I am one of those who applauded Graham Moore for his moving and courageous acceptance speech when he won his Imitation Game Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. So, as a psychologist, when I read the critiques, I had to stop and think: Why? Why pick on things like – he isn’t gay? He used the word weird to describe his experience and that of others? That most people won’t be standing on that stage in their lifetimes? This happens for various psychological reasons. Sometimes old personal hurts, like feeling unheard and marginalized, get stirred up – and it’s easy to...

Many of us are talking about the timeliness of Selma in light of the tragic events in Ferguson, New York, and Ohio. The gripping message it has for all of us is to effectively garner our anger and fight injustice. Yet, director Ava DuVernay also has a passion for telling women’s stories. And, of course, at the heart of Selma is Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo). Her story reverberates in a powerful subtext. What does it take to be a woman married to a powerful and charismatic man on a mission? Some feel Coretta Scott King’s strengths are not emphasized accurately...

The burning question in John Maloof's poignant and heartbreaking documentary, Finding Vivian Maier is this: did she want to be found? As a psychoanalyst with years of experience working with similarly troubled and traumatized patients, I’d have to say yes and no. There were two sides to Vivian Maier; some saw one, some saw another; some saw both. Vivian Maier was locked up inside herself as tightly as her padlocked room. John Maloof opened the door.  Many of us walked in. But, do we know her? Those that had contact told varying tales of love, mean-spiritedness, and even abuse to the children...

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper tells the story of parental directives that live on long past childhood just as much it tells the horrors of war and its psychological costs. Chris Kyle can’t be a sheep and he certainly can’t be a wolf preying on the innocent – his dad would kill him for that. But, “finishing” the boy who picked on his brother? That’s what his dad expects: “Good. Then you know your purpose.” His purpose: to be a sheepdog hunting down the enemy. Not a sheep. A sheep is weak. Weakness is not tolerated – not inside Chris Kyle....

  “I don’t want the Raisinettes, I just eat around them” … that’s what Andrew Neiman, Whiplash’s main character, does with the hurts in his life. That’s what he tries to do with jazz teacher Terrance Fletcher’s demeaning and crude sadism in this psychologically riveting film. Fletcher’s cruelty has its hook and he finds it in Andrew’s mother’s abandonment. But, in the end, the complexly selfish motives driving Fletcher’s cruelty do not win out. Or do they? That’s the question Whiplash leaves us with. Yet, there’s another even more important question: how is someone like Terrence Fletcher able to bait Andrew and get...

Why does someone create an illusion of who they are? Wes Anderson, a master of psychological ironies, tells us quite a lot about that subject in The Grand Budapest Hotel. At the center of the film is M. Gustave trying to live as someone he is not. All around him are juxtapositions of barbarism with humanity, slapstick with straight-up serious considerations of loneliness, greed, and the sometimes-desperate need for love. Is M. Gustave immune to these feelings? Or is his carefully worn illusory identity an attempt to cover them up? We all have a story. Sometimes that story is deeply hidden...