Spree killer, rock star, average teenage skater. Director Gus Van Sant sees all three in much the same light: emotionless, affectless, blank. Numb characters for a numb generation? Or is Van Sant’s penchant for an aesthetic — an aloof, arty minimalism — blinding him to things like personality, expression, feelings. You know, the reason why a movie casts humans, not mannequins. It’s a difference that seems to be lost on the director these days.

“Elephant” covered the Columbine High School massacre with a blank teen gunman played inarticulately by Alex Frost. Then Michael Pitt was just as inaccessible (albeit plausibly) as a heroin-addicted Kurt Cobain in “Last Days.” Now we have Gabe Nevins as an alienated high-school kid in “Paranoid Park,” and he seems even more medicated than Cobain. Chosen through an open casting call on MySpace, Nevins seems to have been selected for his complete inability to make a facial expression.

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