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.

The Great Dictator

by Alvin G. Burstein The jihadist massacre of Charlie Hebdo staff in response to their publication of a cartoon of Muhammad and the putative hacking by North Korea of Sony Pictures in response to a movie, The Interview, highlight searing questions about a complex of issues including ridicule, freedom of expression, hate speech, et al. […]

My White Plume

A review of Cyrano de Bergerac by Dr. Alvin Burstein The French poet, Edmond Rostand, published a play, Cyrano de Bergerac, in 1897. Rostand’s hero had a real life counterpart who railed against the church and state -a gallant soldier, a duelist, a poet and a political dissident. The protagonist in the play is a […]

Forrest Gump

by Dr. Alvin Burstein with J. Nelson It seems fair to say that Forest Gump has achieved the status of an American classic. Fans in an ABC poll voted the film the best of all Best Pictures over the last decades. The film manages to evoke laughter, heartache, and a sense of depth. This remarkable […]

12 Years a Slave

by Dr. Alvin Burstein Aristotle taught that the power of epic tragedy lies in its ability to stir the audience to pity and fear—catharsis. The emotional impact of 12 Years a Slave earned it three Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and British Film Academy kudos. Watching it I felt more than fear. I felt […]


The 1987 film, RoboCop, was a financial success, grossing over fifty million dollars in its domestic run. It was also well-regarded critically, being listed as one of the best one thousand movies ever made by the New York Times. It is not surprising, then to find the 2014 remake playing in current theatres. The original […]

Bah Humbug — A Christmas Carol

by Dr. Alvin Burstein The approach of Christmas stirs up memories—and a wish. Some of the memories reflect my confusions about the holidays as a child. Both my parents were Russian immigrants. Mother was an observant Jew. Although my father had spiritual interests reflected in his Masonic studies, he did not follow Jewish religious practices. […]

Hitchcock’s Suspicion (1941)

by Dr. Alvin Burstein Suspicion is the 1941 Hitchcock RKO thriller that earned Joan Fontaine an Oscar, and cast her co-star, Cary Grant, in an uncharacteristically dark role. Hitchcock is known, of course, as a master of the suspense. In this film, the focus, as its title indicates, is on the psychological tension generated by […]