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.

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 […]

Get Out: A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD Jordan Peele, well known for acting in comedy skits for fifteen years, has earned his chops as director in his first film, Get Out. The film is a tasty dish, an innovative combination of horror, comedy and social commentary. The film opens with an amuse bouche, the relationship of which […]

Wonder Woman Redux

by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD   I got a kick out of this film on many levels. The first is its portrayal of bang-up battles between unambiguous villains and good guys, both human and divine, amped up by super-duper special effects. The movie also involves an old-fashioned sweetheart relationship, nicely seasoned with sprinkles of humor, between its attractive […]

Alien: Covenant

The film Alien: Covenant is a multi-layered experience. One level is the predictable body-bursting horror flick. But there is much more: a computer named Muthur that takes care of everything, the anomalous introduction into a sci-fi adventure of John Denver singing Take Me Home and an exploration of the evil twin theme. All these intertwine in a Gothic interpretation of […]

John Wick Chapter 2

This film, a sequel to John Wick, is remarkable. The first film tells of a retired hit man who is lured back into practice with the promise of compensation that will permit him to retire and to marry. He lives up to his reputation and then some. He is not so much an assassin as a murder machine, cementing […]

Mind Over Matter: A Review of Split

The theme of several personalities fighting for control of the body they share has a long history in imaginative fiction as well as in psychological theory. In October 1919, The Journal of  Abnormal Psychology carried reports by Morton Prince and Charles Corey of cases of multiple personality. It is worth noting that Robert Louis Stevenson had published The Strange […]

Deepwater Horizon

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Watching this film gave me a new perspective on the tragic explosion of the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico April 10th, 2010. At the time, the newspaper headlines made it clear that it was a major oil spill, that lives were lost, and that major ecological damage […]

All The Pretty Horses

by Alvin G. Burstein I have been addicted to oaters ever since Shane and High Noon. Being, in addition, a fan of actor Matt Damon and author Cormac McCarthy, I decided to take a belated look at All The Pretty Horses. The movie begins with striking scenes of a vanishing West and herds of wild […]

The Revenant

To say that this film is gripping is an understatement. It confronts us with realities that cry for denial. To what Freud called “the crushingly superior force of nature” the movie adds the human capacity for brutish betrayal and exploitation. And the story unfolds against a backdrop of classic beauty that highlights the gouts of blood and pain it frames.

A Wing and a Prayer: Too Big to Fail? Review of It’s A Wonderful Life

by Alvin G. Burstein With Christmas approaching, I found myself wanting to re-view the 1946 film, It’s A Wonderful Life. It is said to be director Frank Capra’s favorite film, one that he screened for his family each Christmas season. Not just Capra’s favorite, it is listed as the most inspirational American film of all […]

Out of the Past, Thundering Hoof Beats: Review of Bridge of Spies

by Alvin G. Burstein Holy Moley, a thriller without special effects, splattered gore or colliding cars! Much makes this Spielberg/Hanks movie both remarkable and memorable. It deftly recreates the 1950’s and 60’s, when Kruschev and Eisenhower were fumbling on the edge of open conflict and the Berlin wall was going up. Early in the film […]