The Gold Standard: How the movies -- past and present -- changed our lives
The TV shrink known as Dr. Phil calls his taste in movies “eclectic,” if not downright “schizophrenic.” He enjoys films with a strong psychological edge, whether they be pics he saw as a kid, like “Twelve Angry Men” and “Psycho,” or more recent fare.
” ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is a movie about how we define ourselves,” he says. “Do you sell out for someone else’s definition of success?”
He also enjoyed “Thank You for Smoking,” especially Aaron Eckhart’s portrayal of the lobbyist antihero, who tries to remain a good role model for his 12-year-old son. “It’s so hard to really capture a realistic, psychologically salient character, and that was brilliant, a really good depiction of the hypocrisy of that entire industry,” says Dr. Phil.
Which brings him to a top classic pick from 1971:
” ‘Play Misty for Me’ showed this psycho woman (Jessica Walter) going after Clint Eastwood, and she would call to entrap him. I’ve dealt with those patients who have that sort of crisis in their lives; it was really well done. It wasn’t schmaltzy or melodramatic, it was so realistic.”
Regarding more typical domestic dramas, Dr. Phil says he’d “rather have a root canal” than watch “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” “Kramer vs. Kramer” or “The War of the Roses.”
“Those films are well done,” he begins, “but I grew up in a highly volatile home. My dad was a severe alcoholic. And I did not find movies based on that kind of conflict interesting. It’s not what I go to a movie for. I could go home and watch that.”
Likewise, despite having worked for Oprah Winfrey as a trial psychologist on her Texas beef trial in 1998, he never harbored any particular affinity for the Paul Newman starrer “Hud.”
“I’ve seen that movie,” he recalls. “I grew up in that part of the country. I was around the oil and the cattle and the ranches and the blue jeans and the cowboy boots and the Cadillacs. The film didn’t have an impact. If you live it every day, it’s just life. It doesn’t expand your horizon.”
Much more significant, to him, was another early 1960s pic: “I saw ‘Judgment at Nuremberg’ when I was in the sixth grade, and at the time my experience of life extended to the nearest corner. You think you’re the center of the universe. But with that movie and its documentary depiction of this tremendous human suffering and loss of life and the trial, it really broadened my perception of the world. I was ignorant. Everything that goes on in this world was suddenly not all happening at my school and the Little League. The movie had a big impact.”