“She’s not autistic,” Caleb says to billionaire mad scientist Nathan, who’s asking him to evaluate the artificial humanity of his robot Ava. That’s an interesting comment for him to make, and runs through the heart of all the questions this film asks. While we’re trying to figure out if we can create electronic, artificial conscious and emotional beings, some of the humans these simulations are supposed to emulate don’t pass all the tests. As programmable and predictable as we humans are, we are still a bit beyond our own understanding, and maybe we really can’t replicate ourselves until we better understand ourselves.

The human experience is rife with darkness and horror. When most people encounter gross violence or monstrosities depicted in art, they may be shaken, sickened, intrigued and/or become desensitized to it, but a homocidal person may connect in a more sinister way not only to disturbing art, but to seemingly unrelated things. Art effects people, but it doesn’t cause people to kill people, or to commit crimes, and the artist isn’t to blame for actions people take after they encounter theart. That’s what I think, at least, but writer John Grisham once very publicly stated that he believed this wasn’t the case. He thought Oliver Stone, and practically everyone involved with the making and distribution of Natural Born Killers, should be help responsible for the deaths of people killed by “copycat” murderers. He argued that people can be “under the influence” of art to a degree where the artist should be held accountable. When art imitates life, and life imitates art right back, who’s really to blame?

Ariel is grand, but you don’t know the tale of the little mermaid until you’ve read Hans Christian Anderson’s version. His decadent and mournful twist on mermaid lore has shaped our imaginations for centuries, and shines a searing light on the pains of growing up, identity crises, and, of course, unrequited love, which can snap an indescribable place in the heart. Cloaking this particular hurt in a macabre mythological tale gets this feeling precisely right, especially if you throw in the problems of bisexuality in an especially unaccepting time.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s film Birdman, or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, is an electric fever-dream of a movie. It’s a swan dive into ego and madness shot with the kinetic motion of a seemingly unedited single shot.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!

He was said to be a charming scholar and heir to English nobility, but Edward Mordrake suffered from an uncommon malady that drove him to suicide at only 23. This Victorian legend was spread mostly by whispers and apocryphal texts and now circulates on the internet as boiled down “creepypasta” attached to a wax rendering of the mythical man driven to madness by a second “demon” face. Was there a real Edward Mordrake, or is this just fantasy?

“When you grow up, your heart dies.” That line from The Breakfast Club is so painfully true, it shatters me every time. The good news is that you can grow a new, improved one if you’re up for it. As we mature we learn hard truths about the world, and ourselves, our innocence shatters, and we feel betrayed by all the lies and misunderstandings we had as a child. We see how ruthless people can be, and how devastating hard it is to live your dreams or find any little scrap of happiness. Growing cold and bitter can seem like a perfectly reasonable response of a sensitive creature to a cruel world.

We all know grumpy older people, and may even feel that we are becoming one ourselves, but in reality it may actually be younger people, teenagers and twentysomethings, that struggle the most with blaming their problems on others, and having sour world views. You can make disillusionment work for you if you realize you don’t need illusions to begin with.