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 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 […]

Piggy

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  […]

Everything Everywhere All At Once

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD Spring break at the University of Texas at Austin has become the occasion for a conglomeration  of presentations of interactive media, music and films called South by Southwest. Five films  were featured at the 2022 festival. One, Everything Everywhere All At Once, dominated the  awards, winning Best Picture, […]

Top Gun: Maverick

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD As a youngster, going to a movie was a special experience for me. Omaha could swelter in the  summer heat and in the nineteen thirties and forties the marquees of the theatres promised  twenty degrees cooler inside” which added to the attraction of the exotic decor and the […]

Cyrano

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD The heroic comedy Cyrano de Bergerac, written by Edmond Rostand in 1897, has had a  remarkable impact. Coquelin starred in the original 1897 stage version at Theatre de la Port  Saint-Martin in Paris. His performance was a triumph; the audience applauded for over an hour  after the final […]

Cow

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD From Ida Tarbell’s exposé of Standard Oil, to Upton Sinclair’s critical exploration of the plight of  packing house workers, to Ralph Naders’ blistering attack on automakers, America has a rich  tradition of what has become called “muckraking.” Some will see Andrea Arnold’s documentary  debut, the 2021 movie Cow […]

I’m Your Man

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This self-described Rom Com surprises with its wit, and its depth. The frothy wit with which it  abounds is contrasted by flashes of tragic despair. German written and acted, with subtitles, directed by Maria Schrader, it more than merits its many awards. The female lead, Maria Egert, won […]

The Father

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD Aristotle, in The Poetics, defined tragedy as a medium that arouses pity and fear in the audience, a kind of catharsis. Florian Zeller, in his debut as a film director, adapts his play, Le Pere, to the screen in a remarkable reminder of a fate that is soul-shaking […]

Slalom

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein Five years in the making, Charlène Favier’s debut 2020 film, Slalom, reflects contemporary “Me, Too” concerns. Brought into higher relief by the recent Senate testimony of several Olympic women gymnasts, and the concern about the uncertain fate of Chinese tennis champion, Peng Shuai, the movie is unsettlingly relevant. Watching […]

Atonement

A Review by Alvin G. Burstein, PhD This 2007 film begins in pre-World War II Britain. It has two foci of action. One is Briony Tallis,  who bookends the film, appearing first as a thirteen-year-old, precociously involved in writing a  play, and again, three or four decades later, as an established writer. She is being […]