Feb 21

Movie Taglines: “Be Very Afraid” (Or Not)

Movie taglines have been used over the years by film studios as catchy ways to draw potential viewers’ attention. But did you know that many of the most memorable and effective movie taglines are those that play on our fears and anxietiesTagline Guru conducted a survey among advertising, marketing, and branding professionals, who came up with a top 100 movie taglines. Get a load of the top five:

  1. Alien (1979): In space no one can hear you scream.
  2. Apollo 13 (1995): Houston, we have a problem.
  3. Poltergeist II (1986): They’re back.
  4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): We are not alone.
  5. Jaws 2 (1978): Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.

See also Number 8, The Fly (1986): Be afraid. Be very afraid. Similar in nature is 16, Apocalypse Now (1979): The horror…the horror.

On the other hand, some well-known scary-type movies have gotten taglines that are actually more satirical or witty. Number 20 is Psycho (1998): The classic story about a boy and his mother. Number 28, Mommie Dearest (1981): The biggest mother of them all. Number 36, Jaws: The Revenge (1987): This time, it’s personal.

Some of the movie taglines in the top 100 address Minding Therapy-type issues:

  • Number 34, Forrest Gump (1994): Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.
  • 51. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): Family isn’t a word, it’s a sentence.
  • 79. Waiting to Exhale (1995): Friends are the people who let you be yourself…and never let you forget it.

Finally, the following list includes movies previously cited on Minding Therapy, several of which made it into the survey:

  • At number 24, The Shawshank Redemption (1994): Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.
  • Number 35, Groundhog Day (1993): He’s having the day of his life…over and over again.
  • Number 48, The First Wives’ Club (1996): Don’t get mad.Get everything.
  • Number 50, Postcards from the Edge (1990): Having a wonderful time, wish I were here.
  • Number 54, As Good As It Gets (1997): A comedy from the heart that goes for the throat.
  • What About Bob? (1991): Bob’s a special kind of friend. The kind that drives you crazy!
  • Good Will Hunting (1997): Some people can never believe in themselves, until someone believes in them.
  • Prime (2005): She thought she could tell her therapist anything. But she’s about to discover that she’s already said too much…
  • Little Miss Sunshine (2006): A family on the verge of a breakdown. Also, Everyone just pretend to be normal.
  • 50/50 (2011): It takes a pair to beat the odds.
  • Silver Linings Playbook (2012): Watch for the signs.
  • Side Effects (2013): One pill can change your life. Also, This is your insanity on drugs.

Screen Crush provides an additional list of recent movie taglines that worked well. Below are several I’ve addressed on this site:

For whatever reasons, taglines are no longer as commonly used, but below are a few from films I’ve seen and/or addressed more recently:

Speaking of Barbie, although I believe awards shows like the Oscars are over-valued, I’ll just add, given the recent snubbing by the Academy of Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie for their respective roles while nominating Ryan Gosling, can “Kenough already” be a new favorite tagline (of sorts)?

Feb 01

“Groundhog Day” Revisited

What would you do if there were truly no tomorrow, if you knew everything that was going to happen on a given day and nothing you did ever had even a hint of consequences? Kenneth Turan, on a key question posed by Groundhog Day (Los Angeles Times)

Groundhog Day (1993), starring Bill Murray as Phil Connors, a narcissistic TV weatherman who’s somehow been doomed to relive one February 2nd indefinitely, “has gradually achieved the status of beloved. The American Film Institute rates it No.34 on its list of all-time funniest movies…” (Michael Booth, Denver Post, 2007).

Watch the trailer below:

So, what does Phil actually do upon realizing his terrible plight? Janet Maslin, New York Times, lists some of his ensuing actions: “Phil eagerly explores every self-destructive possibility now open to him, from jumping off buildings to smoking cigarettes to overeating and refusing to floss; at one point he even casually robs an armored truck, just to see if he can. ‘Well, what if there is no tomorrow?’ he anxiously asks someone. ‘There wasn’t one today!'”

Phil also, though, consults a therapist—one who’s, of course, ill prepared to handle the unusual problem. In fact, much to Phil’s chagrin, at the end of the session the shrink can only offer words that are so not pretty: “I think we should meet tomorrow.”  (See a brief clip below.)

Phil does eventually get a better handle on the repetitive story of his life. But what’s the lesson of Groundhog Day?

A few years ago Ryan Gilbey (The Guardian) got the following quote from David O. Russell, director of Silver Linings Playbook (among other movies), who claims Groundhog Day as one of his all-time faves: “Very much like Silver Linings Playbook, it’s about someone fighting their demons using all that humble, difficult, baby-steps hard work that it takes, but doing it in such a hilarious way. It shows that until you wake up and get things right, you’re gonna live that stuff until you die: the same emotional prison every day. Phil has to go through every incarnation of what he thinks love is until he really gets it.”

Jennifer M. Wood, Mental Floss, goes beyond this, naming eight different “creative interpretations” of the film. The six I won’t be highlighting:

  • Bill Murray as Savior
  • Punxsutawney Phil as the resurrection of Jesus Christ
  • Punxsutawney as Purgatory
  • a metaphor for Judaism
  • a comparison for military boredom
  • economic theory

The two in which I have more interest: a metaphor for psychoanalysis (or therapy of any kind, I might add) and a means of self-help.

Many psychoanalysts apparently told the film’s director and co-writer, Harold Ramis (1944-2014), of their endorsement. Ramis: “Obviously the movie’s a metaphor for psychoanalysis, because we revisit the same stories and keep reliving these same patterns in our life. And the whole goal of psychoanalysis is to break those patterns of behavior.”

More from Wood on this topic:

In 2006, the International Journal of Psychoanalysis printed an essay entitled, ‘Revisiting Groundhog Day: Cinematic Depiction of Mutative Process,’ which explained that the film ‘shows us a man trapped by his narcissistic defenses. The device of repetition becomes a representation of developmental arrest and closure from object relatedness. Repetition also becomes a means of escape from his characterological dilemma. The opportunity to redo and learn from experience—in particular, to love and learn through experience with a good object—symbolizes the redemptive, reparative possibilities in every life.’

And motivational speaker Paul Hannam, who wrote The Magic of Groundhog Day (2008), uses the movie as a means of self-help. His book aims to teach readers to “learn how to unlock the magic of the movie to transform your life at home and at work” and to “break free from repetitive thoughts and behaviors that keep you stuck in a rut.”

Feb 23

Bad Therapy Boundaries and Beyond On TV and Film

Looks as though How I Met Your Mother has finally found a way to get rid of Kevin, he of bad therapy boundaries, he who never should have been dating his former client Robin.

Let me make this brief: Before knowing that she can never have kids, Kevin proposes. Robin discloses. He again proposes. She accepts. She discloses she doesn’t want kids either. He’s unfazed. She insists he really thinks this through. He un-proposes. Done.

So, this has gone the way of all of those inappropriate shrink/client relationships we’ve seen on TV or in movies that eventually crumble because in the end the client realizes he or she’s been exploited or because of other negative effects on the client’s well-being or…

Whoa. Wait a minute. Wait a darn minute. That actually never happened on HIMYM, and…well, has it ever happened anywhere on TV? In the movies?

Back around 1993, a study regarding therapy boundaries in U.S. movies showed that there were 22 that featured female therapists having sexual relationships with male clients; eight had male therapists getting involved with female clients. (In real life, by the way, more male therapists take advantage of female clients than the other way around.)

The psychiatrist behind this film research, Glen O. Gabbard, states: “Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the movie The Silence of the Lambs was probably more ethical than most screen psychiatrists–he only ate his patients.” (For more info, see the second edition—1999— of Gabbard’s book Psychiatry and the Cinema, cowritten with his brother Krin, a literature professor.)

As stated by Dr. Ofer Zur, Ph.D., author of Boundaries in Psychotherapy: Ethical and Clinical Explorations (2007) on his website:

Sexual relationships between therapists and current or recently terminated clients are always unethical and often illegal.

Whereas in real life, most clients who’ve become lovers of their therapists are significantly harmed emotionally, most of the celluloid clients and shrinks seem to suffer no such thing. Many of these films, in fact, have even been billed as exciting “romances” by their producers. And, Zur adds:

What is interesting about some of these movies is that they depict the sexual relationships as effective in promoting health and healing.

Fortunately, more and more of the public is aware that it’s wrong for therapists to develop romantic or sexual relationships with clients and/or clients’ family members. One way that I see this every day, in fact, is in the disproportionately large number of hits to this blog by people searching for info about whether or not the therapist in the movie 50/50 and Kevin on HIMYM have been unethical. It’s as though these searchers already know the answer but need some validation.

I don’t remember if the following scene from The First Wives Club (1996) happens before or after Annie (Diane Keaton) finds out that her therapist (Marcia Gay Harden) has become involved with her husband—probably before—but, in either case, it may serve as some small comfort to those who’ve felt betrayed by their shrinks:

Jan 11

Sidney Freedman, “M*A*S*H” Psychiatrist

Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice. Pull down your pants, and slide on the ice. Psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman, M*A*S*H

President Obama announced last week that services for wounded warriors (including mental health programs) and military families are top priorities.

What about the availability of mental health services during the war? Have those serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan received adequate mental health services while there? Unfortunately, indications (both anecdotally and from various official reports I’ve found online) are that such services have been deficient.

Dr. Sidney Freedman (Allan Arbus) was the psychiatrist who paid regular visits to the Army hospital unit of M*A*S*H (1972-1983), the comedy/drama TV series that was set during the Korean War of the 1950’s.

His first visit to the setting, according to a fan page, was related to Klinger. “[Klinger] was aiming for a discharge (as always). After Freedman had finished the report, he quietly took Klinger in for an interview and told him that while he is obviously not mentally ill, Freedman was willing to declare him transvestite and a homosexual. This label would not leave him, as he put it: ‘From now on, you go through life on high heels.’ Klinger vociferously denied it: ‘I ain’t any of those things! I’m just crazy!’ Klinger’s discharge was uniformly dropped and Freedman left the camp.”

Although I’m a fan of Freedman’s wry sense of humor, progressive politics, and ability not to be fazed by things others may consider bizarre, I do need to point out that a schizophrenia joke written for this character has probably helped perpetuate the myth that schizophrenia consists of having multiple personalities. From the scene:

Sidney Freedman: I’d like to go on talking to you, Flagg, but with your schizophrenia I’d have to charge you double time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve already kept Jesus waiting five minutes.

On the other hand, if the “Jesus” who’s waiting for Freedman is someone who actually believes he’s Jesus Christ the Lord and Savior, that someone is (probably) delusional and hence might actually have schizophrenia.

Nov 01

“The Prince of Tides”/”A Dangerous Method”

Kind of continuing the Halloween theme, today I present clips from two movies, The Prince of Tides (1991), and an upcoming release, A Dangerous Method (2011). The scariness today, though, relates to therapist boundaries.

#1.  The film adaptation of the best-selling novel The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy could have been better in many ways. But, even though many readers were disappointed, it did receive a good number of film/acting award nominations. Here’s the trailer:

So, did you get the picture from that? Nick Nolte‘s married character, Tom Wingo, travels to New York and tries to help Dr. Lowenstein (Barbra Streisand) help his suicidal sister. In essence, he’s a family member also receiving therapeutic services from Lowenstein—but can you tell that she doesn’t appear to see it quite that way?

The following brief clip zeroes in more closely on a pivotal point in the evolution of Wingo and Lowenstein’s inappropriate relationship:

This film is scary because (A) Nick Nolte actually earned a Golden Globe for this, (B) many of the movie’s fans thought it was a great romantic drama, (C) the film was actually billed and marketed as a romantic drama, or (D) the therapist violates major ethics.

If you answered any or all of the above, well, at least you agree that this clip is scary.

#2.  A Dangerous Method is new and won’t be released in the U.S. until 11-23-11. Its plot borrows from a chapter in psychoanalytic history when Freud mentored Jung. This excerpt from the Variety review (the film was seen at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year) further introduces it:

Less concerned with the treatment of mental illness than with the way social norms encourage the suppression of human impulse, Christopher Hampton’s exceptionally coherent, literate script (adapted from his play “The Talking Cure” and John Kerr’s 1993 book “A Most Dangerous Method”) hinges on an unorthodox experiment Jung undertook with Sabina Spielrein, a Russian Jewish woman whom he treated for hysteria, and who later became a significant psychoanalyst in her own right.

Now, watch the trailer to see what kind of “experiment” was allegedly undertaken:

Reviewer Shaun Monro recently called this movie “…a well-acted skewering of overreaching psychology.” Overreaching. Good word.

Interesting that we have so few movies that attempt to represent the field of psychotherapy, and when we do, so few of them are not about the violation of therapist boundaries and ethics.

And that’s scary in and of itself.