In Which I Review A Movie

October 11, 2007 at 5:48 am 2 comments

Funny story about my film review; I finished it at 4 in the afternoon yesterday, then kept editing and revising it until 11:30PM. Needless to say, a lot of time and work went into it. And when I went in to the news office today, it turned out they decided not to run it. This proves two things:

-I spend far too much time on things no one gives a shit about
-Journalism is a harsh mistress.

But enough of that! At least you, dear readers, can enjoy my review!

My Kid Could Paint That

What is art? Who gets to define it? Who gets to define anything? My Kid Could Paint That doesn’t try to answer these questions, but it is revealing in how it deals with them. The documentary focuses on Marla Olmstead, who at age 4 rocked the art world and earned tens of thousands of dollars with her abstract paintings.

Much of the early discussion focuses on whether a child can produce art. Several people argue that if a child can produce it, it proves that abstract art isn’t ‘real’ art. Things are further complicated when a 60 Minutes report suggests Marla isn’t an artist at all, alleging that her father creates the paintings. Director Amir Bar-Lev is tactful in examining this; rather than trying to force a conclusion on shaky evidence, he shows how everyone interprets the story through a different lens.

After watching the film I showed a friend several of Marla’s paintings; she said they might be art, “if [they were] made with a message and a purpose.” But who gets to decide what that message is? Who gets to decide anything about how we view the world? My Kid may not have any answers, but it does ask all the right questions.


Some notes:

-The friend in question is Alyssa, who will probably dropkick me if I don’t give her the name drop. She claims I took her quote out of context, while I maintain that I don’t care.

-Here’s a few of the paintings in question:

Burning Blue Ball

Asian Sun

Lollipop House


-For the record, “Ocean” is the only one of this set that it is certain Marla painted (there’s video evidence of her creating the painting). Does this strike you a bit as “one of these things is not like the others”?

-It seems clear that Marla is at least partially responsible for the paintings; in an early scene she tells her parents that her little brother actually did one of the paintings in her art show; “the green one”. They are, needless to say, surprised. How could something like that slip through if someone else was creating the paintings? Clearly the kid has some level of involvement.

-On the other hand, it is a distinct possibility her father plays some roll in the creation, though to what degree it would be difficult to say. Certainly the 60 Minutes interview (in which he gives her verbal prompts to use certain colours and techniques) raises questions. In another scene, Marla even asks her father to finish the painting for her.

-One thing I wanted to get into with the review but didn’t; if it turns out her father did create the paintings, does that somehow change the nature of the work? To what extent is the significance of a piece of art determined by it’s origin?

-Part of the problem surrounding Marla’s father is the fact that he’s obviously so invested in her fame; he’s the driving force in getting her to do shows, create new paintings, etc. One question that’s constantly raised is “is this good for the child?”.

-Marla’s mother, on the other hand, is much more concerned about the exposure her child is getting and expresses a wish for it to just end. But then, she’s also involved in trying to prove Marla is the real artist, and she has a significant financial stake in affairs (though to be fair, all the money does go into a trust fund rather than the parent’s pockets).

-In the end, the parents come off as either incredible con-artists or very naive. It’s hard to say which is closer to the truth.

I’ve barely talked about how the film examines media, and the way it shapes stories and thus reality. Suffice to say, it’s an important part of the film, and you should think about it if you see it yourselves.

Because Dani asked in an earlier comments section, the best way to see any of these movies would probably be DVD. I know a DVD for “My Kid Could Paint That” is currently in production, and Radio Star has been out in Korea since 2006 so it should have something.

In closing: I for one would love the comments section of this post to erupt into a discussion of the validity of abstract art. Any takers?


Entry filed under: review. Tags: , , , .

Day ?: Booster Gold Was Here A Quick-Draw Tale

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. stephen  |  February 9, 2009 at 4:45 am

    Abstract art is like interperative dance. A load of crap. It’s all just swirls and colurs and leaps and twirls that “mean” “my father abused me as a child and this is how I express my….sorrow!” In short, I hate it.

  • 2. stephen  |  February 9, 2009 at 4:53 am

    There is a large amount of angsty expression which cannot be expressed in the word “Sorrow.”


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