Unstreamable is a column that recommends movies and TV shows you can’t watch on major streaming services in the United States. We publish every Wednesday!
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USA, 1986, 87 min, Dir. Juliet Bashore
“In 1969, Baghdad-by-the-Bay” (AKA San Francisco) “became the first city in the United States to legalize films that explicitly depicted penetration,” according to an SF Gate article from 2011. Porn bloomed before ’69, of course, but in a “legal limbo,” with adult theaters operating “with the understanding that the police could bust them at any moment.” After ’69, a “golden era” of porn emerged, and, being San Francisco, this new smut capital catered to queers. One of the best films to capture that queer, post-penetration-legalization era is director Juliet Bashore’s Kamikaze Hearts, currently getting a long-overdue moment in the sun thanks to a Kino Lorber-led restoration. (It screened at The Beacon last Friday!)
Kamikaze Hearts is a sort of almost-documentary—mostly truthful but occasionally twisting into auto-fiction, with its subjects dramatizing their lives in strange and colorful ways. Bashore intended to showcase San Francisco’s mainstream porn industry in the doc, but after her original subject pulled out, she had to edit around a new star: porno legend Sharon “Mitch” Mitchell. It’s a lucky pivot. Mitch is magnetic and flammable, quick to philosophize a theory of porn acting in between filming fucking scenes. Bashore follows Mitch and the porn director who loves her as they stagger between porn shoots and parties, which sometimes happen in the same room. The scenes are hazy and druggy, frequently landing in unexpected positions. I did not expect the film to end with a monologue about Konstantin Stanislavski. CHASE BURNS
Available to rent on DVD in the Drama room’s LGBT section.
Sweden | Denmark , 2002, 109 min, Dir. Lukas Moodysson
Lukas Moodysson’s Lilya 4-Ever is pretty bleak. Like, the vibes are very Andrea Arnold’s Red Road or Harmony Korine’s Kids, both films I have respect for but could never find myself watching again. Maybe my unease with Lilya 4-Ever comes from the slight after school special nature of the film, which centers on Lilya (Oksana Akinshina), a 16-year-old girl abandoned by her mother in a former Soviet country who is left to defend for herself. Eventually, her boyfriend falsely lures her to Sweden, sex trafficking her to a brutal man who locks her in an apartment. Fucking dark.
Moodysson based the movie loosely on the life of Danguolė Rasalaitė, a Lithuanian girl trafficked in Sweden. It’s shot in the director’s signature early style, a blend of non-actors, casual dialogue, and jerky camerawork that makes the film feel like a documentary. The story is peppered with dreamy and surreal elements, with one of Lilya’s friends appearing as her guardian angel during her imprisonment in Sweden. (“God is present in this film,” Moodysson, a Christian, told The Guardian at the time.) Ok, so the movie is sad, but you MUST know that the soundtrack absolutely rules. JAS KEIMIG
Available on DVD in the Directors section under Lukas Moodysson. You’ll need a region-free DVD player to watch.
USA, 1973, half-hour episodes, Produced by Craig Gilbert
Who invented reality television? Astonishingly, you could argue that it was PBS. There had been documentaries on TV before An American Family, but this is the show that changed everything back in 1973, with anthropologist Margaret Mead calling it “as new and significant as the invention of drama or the novel.” The concept will be familiar to all of us: A camera crew invades a family’s home, collecting footage of their day-to-day routines and capturing drama: The breakup of a marriage; a financial crisis; a gay teen’s coming-out and, in subsequent followups, eventual death.
The show seems childishly unvarnished compared to the highly manufactured drama of modern reality shows. It’s like comparing a cave painting to … well, if not a masterpiece, then a noticeably more detailed cave painting. The show’s goal was to capture the Loud family as “realistically” as possible, which is what makes it so jarring when Pat, the family’s mother, asks for a divorce as the cameras roll. Meanwhile the son, Lance, was likely the first recurring queer person on television; he appeared just a year and a half after Stonewall and early Pride events that served to elevate the visibility of LGBTQ+ Americans (not that they were called that then) to previously unimagined heights.
An American Family is hard to watch now, in the same way that it’s hard to read the first draft of an essay; the reality genre that it birthed has indisputably grown more polished, more entertaining, and more popular. The one thing that it isn’t is more real. MATT BAUME
Find it on DVD in the Documentaries section under American Culture.
Every week, we feature one formerly unstreamable title that’s now available to watch online. This week it’s….
USA, 1997, 88 min, Dir. Robert Iscove
Chase and I have talked about how it’s harder to write about films we love than films we hate—Cinderella is no different. My love for it is constant and eternal. I grew up watching it religiously; the musical’s images and sounds are hardwired into my soul. Seeing a Black Cinderella (with MICROBRAIDS!) falling in love with a hot Brown prince (Paolo Montalban), who is the son of queen Whoopi Goldberg and king Victor Garber, floored me. And her Fairy Godmother is Whitney Houston!!!?!??!?!??
Plus, Bernadette Peters runs around with her two wonderfully wretched daughters (RIP Natalie Desselle-Reid), and Jason Alexander prances about with a goatee. The ’90s multiracial dream was alive and well with this movie, and I ate it up as a kid. I still do. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, what are you waiting for?
Before Cinderella popped up on streaming services, Brandy said she had “no idea” why Disney opted not to include the vibrant, Whitney Houston-co-produced film on its platform. It seemed impossible. But the big wigs over at Disney got hip to it and finally made the movie available to stream last February. JAS KEIMIG
Available to stream on Disney+ or to rent on DVD at Scarecrow Video. Just go to the Kids section, filed under Rodgers & Hammerstein.
Looking for more? Browse our big list of 350+ hard-to-find movies over on The Stranger.
The fine print: Unstreamable means we couldn’t find it on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, Disney+, or any of the other hundreds of 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.