Each week, we write about four films that you can't find on major US streaming services in our column Unstreamable. This week, we're bucking the system to bring you ten unstreamable picks released from each year of the 2000s. Let's get into it!
USA, 2000, 90 min, Dir. Griffin Dunne
I rented this mockumentary partially because of Griffin Dunne, its director.
Dunne is best known as an actor, but he's also the nephew of Joan Didion, and he directed that Joan Didion documentary on Netflix, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold, that a lot of people liked, and Practical Magic (!!), which I will bravely admit I still haven't seen (!!!). I'll treat myself to it eventually.
The other part of the reason why I rented this mockumentary is that it's set in New York City in 2000, and I've always been interested in that city's brief turn-of-the-millennium/pre-9/11 culture.
Lisa Picard Is Famous follows an actor, Lisa Picard, who might be on the cusp of fame. Her claim to near-fame is being in a too-sexy Chex Mix commercial. She has a little bit of Valerie Cherish in her, Lisa Kudrow's character in The Comeback. Except where The Comeback is surprisingly Chekhovian (this is a thesis I'll write one day, not that anyone cares), Lisa Picard is more Guestian. Ironically, the best parts of the film are when actual famous people appear—Sandra Bullock, Carrie Fisher, Spike Lee—but it's a buoyant, oddly dressed, manic, navel-gazing look at actors in New York in the year 2000, which I always sorta love. CHASE BURNS
USA | Denmark | Sweden, 2001, 89 min, Dir. R.D. Robb
Don's Plum's writer/producer Dale Wheatley really wants you to see this movie. He says so on his website, Free Don's Plum Dot Com, that he is willing to send you a copy of it. Take him up on the offer because you basically can't find it anywhere (except Scarecrow Video) since some people don't want you to see it. It's a curious piece of film history that will likely become more valuable as we get further away from the film's subjects, the "Pussy Posse."
Significant members of said posse included Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Kevin Connolly—all of whom are in Don's Plum, an infamous film which a very skewed documentary released by the New York Post covered in detail in 2019. This indie, black and white, improvised hangout movie shows a version of the Pussy Posse chilling in a diner, called Don's Plum. They act casually misogynistic, try to get laid, and fight. It's attractive because of its actors, but it's a feature film that should have been a short film; a bare display of the era's male chauvinism that can be surprisingly enjoyable, with plenty of fans. But let's not pretend Don's Plum is a lost masterpiece. This is not Losing Ground. CHASE BURNS
United States, 2002, 93 min, Dir. Miguel Arteta
Anyway, the film is unexpectedly chewy, following a rather tender and unpredictable route up to the very end. The settings are quiet and dull, blisteringly mundane. A perfect purgatory where nothing changes. For her part, Aniston is actually quite good. She manages to inhabit Justine in a way where her desperation to escape her constricting relationships is palpable, especially as the character begins to commit increasingly immoral acts. You almost forget that Aniston is one of the biggest celebrities in the world. JASMYNE KEIMIG
UK | France | Italy | United States, 2003, 115 min, Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci
I saw the R-rated version of The Dreamers in ninth or tenth grade, but the NC-17 cut that I watched this week is way more intense. I’m talking virgin blood smeared on faces intense. And while the conversations Matthew, Isabelle, and Théo have about Maoism, cinema, and the universe are typical of what you'd expect of this Very European film, the performances—particularly by Green—are what to watch for. They all seem completely at ease with one another, making the surreal intimacy between the characters that much more believable (and weirdly hot) and the question of their sexuality and intention with one another harder to suss out. This was the film of Tumblr in the early 2010s, with tons of photo sets and GIFs dedicated to capturing the beautiful mise-en-scène of the film as well as the pouty-ness of Pitt's lips. Thanks Bertolucci! This movie made me bi. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 2004, 143 minutes, Dir. Katsuhito Ishii
Director Katsuhito Ishii has said his Cannes-opening film The Taste of Tea "isn't too deep." But if you watch the film's gorgeous and trippy and gentle trailer, you'll probably have a lot of questions. Like, why is a big girl haunting that little girl? And why is a train coming out of that teen's forehead? (See: the top of this post.) If Ishii's film—which features ghosts and contemporary dance and a bombastic anime sequence—seems meandering, one way to simplify the viewing experience is to focus on his characters' creative projects.
Take the film's mother, who spends most of the movie trying to create an anime. As she finishes the project, she tells her mentor that "drawing is where the joy is." The mentor, played by Hideaki Anno, the director and creator of the foundational anime series Evangelion, smiles and says, "That's what anime is about." The work is where the joy is.
This reminds me of one of my favorite takeaways from Chekhov's The Seagull. (I'm bringing up Chekhov again. Sorry.) After the playwright wrestles with the nature of art and performance across four acts, he has Nina, an actress, conclude with this realization: The real point of acting "is not the honour and glory," but "the strength to endure." To just keep doing it.
I like to meditate on that idea when watching The Taste of Tea, which I've watched over and over. It's so delightful and strange. It reminds me that small, personal acts of creation can still be cosmic. If I had to pick, this would be my favorite movie. CHASE BURNS
USA, 2005, 97 min, Dir. Paul Dinello
It boggles the mind why Strangers with Candy, the movie, isn't available on any major streaming service. Not even for rent! (Please let me know if Reelgood is somehow wrong about this.) The 2005 film, which was created after the cult Strangers with Candy TV series (which is streaming), had an estimated $3.5 million budget and features Stephen Colbert, Allison Janney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Matthew Broderick alongside Amy Sedaris's iconically inappropriate character, Jerri Blank. Other celebs involved: Sarah Jessica Parker plays a grief counselor. Author David Rakoff plays a silent assistant. Chris Pratt, in one of his first roles, plays a teen hottie. It seems like a streaming deal could help the film recuperate some funds, considering it only made $2.2 million at the box office. It's also hard not to see some of Broad City's Ilana Wexler in Jerri Blank. Sedaris guest-starred in the first season of Broad City (in "Apartment Hunters"), so I think it's safe to assume Blank was an influence. CHASE BURNS
USA, 2006, 80 min, Dir. Robinson Devor
ICYMI: The Stranger's Charles Mudede cowrote one of the tenderest crime films of all time. Police Beat follows a Senegalese bike cop in Seattle named Z (Pape Sidy Niang) as he narrates—in his native Wolof—his desire for his American girlfriend, Rachel. She has left on a camping trip with vague promises to call. He grows anxious and paranoid, all while working, responding to incidents around town, which are based on real-life police reports Mudede wrote about in his retired Stranger column, also named Police Beat.
Z has a softness to him, a face that's both bewildered and reserved. Like what on earth am I doing here? Niang is a joy to watch, a natural and enigmatic presence on-screen. The city is the second-most important character in the film—leering, seedy, with all those blues and greens. It’s a reflection of a very different Seattle. It feels true. And a little slimy.
I loved POLICE BEAT so much when it screened at the SF Roxie that I saw it twice. Regional cinema uncompromised — new wave aesthetics, the immigrant experience, a beguiling Anna Oxygen. Much to ponder in @mudede’s piece. And a simple, warm obit to the great Pape Sidy Niang ♥️ https://t.co/pIEPUaodbd
— Barry Jenkins (@BarryJenkins) March 27, 2018
There are only two copies in the city available for rent on DVD: one at Scarecrow Video and the other at Reckless Video in North Seattle, which is on its way out. It should be everywhere, especially considering Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins loved the movie so much, he saw it twice. If Barry Jenkins sees your movie twice, then your public library should at least have two copies of your movie. That's the rule. Police Beat is even in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Meaning, Mudede is in The Archive. Thank god. Wake up, Seattle—this is mandatory viewing! JASMYNE KEIMIG
Japan, 2007, 98 min, Dir. Masayuki, Kazuya Tsurumaki
I came late to the Neon Genesis Evangelion series, which is regularly considered to be one of the greatest animes of all time, and now I'm trying to catch up. Centered around epic battles between "Evangelion" (giant robot mechas built by humans) and "Angels" (alien beings who descend from the heavens), the original 26-episode series ran between 1995 and 1996 and spawned two films (Death & Rebirth and The End of Evangelion) in 1997. The series features lots of symbolism and imagery from Christianity, Judaism, and Kabbalah, and its fans tend to obsess over its minute details. Rumor has it the creators just think crosses look cool, but people get deep with this shit.
In the late 2000s, a decade after the original films were released, the Evangelion team started releasing theatrical films as a part of an ambitious "rebuild" of the original anime using "new methods of expression." You Are (Not) Alone is the first of these films, released in 2007, and also my introduction to the series. It obviously moves at a much quicker pace than the anime, for better and for worse, but the final battle between a giant floating crystal pyramid and a sexy purple mecha with a supergun is enough to hook even the anime-phobic. The fourth and last film of the "rebuild" series is dropping on Amazon next month. Now's the time to (re)watch! CHASE BURNS
United States, 2008, 68 min, Dir. Phil Griffin
Britney: For the Record debuted during the same year her conservatorship came into place, following two months' worth of Britney’s “comeback” after a perilous two years. We get a behind-the-scenes look at her shooting music videos for Circus, appearing at the 2008 VMAs, sneaking into In the Heights on Broadway, trying to shop and evade the paparazzi at the same time. Even Madonna wildly pops in for some commentary.
But, most importantly, For the Record presents a chance for Britney to talk about her life in her own words. She candidly discusses her breakup with Justin Timberlake, her marriage to Kevin Federline, the excruciating toll of fame, as well as her opinions about the conservatorship she’s placed under. Despite the unimaginable pressure of being a pop star, Britney seems achingly normal. She seems to just want some relief from the press and to spend time with her children.
This documentary has come back into prominence after being heavily featured in the recent New York Times' documentary, Framing Britney Spears, about her conservatorship and her fans' push to get her released from it. It's an emotional watch that will fully have you on Team #FreeBritney by its end. JASMYNE KEIMIG
USA, 2009, 71 min, Dir. Steven Soderbergh
It's the lead-up to the 2008 election and Chelsea's clients are tired. As a high-end escort, she works with men who fret over the stock market collapse. Men who advise her to invest in gold and pay her for the "girlfriend experience." But at the end of the day, Chelsea (played by Sasha Grey) sheds her alias to become Christine, a woman who lives with her boyfriend. He's a personal trainer who services the same sort of men but in a different capacity.
The Girlfriend Experience has an understated Soderberghian cool. People dress in expensive clothing and talk at low volumes against swanky backdrops. The sex is implied, never explicit. Soderbergh is more interested in the emotional experience Chelsea gives her clients, as well as the fallout from 2008 financial collapse and the mundanity of sex work.
In her first mainstream picture, adult film star Sasha Grey is appropriately enigmatic and alluring, if not a little stiff. She seeps into her character of Chelsea/Christine, radiating a type of calm and curiosity that makes her really good at her job. The film, produced for $1.3 million, premiered on an early version of Amazon Prime Video but has since disappeared from the platform. Soderbergh retooled the premise for a 2016 Starz TV show of the same name. 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.