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.

Bah Humbug

A review of  by Alvin G. 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 […]

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 – […]

Dealing With The Devil: A Review of Black Mass

by Alvin G. Burstein The biopic’s title prepares us for a consideration of moral perversion. Johnnie Depp’s chilling portrayal of James (Whitey) Bulger, the Boston mob boss, his bloody career, and his relationship with the FBI provide that opportunity, raising questions, some of which go unanswered. The film describes Bulger’s transition from a member of […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein BlackBerry premiered February 2023 at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival. Although it won no awards there, following its release to theatres and its on-line streaming, it attracted a great deal of positive comment. Directed by Matt Johnson, who also played one of the three main characters, Doug Fregin, […]

RRR: A Review

by Alvin G. Burstein Although I miss the silver screen and the ambience of the movie theatre, I have found that streamed television has given me access to films that I might not have encountered in a theatre. RRR, released 2022, is one of those. When I learned film writer and critic Robert Cargill described […]

The Banshees of Inisherin

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD In 1963, when I moved from the University of Michigan to the Neuropsychiatric Institute of the  University of Illinois, I met one of the last giants of Psychology, Ernest A. Haggard, who held a  professorship there and a prestigious career investigator’s award from the National Institute of  Mental […]

A Christmas Story/A Christmas Story Christmas

The holiday season is upon us, and I began thinking about a Christmas film. A few years ago, I  reviewed several versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the December issue of Psychology  Times, and on another occasion It’s a Wonderful Life. It came to my attention that there is a third Christmas classic—one that […]


A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD I need to begin this review with a disclaimer: this film is disturbing, both because stirs up the deep prejudice about the body dysmorphia we call obesity and because of its plot complexities. It is troubling in a third way as well. It combines acting so convincing that […]

The Batman

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD In the early 1940’s while I was jerking sodas in Canar’s, a skid row drugstore in Omaha, one of  my ancillary responsibilities was serving as guardian of the rack displaying comic books. I was to prevent the teenagers who frequented the store from reading the magazines on display  […]