Intimate Strangers

Movies and television are obsessed with stories about the random connections among casts of strangers

One must never underestimate the prescience of Ashton Kutcher. Critics panned his 2004 thriller The Butterfly Effect, but its title popularized an obscure concept of chaos theory--that small acts can beget far-flung consequences, as a butterfly's flapping its wings can trigger a storm thousands of miles away. Deep stuff for the guy who punk'd Justin Timberlake.

Two years later, we have a butterfly infestation: movies and TV are obsessed with stories about the random connections among vast, multinational and multilingual casts of strangers. Crash won the Best Picture Oscar for a story of multicultural Angelenos brought into conflict by circumstance. This year...

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