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.

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 […]

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 […]