JLaurenceCohen

JLaurenceCohen

J. Laurence Cohen is a graduate student in English. He enjoys writing about literature and film. He is currently trying to watch every movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics

5

Ex Machina and Her: Gender, Sexuality, and Artificial Intelligence

What do our representations of AI say about gender and sexuality? Recent films, like Her and Ex Machina, portray specifically female AI. Her presents Samantha as a questing mind with emotional needs similar to those of humans. Samantha has true consciousness in her ability to love Theo. Yet, because she is non-corporeal, she is not quite human. She is "post-lingual" as she says and not limited by space and time as humans are. She is a non-human person. Ex Machina’s Ava seems to pass the Turing Test when she proves herself capable of manipulation, deceit, and long-term planning. Unlike Theo, who desires a meaningful relationship with Samantha, Nathan uses Ava’s predecessors as sex-objects. Why do these films focus on female AI interacting with men?

  • Interesting to compare these two films together since they present such distinctly different takes on the 'fem-bot' trope, with 'Her' being an exploration of how genuine feelings can be derived from such a seemingly 'mechanical' relationship to the A.I., whereas 'Ex Machina' focuses conversely on how such feelings can be 'manufactured' into this. – CalvinLaw 1 year ago
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  • I think it's a great idea to compare the treatment of AI in these two films. Both are fantastic, in different ways. For research on the topic, I would say it would be wise to keep a few things in mind. As to why are they female?, where both written and directed by men? Probably, because most are in the industry. Perhaps its easier for a male writer to come from that perspective. Maybe there is a correlation between the way women are viewed in media that makes them easier to be seen as a robot? I think there are a few different ways you can take this, and it's going to require a lot of research. Good luck! – kaliveach 1 year ago
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  • I think, especially when exploring what it means to be sentient or have agency, discussing how robots that are coded female (assigning genders to robots is intriguing in itself) are treated would be fascinating. To go off what kaliveach said, could making the main female presence robotic dehumanize women, especially if the robot's programming is dependent on a male character's plans and instructions? There are a lot of approaches to this topic in terms of gender and sexuality. – emilydeibler 1 year ago
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  • To answer kaliveach's question, yes, both films were written/directed by men (Spike Jonze in the case of Her and Alex Garland in the case of Ex Machina). Ex Machina explicitly focuses on the problems of male geniuses creating "female" robots, whereas Her focuses more on the (in)compatibility between human and AI. – JLaurenceCohen 1 year ago
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  • Blade Runner should definitely get a mention, at least. Deckard has a similar sexual attraction to the replicant Rachael in the film as well as that love/rape scene in between the two. The replicants do seem to have some sort of sense of morality in the film and they are capable of emotion (anger, fear, love(?)). Also, there's the Voight-Kampf test which is fairly similar to the Turing test but deals with provoking emotion. – Jamie White 12 months ago
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  • A topic of great potential: the vastly differing portrayals of AI in both films present a wealth of possible approaches. Looking forward to reading this! – Matchbox 11 months ago
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The Disability Con

Explore the role of the "disability con" in films like The Usual Suspects, The Score, and The Ex. The disability con consists of a character feigning disability in order to appear harmless or pitiable. This is an example of what David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder call "narrative prosthesis." What is the effect of characters faking disabilities? How do these films alter the way we view disability? Are these portrayals harmful, helpful, or neutral?

  • Oh, interesting topic! I wonder, would "There's Something About Mary" fit into this trope, too? – cray0309 1 year ago
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  • Yes, There's Something About Mary is another good example of the disability con, as is Arrested Development: Maggie Lizer first fakes blindness and then pregnancy to manipulate others. – JLaurenceCohen 1 year ago
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The Rise of the Cross-Over Star

There used to be an almost unbridgeable gulf between critically-acclaimed roles in Oscar-worthy dramas and the roles in action movies. A new generation of stars, exemplified by Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, and Michael Fassbender, is pursuing both Oscar-level performances and roles in genre films. Jennifer Lawrence won an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook, but has also starred in X-Men and Hunger Games films. Michael Fassbender has played villains from Magneto to Macbeth, including a slave owner and a creepy android. Yet, beyond big-budget productions like Prometheus and X-Men movies, Fassbender has also starred in indie films like Frank. After critically-acclaimed roles in Inside Llewyn Davis and Ex Machina, Oscar Isaac has joined the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and X-Men: Apocalypse. Why are some of the most talented actors now drawn to major franchise films in addition to more reputable projects?

  • This might be more of a study in the rising legitimization of action films instead of the actors who are in them. – Cmandra 1 year ago
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Adaptations of Heart of Darkness

Conrad’s Heart of Darkness explores the mysteries of human corruption. Francis Ford Coppola adapted Conrad’s novel in Apocalypse Now, re-telling Conrad’s story in the context of the Vietnam War instead of the Belgian colonization of the Congo. Matthew Stover’s Star Wars novel, Shatterpoint, adapts Heart of Darkness with Mace Windu as the protagonist. Stover’s novel is set on Mace’s home world, the jungle planet of Haruun Kal, whose guerrilla uprising clearly echoes Coppola’s film. How do Coppola and Stover adapt Conrad’s novel? How does the portrayal of racism and colonialism differ in these appropriations? How do their endings diverge from each other?

  • Another interesting perspective that may be helpful is Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart," which was considered the indigenous perspective to Conrad (however, flawed this book might be in achieving such). – Paul Osgerby 1 year ago
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Toward A Theory of Time-Travel Movies

Why are we so fascinated with time travel? Time travel movies offer film makers unique possibilities, yet they also inevitably create confusing and contradictory plot malfunctions. Someone should consider the role of time-travel in such films as Back to the Future, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Project Almanac, Groundhog’s Day, Interstellar, Primer, Star Trek, Predestination, The Butterfly Project, Men in Black 3, and About Time. Which films simply use time-travel as a convenient plot device and which actually make it integral to the story? Why do some directors fail to account for obvious plot holes introduced by time-travel?

  • On the anime front The Girl who Leapt through Time, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya and also Steins Gate also talk about time travel. I'm happy to add my own thoughts to the discussion as well. – Jordan 1 year ago
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  • A simple answer is that time-travel, and the nature of relatively, is an ever advancing series of theories and understandings. We may never truly know how it all works, why it works, or what it's full limitations are. The two prevailing theories in regards to time-travel plot holes are that either 1: if you go back and change the past which changes the future, this new future is a fractured timeline that is separate from the original, meaning a different universe. Or 2: if you change the past, that past directly affects the future, and there's only one linear timeline. "Back to the Future" actually considers both of these theories to be one and the same. But who's to say that the timeline Marty found himself in after the events of the first film is actually the same universe he left from? A few other theories to consider are that A. if you go back and try to change the past, you are not actually messing with time, but are a direct participant in it, because the universe "wants" you to change the past. And B. Anything that you attempt to do in order to stop something from happening, no matter what point in time you are, the universe will conspire to stop you, or will conspire to cause you to do something, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Yes, there are obvious plot holes in some cases, but you'd have to get pretty creative and perhaps even technical in a discussion on this in order to really cover all of the possibilities regarding the logic and methodology behind creating a time-travel concept, and how it applies to a linear story. – Jonathan Leiter 1 year ago
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  • Of course time travel as we like to think of it is entirely impossible at this point in our history. Time is relative all over the universe, and time is always going forwards. There are ways to speed up time: to speed up the flow of it relative to another location. But we have yet to fully discover a direct way in which something or anything can travel backwards in time, let along a phone-booth, a police-box, or a Delorean. So all time-travel plots are completely fictional to begin with. The only logic we can really give them is logic that is likely archaic by this point, but only makes sense because we are naturally taught to understand things by a "cause & effect" relationship. – Jonathan Leiter 1 year ago
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  • I think people are so obsessed with time travel because we as human are so full of regret. I'm willing to bet most of us don't easily "move on" so to speak. What if scenario's plague us, and therefore, it's pretty natural that we obsess over the idea of going into the past and undoing all the things we regret or messed up. – Tatijana 1 year ago
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  • I believe time travel has continued to be a popular motif in contemporary film because it is one of the notable science fiction concepts that remains an impossibility in today's high-tech world. – mcmarkowitz 1 year ago
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  • Interesting...one might say that the story-telling potential for time travel outweighs the need to correct plot holes. – Candice Evenson 1 year ago
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Latest Comments

JLaurenceCohen

Gone Girl has two protagonists–Nick and Amy. By the end of the novel, we get both of their perspectives. Neither is blameless, but Amy is more violent and more manipulative than Nick. In fact, Nick’s biggest transformation in the novel is to become more suspicious, more conniving, more detail-oriented–more like Amy. Despite his many character flaws, by the end of the novel Nick is a more sympathetic character than Amy.

What The Audience Got Wrong About "Gone Girl"
JLaurenceCohen

Critics have super hero movie fatigue and they also have Zack Snyder fatigue. I really enjoyed Dawn of Justice.

Batman Vs Superman: What Went Wrong?
JLaurenceCohen

We never actually learn if Wilford was telling the truth about collaborating with Gilliam. He could have been simply trying to manipulate Curtis.

Mason seems to be a hyperbolic version of Margaret Thatcher.

Snowpiercer and Social Revolution
JLaurenceCohen

I would say that satire is motivated by a desire to change society, whereas parody simply entails imitation or exaggeration. Veep is a satire of political culture because it suggests that we would have a better society if politicians were less petty and egotistical. Frank Caliendo’s impressions of various celebrities are parodies, but not satire. The Colbert Report is both parody and satire because Colbert imitated a conservative pundit while also pointing out various flaws in our society.

The Art of Parody: Imitation With a Twist
JLaurenceCohen

My mistake. Thanks for fact-checking.

The Art of Parody: Imitation With a Twist
JLaurenceCohen

I think a lot of the most hard core Star Wars fans were not kids, but teenagers when the original trilogy was released. Since the films came out over a six year period, most people who were kids when A New Hope came out were teenagers or older when Return of the Jedi came out.

Star Wars: How The Prequel Trilogy Enhances The Force Awakens
JLaurenceCohen

We might consider 30 Rock a “spoof of a spoof,” since it’s inspired by the behind-the-scenes of Saturday Night Live.

The Art of Parody: Imitation With a Twist
JLaurenceCohen

Birdman is one of my favorite recent films. One of the key lines is when Riggan’s ex-wife tells him that he mistakes adoration for love. Riggan has fooled himself into thinking that he is trying to create a great work of art with his Carver adaptation, yet he is really acting as egotistically as he did when he was Birdman. Writing, directing, and starring in one’s own play is pretty narcissistic. When the play proves to be a success, he is on the verge of becoming Birdman by other means. He is still chasing adoration, instead of investing in love.

Riggan’s Birdman persona appears to tempt him to return to a glamorous, but self-destructive, lifestyle by making Birdman 4. In reality, the Birdman persona is tempting him to suicide, as we see when Riggan finds himself standing on the ledge, about to jump. Not only is Birdman the story of a man wrestling with his ego, but it dramatizes how self-assertion is self-destruction. You say that Riggan’s telekinetic powers symbolize his lack of control over his life, but I would modify that a bit. They represent the fantasy of control, the fantasy of total power over one’s circumstances. This fantasy, however, is ultimately self-destructive. The Birdman persona tempts Riggan to be Icarus, whose ambition led to his destruction. The film’s critique of superhero movies is that they indulge us in this collective fantasy of ultimate power, which is inevitably egotistical and self-destructive. I still love superhero movies, but it’s a pretty strong critique of the genre.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): Deep Longing and Superheroes