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 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 […]

Secret Window

Secret Window A Review by Alvin G. Burstein With conventional movie theatres still COVID risky, andhaving subscribed to a new dish based media provider, I havea plethora of movie options. A horror flick based on a StephenKing story and starring Johnny Depp tempted me, despite itsage—it is a 2004 release—and it turned out to be […]

Parasite

Parasite A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Parasite, a South Korean film, premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, becoming the first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or. It went on to win four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards (the Oscars), winning Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International […]

Beanpole

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This is a brilliant, daring 2019 Russian film directed by KatimirBalagov. It takes the American viewer to a place that many ofus have never been, one in which survival is an openquestion. The circumstance of its actors being unknown to usmakes them more real, gives their anguish more bite. […]

The Plague

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Any recommended reading list for the COVID-19 era wouldinclude Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year and Camus’The Plague. With theatre going still interdicted because of thevirus, I checked Google for on-line movies of either.Nothing for Defoe. A foreign language version of Camus’work was listed., But, for some reason, […]

Freud

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Growing up in the 1930’s, going to the movies was a special treat. Summers in Omaha, on the banks of the Missouri river could be hot, and the marquees would promise “20 degrees cooler inside.” The Italianate architecture of the Paramount theatre induced a sense of luxury, and stars […]

The Call of the Wild

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein For decades, H. L. Mencken adorned the public sphere as an acerbic social, political critic and literary critic. Said to have coined the term Booboisie, he opined, “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White […]

Knives Out

Knives Out A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Card five of Henry Murray’s Thematic Apperception testportrays a middle-aged woman looking through an open doorwith an expression shock and maybe anger on her face. Wegraduate students learning about the test called it TheSnoopy Mother card. Now, more sophisticated, I might retitleit Family Secrets. Adam Smith has […]

Little Women

Little Women A Review by Alvin G. Burstein This 2019 film is the latest version of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, first published in 1868 and reissued countless times in print, as well as formatted for television and the stage. Its many iterations speak for something compelling in the work. There is an important sense […]

The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker There was no way that I would miss seeing what was billed as the conclusion of the Star Wars series.  Particularly because of the intriguing title. Luke was dead, sacrificing himself as had his first mentor Obi-Wan—would he be resurrected? One of the movie’s strong points is a surprise-filled plot line, […]

Ford V Ferrari

Ford V Ferrari This movie, a story about how the Ford Shelby Mustang wrested domination of the fabled Le Mans road race from Ferrari’s race cars will appeal to motor heads and patriots. But its appeal is more complex than that.  It begins by taking us inside Ford’s corporate headquarters in the early 60’s where […]

Joker

Joker has been criticized as a splatter film likely to encourage copycat gun violence. The movie does—trigger warning— contain some gory scenes, but it is much more complex than an effort to shock or a celebration of violence. Symbolism, social criticism, psychopathology, the human need for affirmation, surrealism and a virtuoso acting performance make a […]

The Peanut Butter Falcon

by Alvin G. Burstein This 2019 movie is a striking contrast to the currency of splatter films, special effects and shock.  It is a frankly feelgood film with a focus on character and motivation. Many of its reviewers characterize it as a riff on Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the Twain classic […]

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

by Alvin G. Burstein “Once upon a time” is a phrase signaling the beginning of a fairy tale. Fairy tales are folk tales that persist in a culture because they embody and illustrate that culture’s values. They function as parables. So the title of this film invites us to look for its moral center. There […]