Pick of the Week: “The Witness“: My full review is here. The best documentary I’ve seen this year is this haunting and healing film about the notorious Kitty Genovese murder, in which a woman was reportedly killed on the streets of New York in 1964, her screams heard but unanswered by her neighbors. Decades later, Genovese’s brother Bill goes searching for the real answers, and finds that the original reports got a lot wrong. By grappling with the truth of her death, Bill is finally able to reclaim her life — the scene of him watching as an actress recreates the moments of his sister’s death on the exact spot where it happened is one of the most powerful things I’ve seen in a movie theater this year.
“Unforgiven“: I thought the new “Magnificent 7” was a lot of fun in the “movie-stars-wear-hats-and-shoot-guns” school of Western. But “Unforgiven” is an example of a much richer and deeper use of the same genre, in which Clint Eastwood explores how revenge and mythmaking built the American West every bit as much as perseverance and the frontier spirit.
“Once Upon a Time in the West“: Speaking of all-time great Westerns, Sergio Leone’s epic tale of revenge, featuring Henry Fonda as a cold-eyed villain and Charles Bronson as a harmonica-playing man of mystery is a classic. The near-silent opening 20 minutes along are a master class in building tension.
“Barton Fink“: The Coen Brothers’ fourth film is the blackest of black comedies, as a Clifford Odets-like playwright (John Turturro) comes to Hollywood and ends up in a maelstrom of greed and darkness.
“Quiz Show“: Turturro turned in another great performance as a socially awkward quiz show contestant who gets screwed out of his prize money in favor of a more photogenic contestant (Ralph Fiennes) in Robert Redford’s film.