Category Archives: Shrink at the Flicks

What is the psychology behind the characters, plots, and emotional resolutions in popular classic and modern films?

The Times presents our guest columnist Dr. Alvin Burstein, Professor Emeritus, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to help answer these questions.

Dr. Burstein currently serves on the faculty of the New Orleans-Birmingham Psychoanalytic Center where he moderates their Film & Discussion Series.

Mission Impossible –Fallout

by Alvin G. Burstein There are two levels on which to enjoy this film. The first is its predictable employment of the features that characterize the whole series of movie adaptations of its television predecessor: the pounding musical theme, the amazing face masks, the fanciful technology, metal crunching car and motorcycle races, bloody hand-to-hand combat, […]

A Simple Favor

by Alvin G. Burstein The film’s opening credits are backed with a shifting array of images and pop songs, a neat foretaste of the complicated tale to follow. The story opens on an ongoing charmingly amateurish vlog (video-log). Stephanie Smothers is regaling her audience of mothers with a mélange of homemaking advice. We quickly learn […]

Three Identical Strangers: A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein This is a powerhouse film, deeply stirring emotionally, and raising profound questions about morality and the nature of truth. Three Identical Strangers is an indie film by Neon/CNN, produced by Tim Wardle. It won raves at this summer’s Sundance Film Festival, and is now beginning general release. I will do my […]

Hereditary: A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein It may have been Stephen King—and who would be better qualified—who distinguished among terror, horror and shock. Stories evoking these strong unpleasant feelings, paradoxically, can find an avid audience, a fact on which King has capitalized. The distinction is that terror implies a sense of personal fearful involvement; horror is a […]

A Quiet Place

by Alvin G. Burstein A Quiet Place is not just another horror flick retreading the well-worn War of the Worlds trope. It involves us in an exploration of the meaning of family, introducing themes of tenderness, loss and love. It takes us from horror to terror, involving us with a family that demonstrates courage and […]

Ready Player One

by Alvin G. Burstein The movie takes us to a dystopia set a few decades in the future. We visit The Stacks, a collection of futuristic, highrise, crowded, big city slums. The unsavory dwellings are populated by the survivors in an America ravaged by the consequences of global warming, a stagnant economy, over-population and unemployment. […]

The Black Panther A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein Once upon a time, centuries ago, in sub-Saharan central Africa, a group of tribes discovered a miraculous source of radioactivity, Vibranium. The competition for control of the lode was resolved when the leader of one of the tribes imbibed a tea concocted from an herb that the mineral had affected, acquiring […]

The Shape of Water

by Alvin G. Burstein My first reaction was to think of this film as a mash-up of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, with its fantastic and frightening monster, and Splash, with its mermaid romance. But more complexity is promised by the beginning and ending epigraphs that frame it: If I spoke about it – […]

The Post: A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein It could be argued that words printed on paper are passé and newspapers are a format in the process of becoming extinct. Warren Buffet, the Omaha sage of Wall Street, does not agree. He thinks that, despite the fact that the number of daily newspapers is shrinking, The New York Times […]

Lady Bird: A Review

Lady Bird: A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Lady Bird is a coming of age story, a bildungsroman. We follow its protagonist, a teen-ager discontent with herself and her situation, beset with a vague yearning to change her life and herself, as she struggles to free herself from what she feels confining her. The film […]

Murder on the Orient Express: Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express: Movie Review by Alvin G. Burstein The birth of a literary genre cannot always be dated without dispute, but there is a strong consensus that the first detective story was The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published by Edgar Allen Poe in 1841. The detective, C. Auguste Dupin, called his method “ratiocination,” disciplined thinking. The […]

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 by Alvin G. Burstein Unusual for a sequel, newly released Blade Runner 2049 is a darker and more complex film  than its predecessor, set thirty years earlier. Both used a dystopian setting to explore issues of exploitation and empathy as elements of the human condition. The first film was a striking description […]

It: Chapter One

by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD Well, Steven King, abetted by director Andy Muschietti and a stable of screenwriters, has done it again. His 1986 publication, It, has appeared on screen, and has audiences lined up waiting to experience horror. The plot is slick. A group of school kids, each of whom is weighed down by […]

Dunkirk: It’s About Time

By Dr. Alvin Burstein The events that unfolded at Dunkirk May 6 to June 4, 1940 were pivotal in World War II, and, perhaps, for modern times. The Nazi war machine had swept through most of Europe, trapping nearly a half million French, British and Belgian troops in a pocket on the French coast. Had the beleaguered defenders been […]

War for the Planet of the Apes

by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD War for the Planet of the Apes is a rich and textured film; it has impressive psychological, social and moral depth. It is about war, slavery, racism and loss at multiple levels. Civil war General Sherman told us, “War is Hell.” World War II General Curtis LeMay said, “War is […]