With her candidly quotable, cutely gif-able kookiness, on screen and off, there may be no actress who seems more of right now than
It's as if Lawrence is speaking for our moment now. Across movie after movie this year there have been expressions of
It's a wide range of films, from micro-budget indies to large-scale studio pictures, that show traces of these anxieties and also bear a range of responses, from anger and hostility to resignation, acceptance and even triumph. The wellspring of unsettled feelings that runs throughout many of these films presumably runs across many other industries as well. (Media and publishing, being perhaps the most obvious example.) The intertwining rumble of technological, economic and industrial change is bearing down on everyone across the social spectrum.
The film's most notoriously remarked-upon scene, and the one which creates a disturbing pivot point from a glossy world of sensual possibility to a sour machine of predetermination, is where a sleazy hustler (
It is difficult to know just how much emphasis to place on the fact that "The Counselor" is the first film by Ridley Scott since the suicide of his brother,
Blades' character delivers an emotional hammer blow to Fassbender's shady lawyer when he explains that "at some point you must acknowledge that this new world is at last the world itself. ... The world in which you seek to undo your mistakes is not the world in which they were made." At some point you have to live with it.
Engaging with uncertainty in a wholly different way,
With a disarming earnest quality, there is simply something refreshing and exciting in the way "Her" strives to make sense of what is happening right now with an eye to where we are all going.
A lonely man (
Also exploring the intersection of science and romance is "Upstream Color," in which the shared feelings, that sense of close togetherness, felt by a couple may be the result of more than just love. Masterfully edited by Shane Carruth and David Lowery, the film's slipstream storytelling technique, intuitive and abstracted, is a vital part of the experience, making this a film you feel as much as understand. Carruth is also the film's (deep breath) writer, director, cinematographer, producer, composer, male lead and distributor, making "Upstream Color" itself a kind of monument to artistic ambition.
If "Spring Breakers" ultimately finds something positive in this ambition to become whoever you want to be,
"The Bling Ring" creates a sensation of withered, hollowed-out blankness. And lest anyone accuse Coppola of being merely another symptom of the problem she depicts, she signals her self-awareness straight-away with her title card near the beginning of the film. As the camera glides over gaudy costume jewelry, her credit is bisected by one extra-tacky piece, so that the image on screen reads "written and directed by [rich bitch] Sofia Coppola." She gets it.
The most positive of these films on technology and transformation may be Andrew Bujalski's "Computer Chess," which is set at an early '80s convention/competition of computer programmers. There would be none of the advances in "Her" without the seemingly obtuse endeavors of the unrepentant nerds depicted here.
Shot on modified vintage black-and-white video equipment, the film looks back in time to contemplate the future, directly confronting, as does "Her," the notion of artificial intelligence and at what point do humans and machines diverge.
"Computer Chess" becomes a celebration of dreamers and weirdos following their passions with a spiritual fervor. When a programmer's machine seems to begin making decisions on its own, he notes with a hint of quizzical pride, "OK, that's kind of new."
These stories circle around a sense of transition and transformation, anxiety over how we interact and live our modern lives, and what comes next.
Yet in "Her," "Spring Breakers," "Upstream Color" and "Computer Chess," that fear does not by definition lead to a negative result. Instead many filmmakers are finding possibility and freedom, not a soulless dead end but an infinite future.