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Movies for more than a good cry
12/24/2002
BY CASSANDRA BRAUN
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
It’s no mystery; we self-medicate with movies to fit our mood.
But by applying the techniques of cinema therapy, psychologist Birgit Wolz
says, we can gain much more.
Here are a few quick ways to use movies as a catharsis.
A laughing matter
Modern research confirms what we already know: Laughing makes us feel
better. If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, choosing a comedy can be an
emotional release.
Studies suggest laughing has physical benefits as well, like boosting the
immune system and decreasing ‘‘stress’’ hormones. And if you’re happy and
you know it, Wolz says movies can enhance that feeling.
Some sunny films include ‘‘Groundhog Day,’’ ‘‘Annie Hall,’’ ‘‘Babe,’’ ‘‘The
Brothers McMullen,’’ ‘‘Fried Green Tomatoes,’’ ‘‘A Fish Called Wanda,’’ and
‘‘Four Weddings and a Funeral.’’
Crying rivers
Sometimes the prescription calls for a ‘‘good cry.’’ Watching a movie that make
us weep, Wolz says, has a way of releasing repressed emotion, whether it’s
stress or sadness.
Again, recent science has a physiological explanation.
Researchers found that when people cry they release two important
neurotransmitters: leucine-enkephaline — one of the brain’s natural painrelieving
‘‘opiates’’ — and prolactin, which is released by the pituitary gland at
the first sign of stress.
Some good ‘‘bawlers’’ include ‘‘An Affair to Remember,’’ ‘‘Miracle on 34th
Street,’’ ‘‘The Color Purple,’’ ‘‘Grand Canyon,’’ ‘‘Terms of Endearment’’ and
‘‘Steel Magnolias.’’
Looking for hope
If you’re feeling a little helpless or discouraged, don’t take it out on your local
drive-through cashier. Live vicariously through cinematic heroes who have
fought the odds, or use their example to gain the courage to change your own
life.
Different people will identify with different characters, Wolz says, so find one
that fits you.
Some inspiring movies: ‘‘Forrest Gump,’’ ‘‘Chariots of Fire,’’ ‘‘Do the Right
Thing,’’ ‘‘Field of Dreams,’’ ‘‘Gandhi,’’ ‘‘The Shawshank Redemption’’ and ‘‘Erin
Brockovich.’’
Half-empty thinking
Sometimes it’s difficult to see the silver lining even if you’re trapped in a silverplated
mine, as is the case of Bill Murray’s character in ‘‘Groundhog Day.’’ Or
maybe you feel like Groucho Marx, who said he ‘‘would never wanna belong to
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Destination
any club that would have someone like me for a member.’’
Wolz suggests watching films where characters overcome personal doubt and
external obstacles to accomplish some goal.
Movies include: ‘‘Groundhog Day,’’ ‘‘Dead Poets Society,’’ ‘‘My Left Foot,’’ ‘‘Erin
Brockovich,’’ ‘‘Philadelphia’’ and ‘‘Welcome to the Dollhouse.’’
Let’s talk
Eh? Whad’ya say? Sometimes we think our mates or friends should be mind
readers. Or, we figure we’re talking about a concept unfamiliar to them. Or, in
many cases, our egos block us from hearing what they say.
In any case, Wolz says, many times the message breaks down most often with
the ones we love.
She suggests watching these movies as a couple, to jump-start a
conversation: ‘‘About Last Night,’’ ‘‘The Accidental Tourist,’’ ‘‘The Brothers
McMullen,’’ ‘‘The Doctor,’’ ‘‘He Said, She Said,’’ ‘‘Out of Africa’’ and ‘‘When a
Man Loves a Woman.’’
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