Cinematic Diagnosis: The Town

First with “Gone Baby Gone” and now with “The Town” Ben Affleck seems to have reinvented himself as a skilled craftsman of Boston-based crime thrillers. Oddly enough, Charlestown, MA is home to the highest bank heist rate per capita in the country, and this fact is perhaps the inspiration for a well-paced, psychologically astute heist movie. Though assessment in film is not nearly as rigorous as it is in psychology what follows is a profile of "The Town's" strengths and weaknesses.

Inception Part III: A Filmmaker Disguised As a Psychologist

Critical and financial success has become a pattern for Christopher Nolan films, from his first mainstream movie, the fascinating "Memento," to his more recent work, a sophisticated revitalization of the Batman series. This pattern, I believe, is predominately due to one simple fact: Nolan is a psychologist disguised as a filmmaker.

Dexter: Emmy Awards, A New Season, Much Intrigue

A few nights ago "Dexter," the critically acclaimed hit series on Showtime, won multiple Emmy awards including Best Director. This hard news update offers the perfect opportunity to do two things:a. articulate my glee for the fifth season which is fast approaching (the first episode will air in late September) b. shamelessly advertise the recently released "The Psychology of Dexter" of which I and many other PT bloggers contributed a chapter

The Switch, Part II: Ingredients of the Hollywood Formula

In Part I of "The Switch" film critique I ranted about the generally negative impact of Hollywood Business on Hollywood Art. Here, I aim to analyze the underlying processes operating in films that critics and audiences view with distaste, particularly films like "The Switch" that exhibit unfulfilled potential.Quite simply, there is a template circulating within Hollywood studios that - in an actuarial manner - outlines the easiest, simplest road to cinematic success which simultaneously severs the quality and aspirations of the film.

The Switch: A Despicable Hollywood Formula Threatens A Strong Romance-Comedy

"The Switch" is a strong film. But what is most interesting about the film is not that it is strong, but that is perceived as weak. It has failed on both measures of film success - financial and critical - but the reasons for this have more to do with a invisible, despicable hollywood formula than the movie itself.

Therapy, Critiqued: A Modern "Myth of Mental Illness"

Published in NY Times Magazines this past week was an eloquent and underhandedly scathing attack of therapy by Daphne Merkin, an off-and-on consumer of therapeutic services for more than 40 years. In an article entitled "My Life In Therapy" she recounts useful, odd and counterproductive therapuetic experiences while pondering its efficacious nature.

The Other Guys: Autism And Histrionic Personality Disorder In Screw-ball Bro-Mance

“The Other Guys” is a screw-ball comedy that depicts two mildly unstable police detectives - Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg - who intentionally and unintentionally facilitate non-stop, goofiness and destruction. Will and Mark grapple with each other’s significant personality quirks, and along the way they exhibit clear psychological problems that comes attached with a very specific and consistent constellation of symptoms. 

Inception, Part II: A Psychologically "Real" Dream World

"Inception" entered theaters mid-summer amidst tremendous hype due to the bold and creative filmmaking tendencies of writer/director Christopher Nolan. In subsequent weeks, the box office ballooned with ticket sales alongside a unanimously positive critical consensus.

“Inception:” A Box Office Breaker and National IQ Barometer

"Inception" is going to be the best movie of the summer, perhaps the year, perhaps even the decade. It will make a lot of money. How much money it will make is a hot topic and, more importantly, the final figure may say more then you might think about National intelligence, that is, our collective IQ.

Eminem: Mental Health Underlies His Musical “Recovery” and ‘Relapse”

Eminem is back from the dead. After ending a long professional silence with a barely heard thump - last year's "Relapse" - Eminem has thundered back onto the scene of mainstream hip-hop with "Recovery." Once again, Eminem is ruling music charts, monopolizing radio waves, and raking in millions with hit-singles and highly publicized tours.Why?

Twilight Eclipse Part II: A Pop Culture Phenomenon, and Edward’s Superhuman Secret

Having watched each film of the Twilight Saga through a psychological lens, the following topics have emerged and seem to warrant further discussion.a. There is the theme of runaway emotions clouding the rational brain, as "Eclipse" demonstrates how love can not only make us blind, but stupid as well. b. There is the popular culture phenomenon known as Team Edward versus Team Jacob that has reached fever pitch c. There is Edward's continued superhuman modeling of a psychological strength known as self-regulation.

Twilight's Eclipse: When Cupid’s Arrow Shoots Poison

With the third installment of the Twilight Saga hitting the box office (and a stampede of adolescent girls following on its heels), there is much to talk about. In particular, there is the theme of runaway emotions clouding the rational brain, as "Eclipse" demonstrates how love can not only make us blind, but stupid as well.

Grown Ups: In-between Laughs Adam Sandler Dissects Bro-mantic Childhood

The latest Adam Sandler movie, "Grown Ups," hit theaters last weekend with an impressive degree of critical and box office success that has effectively reversed Sandler's recent trend of flops and duds.

Cyrus: Fights, Dysfunction and Poor Attachment All Around

On the suface "Cyrus" is a fun movie about the escalating war between a territorial son and a determined boyfriend. But "Cyrus" is also a movie about attachment. Yes, that's right, this light-hearted comedy ends up saying a whole lot (without meaning to) about the dark side of a universal developmental process that shapes personality and sets the stage for healthy or unhealthy living.

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart, Sarah Palin and Therapeutic Values

Jon Stewart provides comedic commentary on the news of the day. Sarah Palin is a politician who constructs a narrative about the state of the nation. Oddly enough and without realizing it, both individuals have a lot to say about a facet of the therapeutic process that emerges in new treatments like ACT which relate to the notion of values.

Friday Night Lights: Choking on Hate

A significant underlying mechanism of mental health problems - right up there with genetic predispositions for depression, alcoholism and schizophrenia - is something we can call ‘choking on hate.' Choked hatred is a problem that impacts many, perhaps all of us at one time or another. In a recent episode of "Friday Night Lights" this process is explored in a manner akin to therapy.

Robin Hood: Resiliency in Green Tights

So, Robin Hood, particularly the recently-released Ridley Scott version, embodies resiliency, a process that we should all know more about because it engenders awesomeness. No, awesomeness is not a technical research term, but you know what I mean. Before supporting my Robin-Resiliency argument, I should probably define what it is. To be resilient means to be adaptive, generally speaking, to cope well with little problems and to bounce-back from big problems.

Iron Man on the Couch

In the first "Iron Man" movie, the origins of a superhero are explained - technologically savvy Tony Stark emerges from a trauma-inducing desert cave with a kick-ass suit and an appreciation for the greater good. But in the recently released sequel, we learn more about the man behind the robot.

How I Met Your Mother: Popping the Psychological Bubble

What is therapy designed to do exactly? This question can be irritatingly complicated; the answer can be dizzyingly circuitous. On a broad level, one possible response is this: therapy is supposed to help those who feel as though the life they are currently living is significantly worse then the life they feel they are capable of living.

MTV’s Fresh Meat II: Adaptive v. Maladaptive Alliances

The Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Fresh Meat II is a reality television game show in which former contestants are paired with first-time participants to compete in weekly contests of physical and mental strength, while living under one roof and the constant eye of the camera. Powerful group psychology processes underlie successful participation in this show, and it begins and ends with two alliances  - one is adaptive, the other not so much...

Dating Enhancement: A New Movie Genre

There are many genres within which to categorize movies. On the most basic level there's comedies, dramas, horror etc. Think a little harder and you'll come up with dark comedies or romantic dramas. In recent years, this assessment process has been further fine-tuned. Log on to and you can find the following classifications: critically acclaimed inspiration movies, or period pieces of gay and lesbian dramas. We're moving in an interesting direction - an era of specialization where individual tastes are fully appreciated and plot types are increasingly expansive.

"The Wire:" What Makes For Great Television

In the world of great and lasting television, there are many ways to skin a cat. Which television shows deserve legendary status, and which should be kicked to the curb? In an age in which audiences have become smarter, more demanding consumers of television, useful means of deciphering the great from the non-great seems critical. There are many ways to skin a cat, but I wish to propose one important evaluation-based criterion.

The Dynamics of a "Modern Family"

Every family has a dynamic. Three particularly important ingredients to this dynamic - among many others - are assigned roles, inherited patterns of relating and invisible rules. These invisible processes serves as rules to the road of life, informing each member of the family as to how to act, how to respond to others, and what is expected.

The Psychology of Daily Show's Jon Stewart

The following is a brief arm-chair analysis of one of the most personable and popular public figures of our time. No, that's not an over-statement. With laughter in his eyes and a seriousness of spirit, Jon Stewart projects an intelligence and sense of purpose that not only feels misplaced on Comedy Central, but makes him the object of a personal fantasy (no, not the sexual kind). I want Jon Stewart to grill lawmakers every Sunday on Meet the Press, I want him to cross-examine presidential candidates during dramatic primaries. In short, I trust and respect him to be the filter between myself and the world.

Emotional Shifts in TV"s Latest Hit Drama

Last week marked the premiere of NBC's highly anticipated family drama "Parenthood," featuring Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham and Six Feet Under's Peter Krause. At first glance this show is a more melodramatic version of "Modern Family," and strives for an equal ratio of laughs and tears. From grandfather to grandson, each member of this extended, quirky family feeds the often dysfunctional, ultimately loving family dynamic. Most shows that sprout from sit-com land quickly fall to the middle of the pack, becoming a little too boring and forgettable. I predict that this show will stay afloat with success...because of the presence of emotional shifts.

Shutter Island: Separating Fact from Fiction

***Warning: This blog entry is one big spoiler alert, so if you haven't seen "Shutter Island" but want to then please refrain from reading this until you've paid your ten dollars and fifty cents."Shutter Island" is one of those films that rips the rug out from under your expectations with the frequency and intensity of a magican's act. Initially, we think we are watching a well-intentioned U.S. Marshall named Teddy enter an insane asylum/prison hoping to uncover the whereabouts of a recently-disappeared patient/inmate. Later, our strangeness barometer begins to beep and we recalibrate our assumptions. Now we think we are witnessing a brave and bereaved soul searching for damning evidence that will expose Shutter Island as an expensive, cutting edge torture chamber. Only during the final act (unless you've connected the foreshadowing dots) do we realize that the narrative is really about tragic psychosis and elaborate role play.

The “How I Met Your Mother” Secret Formula

Why is "How I Met Your Mother" so popular? The answer, I believe, loosely relates to issues of addiction theory, the need for fantasy and the show "Friends." Let's start with the last point. It's been awhile but I'd like you to recall the show, not so much the specific plot points or character types, but its enduringly popular nature. From television ratings to Emmy awards to zeitgeist impact, the show achieved unprecedented success. A logical implication to draw from this fact is that "Friends" uncovered a business model of irresistible psychological appeal. What else would explain why millions of people glued themselves to the weekly broadcasts of silliness for more than a decade?

Why We Love “Juno”

Some movies have a gravitational pull. Take Godfather for example. I've watched it ten times the most recent of which involved mindlessly channel-surfing across Al Pacino's stoic face. The next thing I knew two hours had passed and the laundry was fast wrinkling in the dryer. We loved The Godfather for showing us intelligence behind the violence. Why do we love Juno?We loved Juno so much that we turned a simple, low-budget story about a pregnant teen into an overnight box office sensation and Oscar winner that remains within the heart of the zeitgeist and is frequently cited by smart people making interesting points. How did this happen?

Friday Night Lights: Positive Institutions and Contagious Happiness

Positive institutions are all around us. In the literature they have been studied in various forms, from optimally operating businesses to adaptive familial systems. As civilized creatures we have constructed various institutions to solve big problems and protect from big dangers. We expect the federal government, for instance, to be a positive institution, to operate successfully in the pursuit of making the greater good even greater.

Part II: MTV's Jersey Shore

This post is a continuation of the Jersey Shore armchair analysis...The Mike PersonaStamp: The Successful Narcissist - The textbook definition of narcissistic personality disorder involves harboring an all-consuming belief that you are more important and special than everyone else around you, accompanied simultaneously by the need for everyone else to enthusiastically concur. Often time, below this "feeling like a unique and special the tenth degree" is a more profound and unconscious feeling of weakness that propels a perfectionist construction and tweaking of one's public image. Mike may not be the reincarnate of Narcissus, but he is flirting with the wrong kind of fame here. When the sun sets and he is at the club, Mike is the most focused and efficient man on the dance floor. He has one job - collect as many phone numbers and make-out sessions as possible. Ladies are not people to him so much as pieces of evidence supporting his inherent greatness, and these trophy moments must be collected.