Unstreamable is a column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.*
USA, 1993, 188 minutes, Dir. Robert Altman
Robert Altman's Los Angeles-set Short Cuts is as sprawling and full of life as the city it depicts. Based on nine short stories and a poem by Raymond Carver, the movie uncovers the rather vacuous soul of the white middle class in L.A. by weaving together several different storylines that converge and diverge throughout a couple of days. It clocks in at just over three hours long with around 22 main characters played by a deeply talented cast of actors, like Jack Lemmon, Julianne Moore, Tim Robbins, Chris Penn, Andie MacDowell, Lili Taylor, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Lily Tomlin, and Tom Waits.
As such, it's challenging to pick just one stellar performance. Perhaps the one most cited is the one given by Julianne Moore, who plays a painter in an unhappy marriage. She gives an emotional monologue to her husband, played by Matthew Modine, Donald Duck-style: no pants, no panties. Or Jack Lemmon's impressive confession of an affair to his adult son, played by Bruce Davison, while the two are cooped up in a hospital canteen. But the delight in watching this long-ass film is that these characters and their emotions are never far from one another, bleeding their discontent and ways of living into each other. Watching Short Cuts feels like picking up the story in the middle of it being told. I like how film critic Michael Wilmington put it in a 2004 essay, that Short Cuts recognizes "that nothing in life is ever resolved, that there are not only no happy endings, but virtually no endings at all." This made me remember why I love movies. JAS KEIMIG
USA, 1988-1990, 117 minutes, Created by Wes Craven
Once upon a spooky time, there was actually, basically a Nightmare on Elm Street TV series, except it was an anthology series, à la Tales from the Crypt, The Twilight Zone, or even Elvira's Movie Macabre. The reason for an anthology series and not a series-series is, so the story goes, because Freddy Krueger would've been too powerful in a traditional scripted series, killing off characters left and right and leaving audiences with no protagonists to love. Instead, producers chose an anthology format featuring two short fictional scary stories bookended by Freddy as host. Sometimes he would play a role himself, but usually he was just the emcee. Robert Englund, the OG Krueger, returned for the series.
New Line Television produced the series and Warner Bros. ultimately syndicated it, but it lasted only two years. Still, it produced a good amount of episodes (44!). Many are impossible to find outside of very fuzzy illegal Dailymotion uploads. Five VHS tapes of single episodes were released in the US, with eight in the UK. A DVD collection was planned in the early 2000s but scrapped due to poor sales. It's cursed to exist mostly in people's dreams—but not mine, because I wasn't born until 1992. Tehe. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1976, 95 minutes, Dir. George Romero
Anyway, he comes under the care of his much older cousin Tateh Cuda, a religious man strongly resembling Colonel Sanders, who also believes Martin to be a vampire. The old man chants "Nosferatu" around the young boy, promising to drive a stake through Martin's heart if he finds out his lil' cuz has killed anyone (spoiler alert: Martin can't help himself, duh). Interspersed throughout are black and white flashback sequences that depict Martin as an ancient vampire in the Old World, getting chased by mobs and biting into plump arms. You're never quite sure what's real and what isn't....
In recent news, the film's director of photography Michael Gornick announced that a lost black and white copy of the director's cut was found and runs three and a half hours. The original cut of the film, however, is getting a 4K release by UK distributor Second Sight, slated for an early 2022 release. JAS KEIMIG
Japan, 2009, 125 minutes, Dir. Shûichi Okita
Do you love Tampopo (1985), Juzo Itami's drool-inspiring contemporary classic about the art and love of cooking ramen? WELL. There's another Tampopo-esque Japanese movie that exists, and it's set in Antarctica, and it's called The Chef of South Polar (2009). (Direct comparisons like this are a fool's errand, but I'm a fool, so.) It's based on a cook's essays about when he worked and served at Fuji Dome, a Japanese research station located 12,500 ft above sea level on the Antarctic plateau, one of the coldest places on earth. It's so tender, food-heavy, and pretty to watch, and it features a strong ensemble cast, including Kengo Kora, who also starred in Fish Story, which also came out in 2009 and which you should also watch.
I first watched The Chef of South Polar during a recent festival hosted by Japan Society, and its rich food-making scenes totally enamored me. Lobster, ramen, foie gras, onigiri—everything centers around food preparation, and you can find much of that food-magic found in Tampopo here in Antarctica. The movies aren't perfect parallels, but the similarities are charming. CHASE BURNS
What I'm about to write is probably blasphemous to this column, but I want to point out that you can SOON and FOR A LIMITED TIME watch this film streaming FOR FREE courtesy of the Japan Foundation. Every year, the Foundation releases many popular Japanese movies to people in other countries for free to encourage cultural exchange. This year's fest happens from February 14 through February 27 and includes The Chef of South Polar. My other recommendations on that list include Miwa Nishikawa's Under the Open Sky, Satoko Yokohama's Ito, and Soushi Matsumoto's It's a Summer Film!. All three of those were made in the last two years. A score! MORE HERE!
*Unstreamable means we couldn't find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, 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.