Before we get into this week’s Unstreamable picks… A REMINDER!
We’ve got one more IRL unstreamable screening before the year’s over. This time, we’re watching Michael Patrick Jann’s beloved and deeply Minnesotan comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous at Northwest Film Forum from December 1st to 3rd. The beauty! The competition! The Midwesternness of it all!
Don’t forget to reserve your seat. Buying ahead of time is just good karma.
Got a recommendation for Unstreamable? Give us the scoop at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Australia | United Kingdom | France, 2009, 119 min, Dir. Jane Campion
I love the way Jane Campion writes men. In fact, I think a lot of her male characters are more knotty, interesting, depraved, vulnerable, and well-rounded than male characters written by dudes. That’s all the more clear in Bright Star, where epic Romantic poet John Keats’ appeal to the young, flirty, and higher class Fanny Howe comes not through any sort of brash masculinity, but through his softness, keen observation, and devoted passion. And, duh, his poetry.
Based on a biography by Andrew Motion as well as Keats’ and Howe’s real-life love letters, Bright Star follows their relationship that blossomed just before Keats died tragically of tuberculosis at the age of 25. And, trust, it had a huuuuuuge life on film Tumblr back in the day based on the sumptuous cinematography and Janet Patterson's genuinely stunning set and costume design. The GIFs made of Bright Star were deserving of their own award.
Like Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette before it, this period piece infuses all the trappings of a heritage drama with a modern sensibility. Sure there’s fancy English turns of phrases, but also emotion and youth radiating from its core with the poet. Plus, it helps that Ben Whishaw as Keats looks like an indie guitarist with his tightly fitted pants and shaggy dreamy hair. He’s so swoony. But the film’s beating heart is Abbie Cornish as Howe, who cautiously and then whole-heartedly falls in love with Keats through his actions and his words, devoting herself to his health and craft. I cried! Love is real! I’m buying a book of Keats’ poetry as we speak! JAS KEIMIG
Find it in the Directors section under Campion, Jane or rent it by mail.
USA, 1999, 120 min, Dir. Robert Townsend
I’m so happy we’re finally screening a comedy as part of our Unstreamable series at Northwest Film Forum. Another comedy I’ve always wanted to screen is Jackie’s Back, directed by the trailblazing Robert Townsend (Hollywood Shuffle)—but it’s a little too niche to pull in a proper crowd, which is why I’ll continue my public awareness campaign with today’s blurb so that one day, maybe, we can screen this IRL.
I first heard about Jackie’s Back on RuPaul and Michelle Visage’s good-but-retired podcast, What’s the Tee. Jenifer Lewis was a guest on an episode—listen here—and RuPaul gushed about how much he loved Jackie’s Back, a Lifetime TV movie starring Lewis that RuPaul herself calls a cult classic. The basic premise is that ‘70s diva Jackie Washington (Lewis) is making a comeback, and this mockumentary follows her as she stages her revival.
Lewis says the whole movie was inspired by a Shirley Bassey documentary called Have Voice, Will Travel (see a fuzzy rip of it here), where the great diva hyperbolically tells her own legend—until the camera cuts to her crew, who go, as Lewis describes it, “Well, no, it didn’t… quite happen like that, Ms. Bassey.” That tension, between the overblown diva and her crew, underlines much of the jokes in Jackie’s Back.
In her What’s the Tee episode, Lewis says her audiobook producers never let her be “JENIFER LEWIS!! JENIFER LEWIS!! JENIFER LEWIS!!” (image jazz hands) only “Jenifer Lewis” (no jazz hands)—meaning she had to tone it down. In Jackie’s Back, we get full JENIFER LEWIS!! JENIFER LEWIS!! JENIFER LEWIS!! And I think that’s neat. CHASE BURNS
Find it in the Comedy section or rent it by mail.
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. We don’t consider films on sites that interrupt with commercial breaks, like Tubi, to be streamable. Tubi is like Neu Cable. And 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.