Waves and streams

A flood of new films on the homescreen



The abundant flow of really good movies continues in 2019, to the point of overflow, with the result that some very good things come streaming in from places other than local theaters—On Demand, Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. Four cases in point:

Border: This Swedish film is a stunningly somber hybrid—part folk tale, part low-key horror film, part psycho-social allegory. Eva Melander plays Tina, a brutish-looking customs agent whose exceptional sense of smell gives her special powers as a border guard. She leads a dreary and comfortably routinized life until she encounters Vore (Eero Milonoff), a hulking traveler who looks as though he might be her twin. The slow, smoldering relationship that develops between them crosses borders of gender, species and human identity in ways that prove moving as well as provocative.

High Flying Bird is a basketball story; a Steven Soderbergh movie; a slice of 21st century life in business, race and professional sports. There’s very little game action on hand, since the setting is a preseason labor dispute with the tangled dealings of owners, agents, union reps, and high-priced rookies getting all the attention. Nevertheless, Soderbergh keeps this 90-minute drama moving at a fastbreak clip, while getting special help from the rapid-fire dialogue in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s screenplay. André Holland and Melvin Gregg are good as the agent and the star rookie, respectively. Bill Duke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sonja Sohn and Kai Quinto are very fine in key supporting roles. Excerpts of interviews with NBA players Reggie Jackson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Donovan Mitchell are interspersed throughout the main action.

Galveston is a “country noir,” and a morose sort of road movie that mostly takes place in the vicinity of Galveston, Texas. It’s the English-language directing debut of actress Mélanie Laurent, who makes gloweringly atmospheric use of a zestily pulpy screenplay by Nic Pizzolatto (True Detective). The tale has an ex-con and low-rent hitman (Ben Foster) shooting his way out of a double-cross, rescuing a not-so-innocent teenager (Elle Fanning) and her 3-year-old daughter, and fleeing the law as well as their criminal tormentors, including a smooth and sleazy gent played by Beau Bridges. Despite all the lurid potential, this is a tough-minded bit of pulp fiction that flourishes in the margins of existentialist parables.

The sharp, brusque, Oscar-nominated performances of Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant and the nuanced tough-mindedness of the screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty give Can You Ever Forgive Me? a rough honesty that is sometimes dazzling. McCarthy plays the late Lee Israel, an author of several biographies who turned her talents to literary forgery when her book-writing career fizzled. Her flamboyantly gay friend Jack Hock (Grant) shares her flair for exuberant roguishness, but their respective tattered charms are never allowed to turn this Marielle Heller-directed film into an exercise in feel-good redemption.