Chase is still on a much-deserved vacation this week, so Scarecrow employee Emalie Soderback graciously agreed to step in and recommend some very good unstreamable titles for the column. Thanks, Emalie!
Italy, 1960, 176 min, Dir. Federico Fellini
Religion makes out with sexuality from the get-go, with the iconic opening shot of a helicopter delivering a statue of Jesus to the Vatican, while a group of bikini-clad babes wave from a nearby rooftop. Following closely behind, Marcello and tabloid photographer Paparazzo (yes, the modern term originates from his name) make a hasty U-turn to ogle the sunbathing ladies, losing the statue up ahead. Marcello is a gossip-rag columnist, “working on his novel” and constantly zipping around in his convertible, partying into the early hours with the who’s-who of Rome.
The women in Marcello’s life are mythical, larger-than-life figures whose power and allure show the extent to which Marcello is surrendering to his thwarted ambition and malaise. Imagine this trinity, if you will: Sylvia (Anita Ekberg), knee-deep in the Trevi fountain, baptizing Marcello with drips of water; Maddalena (Anouk Aimee), begging confession and entertaining the idea of commitment from a crumbling castle’s echo chamber; and Emma (Yvonne Furneaux), wishing to die, but being time and time again resurrected by her negligent fiancé. Marcello’s women are holy.
Paired with Nino Rota’s exuberant score, Fellini’s illustrious, episodic portrait of a man losing himself to the corruption of celebrity while stumbling around the outskirts of his faith is literally my favorite film. EMALIE SODERBACK
USA, 2005, 113 min, Dir. Darnell Martin
Darnell Martin’s television film of the novel—executive produced by Oprah—struggles with the ecstatic nature of the source material, instead boiling down Hurston’s complex tale into one that orients itself mainly around romance. Adapted to the screen by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, Halle Berry plays Janie with a sensual and youthful flair. Great attention is paid to how her late husband, Jody Starks (Logan Killicks), kisses his way up her back, once as an expression of love and then as control. Or the tongue-touching desire of Janie and her young, strapping lover, Teacake (Michael Ealy), before they escape for an ill-fated stay down in southern Florida. It’s a fun and horny (but almost soapy) adaptation of the book.
I think the film's concentration on the novel’s romantic beats isn't a fault, but rather it speaks to the complexity of Hurston’s story. Watch this movie, and then bury your nose in the original text—I think they'll pair well. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 1970, 95 min, Dir. Frank Perry
Adapted from a novel by Sue Kaufman, and written for the screen by Eleanor Perry, this film introduces us to bored, tired housewife Tina (Carrie Snodgrass), who spends her days tending to her man-child lawyer husband Jonathan, and their bratty daughters. Richard Benjamin is so completely immersed in his role as a psychologically abusive husband—constantly asking for a “roll in the hay” and trying to climb the social ladder in whatever despicable way possible—I can’t imagine anyone who saw this could even look at him afterward.
Tina doesn’t necessarily find autonomy from her role as emotional punching bag and domestic servant, but she at least finds some escape in a steamy affair with an arrogant young writer named George (Frank Langella). Although Tina’s quest to reclaim her life and sexuality happens with another shitty man—the cycle always continues—at least she’s getting laid.
Diary of a Mad Housewife was, up until recently, completely out of print. Luckily, Kino Lorber has released it on a great looking Blu-ray disc. This is definitely not a fun watch, as the abuse Tina endures day after day is incessant. But the film is powerful, well-acted, grimly humorous, and extremely relevant even today, because, well...men. EMALIE SODERBACK
USA, 1980, 106 min, Dir. Adrian Lyne
Set in a grimy-looking San Fernando Valley, Foxes follows four teen girls with very different personalites but who all have a deep bond with each other. There’s the deeply insecure Madge (Marilyn Kagan), who’s having an affair with a much older man. And there's also the suave, boy-crazy Deirdre (Kandice Stroh), with her flippy hair and pretty dresses. Annie (The Runaways’ Cherie Currie) has an abusive cop as a father, and finds herself falling in with the wrong crowd to escape from home. Finally, there’s Jeanie (a babyfaced Jodie Foster), who acts as the mature mother to the group.
Together, these four girls get into all sorts of trouble outside of school. Flirting with cute checkout boys, talking back to their parents, throwing wild house parties, nearly overdosing on drugs, getting into car chases, attending concerts, and lying to their parents. Though they are all extremely dissimilar, they dream of creating their own life and space together free of parental and societal expectations. It’s a dream that, unfortunately, doesn’t quite come to reality. 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. 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.