The big question in Josh Kreigman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary Weiner is: “What’s wrong with Anthony Weiner?” Why would a political official destroy his reputation and his career? Why would he humiliate his wife? Lawrence O’Donnell of MSNBC’s Last Word posed this million-dollar question to Weiner on national TV: “What is wrong with you…I mean psychiatrically?” O’Donnell’s question is exactly what everyone is asking. It’s a complex question about a sadly troubled man. The answers aren’t easily visible. Watching Weiner, we see Anthony Weiner pulled into a vortex of something dark and disturbed in his mind; something he can’t...

LOVE – Is it real? What does it take to make it work? The Netflix series Love by Judd Apatow, Paul Rust, and Leslie Arfin raises some important questions. What takes an attraction farther than a romantic fantasy? What allows two people who’ve been hurt in the past to get beyond the fear of being hurt again? Sometimes we don’t know how to ask these questions. Sometimes we ask them after a relationship fails. Yet, there’s always a next time and it’s never too late to find the answers.In ten episodes, we get to know Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust) and Mickey...

“I sing because I can experience a lot of feelings…” Janis Joplin had no one to hear her feelings. The most chilling part of Amy Berg’s documentary, Janis: Little Girl Blue, is to witness the cold formality of Mother and Father Joplin. No one could miss Janis’ hunger for love. Less obvious were the roots of that hunger: the trauma of a childhood with impenetrable parents. Dorothy and Seth Joplin, in their uncanny similarity to Grant Wood’s "American Gothic” farmer with pitchfork and wife, were emotionally remote and had no warmth. Neither could hear Janis’ feelings of loneliness and hurt. Janis...

What is lurking below the surface of a highly intellectualized philosophy professor’s emotional control? We find out in Losing Ground, filmed in 1982 but recently released by Milestone Films, noteworthy for being the first feature length film produced and directed by a Black American woman. Kathleen Collins, who died an early death of cancer in 1988, became passionate about film while doing graduate studies in literature in Paris. Collins believed a screenplay is a film essay and wrote Losing Ground with the carefully crafted point of view at the heart of any good piece of writing. Her talent for cinematic...

Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2016 Oscar nominated documentary, The Look Of Silence, is a riveting exploration of the Indonesian genocide’s complicated psychological aftermath. In 1965-1967, the military dictatorship killed over a million assumed Communists opposed to their rule. In the film, we follow the Rukun family, centered on 44-year-old Adi, all unable to grieve the brutal murder of son and brother, Ramli. This loss has destroyed their lives. Adi, an optometrist, approaches the killers on the pretext of examining their eyes, trying to make sense of his brother’s death. Facing the past is the only way to break free of a very...

Asif Kapadia’s 2016 Oscar winning Best Documentary, Amy, is a deeply truthful portrayal of the troubled psychological life of 6-time Grammy winner, Amy Winehouse. Amy predicted fame would drive her mad and, in a sense, it did. What the film makes clear to me, as a psychoanalyst, is that her complex fear of losing what she had, whether musical fame or love, was the real problem. We touch the surface of Amy’s fears in these lyrics from What Is It About Men: “my Freudian fate. History repeats itself. It fails to die.” The anxieties rooted in her “Freudian fate” were...

Director Ridley Scott's film, The Martian, tells the story of NASA astronaut Mark Watney’s (Matt Damon) accidental abandonment on the barren planet of Mars. Early childhood abandonment also creates a desolate emotional landscape. People can’t be trusted. Hope is fractured. On Mars, Mark has two things to turn to: the distasteful music of Commander Lewis’ (Jessica Chastain) 1970’s disco classics and his own ingenious tactics of survival. For anyone abandoned, these are serious questions: is clinging to fierce self-sufficiency the answer? Or is human connection that has already failed a too risky music to trust? Abandonment An unexpected and violent dust storm...

Steven Spielberg's powerful film, Bridge of Spies, asks some compelling psychological questions. Could there be two more different men than a Brooklyn lawyer in 1957 at the height of the Cold War and an alleged Russian spy – or are they different at all? And, if they aren’t, what is it exactly that forms an unexpected human bond in the face of hostile forces trying to bring them down? With James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) and Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) that connection boils down to one complex thing: being A Standing Man. What it means to be A Standing Man is at the...

There are opportunists in the mind that take over in states of emotional deprivation. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) in Director George Miller's western style post apocalyptic film, Mad Max:Fury Road, is a good example. As a psychoanalyst who treats severe depressive states, I found this film a fascinating allegorical tale of the conditions under which mental tyrants take over, as well as the kinds of control they exert. We see in the characters of Max (Tom Hardy), Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and Nux (Nicholas Hoult), what it takes to fight these tyrannical forces and also what causes that fight, in some,...

As much as I loved Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, I can’t say I felt the same about The Revenant. I know the film won big at the Golden Globes and has received Oscar nods for Best Picture and Best Actor. Perhaps that’s because a fantasy lives deep inside us about exacting revenge where we believe revenge is due. Still, spending close to 3 hours watching the agonies of a man who’s brutally mauled by a bear, who can’t catch a break, is left to die by supposed friends, and has to endure one gruesome circumstance after another became almost unbearably tedious. Yet,...