Unstreamable is a column that finds films and TV shows you can't watch on major streaming services in the United States.*
USA, 2002, 93 minutes, Dir. Tamra Davis
Look, it's time for a critical reassessment of Crossroads.
For the uninitiated, the teen road drama is a Britney Spears vehicle that failed to get her acting career off the ground but gave us the certified bop, "I'm Not A Girl...Not Yet a Woman." It also played in the background of every sleepover I ever had in elementary school. While it was a massive smash with audiences, it left critics—who probably never had a fun day in their lives—feeling cold. Many compared it to Mariah Carey's under-appreciated Glitter, deeming both films vanity projects. I'm sorry, but those takes are ass.
Crossroads is actually very watchable. Sure, it isn't fucking Licorice Pizza or anything, but it's a silly and fun teen movie with edgy elements like teen pregnancy, underage drinking, and hot older dudes. A little spicy. A little different. And when she sang along to NSYNC's "Bye Bye Bye," her then-boyfriend's band? I screamed.
Britney has enough screen presence and good humor to carry the film, and from the vantage point of 2021, it's a glimpse of the pop star at her peak of fame before tabloids and paparazzi started to grind her all the way down. It makes you think about what her career could've been like without all the ruthless invasions of privacy.
I find it interesting that we label films that feature women like Britney and Mariah as "vanity projects" and don't use that same language for something like, say, a director making an eight-hour documentary about his favorite band. Very interesting!! JAS KEIMIG
USA, 1991, 90 minutes
The holiday season can be cloying. While plenty welcome the return of Mariah Carey's holiday warbles, there's a silent majority that dreads it. And then there's always The Nutcracker, a holiday ballet so compulsory that during normal times it's usually given not one, but two or four or six productions a year. In one metro area! Most years, I count myself among the Christmastime grinches, but I'll admit there's one holiday performance tradition that without fail sweetens my bitter heart: 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 has the power to soften even the hardest and most cynical nuts among us.
Some years, most recently in 2019, MMDG tours this nut around the country. But on years you can't see it in person, your best bet is to check out a copy of the original 1991 production, filmed at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels for PBS. The ballet's production design is based on the work of Charles Burns (unrelated to me, unfortunately), a cartoonist with deep ties to Seattle (he went to Roosevelt High then Evergreen College), and specifically Sub Pop, Fantagraphics, and even The Stranger. The Burns touch gives the show a dark, twisted, '90s alt-weekly vibe, and the show's lavish costumes make it feel like the B-52s went down to Whoville. There's plenty of drag, and the first act's closer, "Waltz of the Snowflakes," complete with men and women in white tutus and wigs that look like ice cream cones, chucking fistfuls of snow into the air, is so silly and gorgeous it's rumored to make me shed real, warm, human tears of joy. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1971-1974, ~60 min episodes
OK OK OK!!!! I lied in my last blurb—there's one other holiday tradition I have, and, at the risk of turning this whole post into a Christmas Unstreamable, let me revisit it for a second.
Sonny and Cher never made a holiday album together, but they did record multiple Christmas specials for their Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, which ran for four years in the early '70s on CBS. Added together, the specials constitute enough jingles for an album, and luckily, a DVD was released in 2004 devoted to all of these Christmastime shows. It's seriously delightful, with special guests including Bernadette Peters and some old TV personas I can't place. These episodes air during the era of Nixon's impeachment, and the show's struggle to create joy around impeachment news is surely familiar to many.
The costumes are from good old Bob Mackie, who a few years ago told Harper's Bazaar that he would make Cher "up to 20 costumes" for one hour-long show. "It might be on camera for 30 seconds or 10 minutes, but she wore lots and lots of clothes," Mackie said. "She became this amazing clothes horse." I'm not being hyperbolic when I say my jaw dropped at some of these looks. Colorful, proud hippie modernism is alive and well in Mackie's designs.
Enjoy the razzle-dazzle—diva worship can get tedious, but it's deserved when directed at Cher. I've popped this DVD on every holiday season for the past three years, usually while decorating the tree. Maybe I'm not such a grinch. CHASE BURNS
USA, 1989, 104 minutes, Dir. Nancy Savoca
With the Sundance Film Festival dropping their lineup this week, it's a good moment to look at an excellent (and unstreamable) film that came out of the influential fest. Nancy Savoca's True Love debuted at the 1989 Sundance alongside Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies, and Videotape, taking home the Grand Jury Prize. While Soderbergh's film got credited for launching the indie film movement of the '90s, True Love got left off the radar, which is a big shame.
The film follows the engagement and wedding of Donna and Michael (Annabella Sciorra and Ron Eldard), two Italian-Americans living in the Bronx. While they are both in love with one another, Michael constantly wants to drink with his bros, but Donna longs for romance to sweep her up. Despite their obvious incompatibilities, they somehow continue to plan... their wedding? It's easy to chalk it up to the shittiness of heterosexuality, but I think Savoca gets at the deeper binds of love and loneliness and how we all negotiate the comfort of familiarity versus the cold unknown. That's not to say True Love is deeply serious. It's funny and light, with a lively neighborhood of people constantly sticking their nose in Donna and Michael's business. Also, keep your eyes peeled for at least three actors from The Sopranos...JAS KEIMIG
*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.