Best Picture Nominees 2015

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 2015 and a few other notable films. 2015 has been a great year for actors and directors at their very best.


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 Sr. (Ethan Hawke), to his son: “What’s the point? Point is – you’re feeling stuff” READ MORE


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. READ MORE


Loneliness comes in many forms. James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything tells a few stories of loneliness – Stephen Hawkings’, Jane Hawkings, and Jonathan Hellyer Jones. Jonathan – choir director, family helper, and the man who became Jane’s second husband – captures vividly what can become loneliness’ black hole when he says: “I suffer from the tyranny of an empty room.”  READ MORE


“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.  READ MORE


What do we talk about when we talk about someone losing his grip on reality? When it comes to that question, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s brilliant film, Birdman, is meaty stuff for a psychoanalyst like me. Riggan Thompson, former action hero, has-been, failed husband and father, is struggling to change his life – against a Voice in his head … READ MORE


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?  READ MORE


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? … READ MORE


Peas versus carrots: thinking versus feeling. Which is the winner? Alan Turing’s mathematical thinking, as The Imitation Game shows, cracked Nazi Germany’s Enigma code during WWII and saved millions. Yet, the same man’s brilliant thinking couldn’t save him. Crippled by terrible psychological fears (far worsened by Britain’s criminalization of homosexuality), his crafty “imitation game” was meant to help him. But, did it?  READ MORE


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 … READ MORE


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 … READ MORE

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.