VHS tape at Scarecrow Video. Since copies are hard to find, let me know if you find one in good condition! Please and thanks! CHASE BURNS

Available for rental on VHS at Scarecrow Video.


***

D.O.A.
USA, 1988, 96 min, Dir. Annabel Jankel, Rocky Morton
The clock is a-tickin for Dexter.
The clock is a-tickin' for Dexter. Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures
Professor Dexter Cornell is having the worst fucking day. His wife says she's done with him, people just got murdered right in front of him, and police think he's responsible. On top of that, Dexter is the victim of a murder-by-poison plot, and he must figure out who's out to get him before he croaks.

1988's D.O.A. is a remake of a 1950 classic film noir of the same name and stars prolific himbo Dennis Quaid as Cornell. Its source material gives the movie a pulpy, anachronistic feel that straddles the '50s and '80s style-wise. Quaid's hair is appropriately poofy, the shadows are ridiculously long, everyone looks simultaneously suspicious and horny, the poison glows a ridiculous slime green. It's a trashy neo-noir that's clearly having a lot of fun.

A pre-When Harry Met Sally Meg Ryan somewhat ludicrously plays freshman Sydney Fuller, a young woman who's hot for teacher, AKA Professor Cornell. Despite the gap between Ryan's age and her character's age, Ryan believably plays the wide-eyed student. Both actors have real chemistry—they allegedly fell in love on set and married soon after, making this outlandish movie a great unstreamable watch. JASMYNE KEIMIG

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.

***

LONGTIME COMPANION
US, 1989, 96 min, Dir. Norman René

I'm angry no one ever told me about this movie.
I'm angry no one ever told me about this movie. CB

Thirty years ago, Longtime Companion premiered in the United States. It was the first major film to deal with the AIDS epidemic and remains a forceful and passionate look at a group of friends supporting each other as they battle the virus. It grossed $4.6 million at the box office, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and won a Golden Globe for the same category. The film was simultaneously ahead of its time and a decade too late, as the virus started ravaging the gay community in the early '80s. Frustratingly, Longtime Companion is unstreamable and out of print.

There are earlier U.S. films that confronted AIDS but didn't get a wide release: Buddies (1985) is credited as being the first film to deal with AIDS, although Bill Sherwood's extraordinary Parting Glances (1986), starring a young Steve Buscemi, comes to my mind first. Parting Glances and Longtime Companion are similar in many respects: Both focus on well-off white gay men living in or around New York City in the '80s, both value a "queer chosen family" over gay couples, and both of the films' directors died of AIDS complications a few years after their respective premieres. But unlike Parting Glances, which you can watch on Kanopy for free via the Seattle Public Library, Longtime Companion is almost lost to time. Thankfully, Yahoo Movies conducted an invaluable oral history with the surviving cast and crew in 2015, but we need to get this film back in the popular consciousness. CHASE BURNS

Available for rental on DVD at Scarecrow Video and Netflix DVD.

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