“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...

Home is where we start from. This truth, and the title of one of D.W. Winnicott’s books, captures much unspoken about the impact our families have on how we develop. What happens to us in those environments sets the tone for differing separation struggles we see in young people, including Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) the main character in John Crowley and Nick Hornby’s film, Brooklyn. For Eilis, an Irish girl transplanted to Brooklyn in the 1950’s, the severe homesickness that settles in arises out of the emotional residues of a difficult mother. A Difficult Mother Eilis’ only parent is her mother (Jane Brennan)....

The Good: We see exactly who he is – since Donald Trump has only contempt for any kind of political correctness. Most of us are politically correct because it reflects what we believe. Yet, political correctness for political correctness’ sake could hide what someone really thinks. The Donald isn’t self-aware enough to hide. He’s also completely incapable of putting himself in anyone else’s shoes or knowing how they feel. He’s a narcissist and narcissists see no one but themselves. Megyn Kelly was right to ask – is his tactless and misogynistic behavior presidential? We should shudder to think that as...

Amy Elliot Dunne is a seriously troubled young woman. Rosamund Pike’s nuanced and chilling performance, in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, does her troubles justice. Yet, can we merely write her off as an unredeemable sociopath? If we follow some clues to what drove her to do what she did - is it even remotely possible to find a bit of sympathy? Clue 1: Traumatic Childhood Trauma comes in many forms. Amy’s trauma is this: she’s never as good as Amazing Amy, her parent’s fictional daughter. “Never as good as.” That’s crushing to a child. Now, she watches for this everywhere. Expecting it. Hiding...

The Academy Award winning film, Ida by Pawel Pawlikowski, is beautifully poignant visually, thematically, and psychologically. A haunting story of loss and the sometimes- unwinnable struggle against the overwhelming feelings involved. Loss is difficult under any circumstance. In Ida, we witness an aunt and niece estranged in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation in Poland. Both victims of almost inconceivable losses, they take very divergent paths in their attempts to survive. But, those paths also take them away from life instead of towards it. What does Ida tell us about ways of coping that don’t allow life to go on? “I’m...

Each time I watch a film, my psychoanalyst’s mind begins to construct the same kinds of understandings I might give to my patients. Here is a recap of my psychological thoughts on tonight’s Oscar Best Picture Nominees and a few films in other Categories. 2015 has been a great year for actors and directors at their very best. BOYHOOD:  Feeling Stuff Is The Point Of Life … Linklater’s interest in realities underscores the fact that life is anything but seamless - a pretty harsh and at times discouraging truth. But, the director also gives us a not-insignificant take-away gift voiced by Mason...

Even in the No Exit tragedy that Alzheimer’s is, bits and pieces of that old self still come through. Julianne Moore’s heartbreakingly real performance couldn’t show this more clearly. And, even, as Still Alice poignantly reveals – sometimes something flowers into bloom that wasn’t free to live fully before. A buried part of Alice is found. What makes that possible? Alzheimer’s doesn’t only rob its victims of their minds. It strips away psychological defenses. Words and intellect are Dr. Alice Howland’s life. She also uses them as barriers against feeling – for understandable reasons. Her mother and sister died suddenly and tragically...

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....