Small Screen Berkeley: Beyond Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Disney

If you look beyond the usual platforms, there are excellent places to find British, Korean and Russian films as well as restored American classics for diverting lockdown viewing.

Bacurau, currently available to stream courtesy of San Francisco’s Roxie Theater. Photo: Kino Lorber

Have you watched every last cooking show on Netflix? Have you cycled through The Mandalorian on Disney+ more than twice? Have you exhausted your Amazon Prime opportunities?

Fear not, dear reader, there’s much more to online streaming than the aforementioned heavyweights. In this brief article, I’ll direct you to a handful of alternatives that will help you stave off the zombie apocalypse — or boredom, whichever comes first.

If you really miss going to your local bijou, San Francisco’s Roxie Theater is trying to approximate the movie-going experience to the extent currently possible. They’re currently streaming a terrific new Brazilian feature starring Sonia Braga and Udo Kier, the indescribable and impossible to pigeonhole Bacurau. They are also streaming Indiefest’s memorable Wild Goose Lake and the popular documentary Fantastic Fungi – which I haven’t seen, but who doesn’t like fungi? It’s especially important that we support local businesses in their hour of need, so click your way to the Roxie, pop some popcorn, and enjoy a virtual night out at the movies! Hopefully the Roxie is just the first of many cinemas to adopt this temporary new model.

The Criterion Channel launched in late 2018 and relies on the impressive library of features released on physical format via the Criterion Collection. Even those of us heavily invested in DVD and Blu-ray, however, are unlikely to own copies of all 2,021 films currently streaming on the channel. Some of the more obscure highlights include Ken Russell’s cheeky and seldom seen biopic Mahler (1974), Hideo Gosha’s wild and woolly Bandits vs. Samurai Squad (1978), and the rare and enjoyably ripe British melodrama Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945).


The British Film Institute has separate UK and US ‘channels’, and while the former offers a wider selection of features, there’s plenty of good stuff on the latter, too. Among the gems are the criminally under appreciated fantasy Paperhouse (1988), a generous selection of Ealing and ‘Carry On’ comedies, and 2009’s first-rate thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed. The focus is on British cinema, so this is one for the Anglophiles amongst you.

If your preference is Asian film, check out YouTube’s Korean Classic Film channel. This is largely uncharted territory for yours truly, but for a deep dive into South Korean cinema look no further. And it does offer a very deep dive indeed!

Flicker Alley is one of the best restoration houses going; in addition to their sterling DVD and Blu-ray releases, they also offer many of their titles online. Amongst the rental choices are early Soviet films such as the wonderfully droll The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (1924) and the very amusing House on Trubnaya (1928): if you thought all those Soviet directors were humorless, Godless communists, think again! Also available: Flicker’s brilliant restorations of Willis O’Brien’s The Lost World (1924), Abel Gance’s J’Accuse (1919), and much much more.

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher) is a bit of a cinema bad boy, and his website cements his reputation. Among the rather trashy offerings herein are such naughty 1960s features as Shanty Tramp and House on Bare Mountain, as well as the Christian schlock classic If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? Incredible!


Finally, if there’s a particular title or person you’re searching for, check out Just Watch. Type in ‘Bunuel’ and the site will tell you where you can watch Un Chien Andalou, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, or Belle de Jour right now. It’s an invaluable tool.