Unstreamable is a column where Jas Keimig and Chase Burns recommend movies and TV shows you can’t watch on major streaming services in the United States. We publish every Wednesday.
JAS: This weekend, I watched the Cher and Winona Ryder vehicle, Mermaids, for the first time. I genuinely thought it was about mermaids (spoiler: it’s not), but I still loved the performances. In any case, it had me reflecting on my favorite Cher performance which has to be her as Rusty in Peter Bogdanovich’s Mask. I first wrote about the film for The Stranger in January 2020 and it’s still unstreamable so I’d like to revisit it for this week’s column.
CHASE: Meanwhile, I’m mostly catching up on episodes of Cowboy Bebop before we screen the movie next week at Northwest Film Forum. (Reserve a seat! You don’t need to watch the series to enjoy the movie. I still haven’t finished the series and I’ve seen the movie three times, lol.) But in between the binging, I’m warming up the sleigh bells and getting in the holiday spirit by putting on The Hard Nut. It’s my favorite version of The Nutcracker, with lots of Seattle connections.
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USA, 1985, 127 min, Dir. Peter Bogdanovich
Mask is kind of the perfect movie to watch in the holiday season. There’s an imperfect-but-has-a-lot of-heart-type family, it’s corny but not too corny, and has an excellent soundtrack to boot. At the center of the film is Eric Stoltz who plays the real-life Rocky Dennis, a sixteen-year-old with craniodiaphyseal dysplasia. He’s funny, kind, and has a deep curiosity about the world. You can see his gentleness in the way he explains color to a blind girl he has a crush on, Diana (Laura Dern’s first major film performance), using rocks. But despite that gentleness, his peer often treat him harshly because of his appearance–but his mom’s boyfriend’s biker gang protects him from bullies, which is actually so sick.
And, of course, Cher plays his mother, Rusty, a tough-as-nails biker chick who struggles with drug addiction, but fiercely loves her son and fights for his right to be respected. It’s a dazzling and emotive turn from Cher. Director Peter Bogdanovich—who famously doesn’t like the actress—said that there are so many close-ups of Cher because she has really soulful eyes that always look sad, which fits with her character. He also said that she can’t act, but he’s a hater.
My guess is that Mask isn’t streaming because of music copyright/royalty issues. The original cut of the film extensively featured the music of Bruce Springsteen, one of the first movies to do so. But due to disagreements between Universal and Springsteen’s label, Columbia, they ripped all of his songs from the film, replacing them with Bob Seger songs to Bogdanovich’s disappointment. I watched the Director’s Cut version that came out 20 years after the original premiere and, boy, is there a lot of The Boss! It’s a perfect pairing. JAS KEIMIG
Find it in the Directors section under Bogdanovich, Peter.
USA, 1992, 90 min, Choreography by Mark Morris
We’ve fallen into full-on Christmas mode this week. It seems like everyone everywhere all at once is getting Christmas Carols and Nutcrackers. On the opposite end of the holiday spectrum, here in Seattle we also get a strong dose of bawdy burlesques each December. The local staples Jingle All the Gay from Kitten N’ Lou and Scott Shoemaker’s War on Christmas open this week. But what about mixing that Seattle irreverence with some classic holiday flair? For that vibe, look to Mark Morris Dance Group’s The Hard Nut, a gender-bending contemporary spin on The Nutcracker from the funny and inventive Seattle-born choreographer Mark Morris. It can soften even the hardest and most cynical nuts among us.
Every so often, MMDG tours this nut around the country. On years it’s not offered in-person, the best bet is to check out a copy of the original 1991 production. The ballet bases its production design on the work of Charles Burns (no relation to me, sadly), a cartoonist with deep ties to Seattle. The Burns touch gives the show a dark, ’90s alt-weekly vibe, and its lavish costumes make it feel like the B-52s went down to Whoville. The first act’s closer, called Waltz of the Snowflakes, complete with men and women in white tutus and wigs that look like ice cream cones, is so silly and gorgeous. I heard a rumor that watching it makes me shed real, warm, un-Grinchly tears of joy.* CHASE BURNS
*During the pandemic’s first lockdown Christmas, I sent this DVD to my mom as a gift and told her to pretend we spent a night at the ballet. Very gay. Very sweet.
Find it in the Literature section under Dance.
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.