Not everything shrinks with movie therapy

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Stuffed into the sofa, you can't move after the over-indulgence of Christmas and are thus trapped by the horrors of the festive season. Worse, you only realise this when you have just watched with horrible fascination 20 minutes of the World's Strongest Man competition.

You cannot budge until you know whether the Swede, the Dane or the Finn will lift more slot machines, run round and round carrying a rock (an ancient Icelandic custom apparently) and push a truck across the finishing line first. (For your information, I think it was the Finn but all the muscles started to look alike after a bit.) That is the nightmare of Christmas.

Watching Christmas specials or films you've seen zillions of times (I made a personal vow not to stay up for Airplane this year) always seemed an occupational hazard of the season. But thanks to Bernie Wooder - Britain's first film therapist - I've come to look at this in a different light.

Mr Wooder prescribes various films to help people come to terms with their problems. Recently MGM asked him to endorse The Wizard of Oz which has just been rereleased. He was happy to agree as he thinks characters in the film are useful role models.

The idea is that if you are woolly-headed and unintelligent you identify with the Scarecrow; mechanical and going through the motions you bond with the Tin Man; tense and frightened you concentrate on the Lion and thus work out how to deal with your inadequacies. As I tend to go through all those emotions within half an hour of reaching work, I came to the conclusion I should be watching The Wizard rather than The Big Breakfast every morning.

For most people, New Year's resolutions, apart from putting the lid back on the toothpaste and not drinking more than the level recommended by the Department of Health, usually include some sort of inner improvement. However most of us never manage it. There is always therapy but is it worth waiting 10 years to unscramble your psyche and then find that you've managed to scramble some new parts of it in the process?

So Mr Wooder's film therapy may be the answer: films rarely last more than two hours and bingo - a newer better you! For The Wizard of Oz is not the only film which Mr Wooder feels can help. He recommends The Full Monty for those who are feeling the problems of redundancy, Pretty Woman for those with boyfriend problems (so does that mean become a hooker, girls, and he'll fall in love?) and Rebecca for those in a second marriage who feel haunted by the shadow of a previous partner (presumably you end up feeling that your husband may have been married to the most exquisite woman in the world but at least you don't have recurring dreams about bloody Manderley and Judith Anderson isn't hanging around).

And what better time to achieve good karma than the festive period when there are more than 900 films on the telly. In that lot there must be some sort of panacea for every phobia, neurosis and bad habit.

A quick flick through Radio Times supplies the answer. For thirtysomethings trying to decide whether to have children or a career, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York puts forward the pros and cons concisely (girls, would you really want risk giving birth to a child like Macaulay Culkin?). Or do you feel shy and insecure about your performance in the discotheque? Pulp Fiction provides some useful hints and a step-by-step guide to asking that woman of your dreams to dance. Finding it difficult to achieve closure in that relationship? Watch Gone With The Wind, (which can also be combined for women hoping to pick up tips on how to set up their own sawmill business).

But just as experts warn that conventional treatment can harm as well as benefit you, potentially there are worrying consequences of watching the wrong film. How many people have chosen banking as a career under the impression Jim Carrey gave them that they get to wear a magic mask and meet Cameron Diaz? In years to come we could see an influx of cats in psychiatric wards feeling that they're never going to get on in the rat race after exposure to Tom and Jerry - The Movie. And giving up the veil to become a governess to a large brood of Austrians does not inevitably mean you get to marry Christopher Plummer. Honest.

Most worrying of all, are there even now hordes of people setting aside any hint of scepticism and roaming parties repeating in an annoying voice: "Life is like a box of chocolates Forrest. You never know what you're going to get." Social services are going to be picking up the bill in 30 years for those poor innocents exposed to Forrest Gump. At the end of the day, that great movie maker himself Samuel Goldwyn would have a word for those seeking therapy through films: anyone who goes to see a shrink needs their head examined.

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