Pick of the Week:
The Look of Silence (Cinedigm)
It seemed unlikely that Joshua Oppenheimer could ever make a film more upsetting than The Act of Killing, in which he revisited those unpunished for their roles in the Indonesian massacres of the mid-1960s — in which an estimated 500,000 people were killed by the government for real or imagined communist sympathies — and coaxed them to relive their crimes. Yet this companion piece is just that thanks to the personal connection it makes between the events and one man, an unnamed optometrist who interviews those responsible for the deaths of his brother. There’s a lot going on here, all of it unsettling. Some of the subjects act remorseful — particularly the family of a dead perpetrator — while others are evasive. One digs in and begins threatening the interviewer, a legitimate danger because he still holds a position of authority in the Indonesian government. The film’s not just compelling viewing, it’s essential. This is what it looks like when the bad guys win, and survive to rewrite history.
The Martian (Fox)
A half-hearted defense of categorizing The Martian as a comedy, as the Golden Globes did, leading to its win in that category this past Sunday along with a Best Actor – Comedy or Musical award for star Matt Damon: It is funny, at times. As played by Damon, the film’s hero is defined by his indefatigable spirit. He’d rather make a joke, even a bad one, than give into despair. Humor allows him to keep the awfulness of his situation at arm’s length. Beyond that, nah, it’s not a comedy. It is, however, a rousing tale of survival grounded in the real science of Andy Weir’s surprise hit novel and brought to life by Ridley Scott’s remarkable direction. It’s certainly worthy of honors, if not necessarily the honors it’s earned.