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.
Got a recommendation? Give us the scoop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PS: Matt Baume is out sick this week! He’ll be back next Wednesday 🙂
USA, 1977, 164 minutes, Directed by Martin Scorsese
What a fascinating and flawed film Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York is. Made one year after his abrasive Taxi Driver, this fluffy yet callous musical starring Liza Minnelli and Robert De Niro as two doomed musician lovers is all over the place. Set in the late ‘40s/early ‘50s, the film strives to emulate the look and feel of a gargantuan MGM movie from the postwar period. Elaborate sets, classy music numbers, ornate dresses. Even Minnelli as Francine Evans, a USO singer turned Broadway superstar, has a personality and stage presence fit for a movie this size. But De Niro as saxophonist Jimmy Doyle plays his character a bit too edgy, a bit too realistically an asshole. Any fantasy of their turbulent relationship being Meant To Be is basically sniped by Jimmy’s violent tendencies. Coming in at over two and a half hours with a storied and chaotic production, New York, New York was a critical and commercial failure. That said, any scene involving Minnelli is a revelation—particularly the sequence at the end where Francine performs her heart out onstage and Jimmy can only watch from a distance. (Spoiler: There are no happy endings here.) And although New York, New York is somewhat of a minor film in Minnelli, De Niro, and Scorsese’s filmographies, we have this musical to thank for the powerhouse song that is “New York, New York.” JAS KEIMIG
You can find this one in the Director’s Section, under Scorsese, Martin.
Taiwan, 2006, 115 minutes, Directed by Tsai Ming-Liang
An Unstreamable reader recommended this one (Thanks, Chris!) and we jumped to rent it because we’ve meant to dig into Tsai’s films. The Malaysian auteur, associated with Taiwan’s Second New Wave, is maybe most known for his “slow cinema” movies, like Stray Dogs or Vive L’Amour, a movie that won him a Golden Lion, and Wayward Cloud, which involves watermelon sex. He’s a master of a long take. He shoots many of his scenes from a corner of a room—a sort of cuckold’s POV. We’ve wanted to write about so many of his films for this column, but, you know: streaming.
But! I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone. It’s not streaming. And it’s beautiful. (Beautiful is a crutch word you’re supposed to reserve for appropriate things, but this is an appropriately beautiful thing.) I’m still wrapping my head around it, so be patient. (Patience is a good thing to practice when watching a slow Tsai Ming-liang film.) This doesn’t mean it’s complicated. The movie is simple: We’re in Kuala Lumpur. One dude is homeless. Someone beats the shit out of him. A profoundly kind dude picks him up, takes him home, and nurses him back to health on his dirty but cared for mattress. Then the whole movie centers around this mattress. The two men sleep together, and it feels gay but not gay. Right at the edge.
My take is… Don’t worry about falling asleep during a Tsai Ming-liang movie. Sometimes falling asleep is the point. Your eyes aren’t your only sense. I fell asleep near the end of this movie and woke up right as the song dropped during its final scene. It felt appropriate. And beautiful! CHASE BURNS
You can find this one in the Director’s section, under Tsai Ming-Liang
Every week, we feature one formerly unstreamable title that’s now available to watch online. This week it’s….
United Kingdom, 2004, 30 min episodes, Dir. Richard Ayoade
Richard Ayoade is a genuine freak. The English actor and director and general Renaissance Man is maybe most known for his work on The IT Crowd, although he’s done a considerable amount of mainstream Hollywood work, like voice acting for Soul and The Lego Movie 2. But he got his start with some deep Adult Swim shit called Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.
This one-season British horror parody TV show is based around a fictional horror author named Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness) and his producer (Richard Ayoade, who also directs). The lore goes that the two created a TV series in the 1980s that flopped so hard it wasn’t even broadcast. But then, in the 2000s, it was picked up and revisited. This is where viewers see the current show, with Marenghi and his producer giving interviews about the random perils and mistakes that occurred in the original filming, of which there are many. The show heavily parodies the ’80s, and the synthy soundtrack gives you an idea of what you’re in for.
It was broadcast late in the night and initially failed to pick up an audience, but that has more to do with the marketing than its material. It’s extraordinary, dark, and funny. CHASE BURNS
Find it in the British TV Comedy section. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.
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.