Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"My Kid Could Paint That”

There are a few budding young artists in my family. And when people see their work hanging in my office they’re often surprised by how mature it is. I mention this because I really wanted to believe that Marla Olmsted, the cute little 4-year-old at the center of “My Kid Could Paint That,” painted all her artwork. At the outset, it’s pretty clear that the director of this documentary, Amir Bar-Lev, wants to believe as well. And there were lots of adults – from gallery owners, to art collectors, to the media – who desperately want to believe. But as the story unfolds, it becomes increasingly difficult to hold onto that belief. I kept thinking about the “Balloon Boy” and how that family manipulated the media. And I couldn’t help but feel that Marla’s biggest boosters, her father Mark Olmstead and Binghamton gallery owner Anthony Brunelli, were somehow doing the same thing. The situation isn’t helped by a searing “60 Minutes” exposé on Marla that airs during the filming of this documentary. From that point on, the Olmsteads never fully recover my trust, even as they flail about trying to prove they’re being truthful, all under the guise of “protecting” Marla, the child they exploited. In the end, this isn’t so much a film about a child prodigy as it is about a fickle media, the randomness of abstract art and our need to insert meaning into things where it may not exist. At least that’s my opinion. I’d like to hear what Marla, now 10, thinks of all this. My Tweet: My Kid Could Paint That - 4-year-old prodigy turns art world on its ear. Art world returns the favor. 7.5 (out of 10)

“My Kid Could Paint That”

Released: 2007

Rating: PG-13

Length: 82 minutes

Cast: Marla Olmstead, Laura Olmstead, Mark Olmstead

Director: Amir Bar-Lev

Genre(s): Biopic, Documentary

Thursday, October 7, 2010

“Food, Inc.”

A doctor recommended I see this movie. Now I understand why. It'll open your eyes to why there's an obesity epidemic in the United States. Big business has invaded the food chain and is growing more food, faster and cheaper than ever before. While it's good for business, it has unintended consequences on our health and the health of our planet. Food, Inc.” lays it all —exposing how factory farming is reducing diversity, lowering nutrition, causing environmental damage and encouraging E coli and salmonella outbreaks — without any of the histrionics of a Michael Moore production. Even still, it'll make you look at your food choices in a whole new way. Which led me to tweet: Food, Inc.-If you only knew what you were eating, it would make you sick. 8.5 (out of 10)

Other documentaries you might like: Super Size Me, Who Killed the Electric Car, An Inconvenient Truth

“Food, Inc.”

Released: 2008

Rating: PG

Length: 94 minutes

Cast: Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Richard Lobb, Vince Edwards

Director: Robert Kenner

Genre(s): Food Stories, Political Documentaries, Social & Cultural Documentaries

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


What is it with Roland Emmerich’s doomsday obsession? After “Independence Day,” where aliens try to destroy civilization, and “The Day After Tomorrow,” where climate change gets a crack, he looks to the Mayan calendar to predict and entertain us with the end of the world. (Which, I hope you know by now, is an inaccurate interpretation. So keep saving for your retirement.) In true Emmerich fashion, there are lots of explosions and crazy huge special effects. There's a good deal of sermonizing about “Humanity” and “Civilization,” especially at those pivotal moments. And then there are the laughs, unintentional of course, as all mayhem breaks loose. I just found it preposterous how John Cusack, who's been making some curious role choices of late, manages to narrowly escape death by running, driving and flying while the earth is crumbling, buildings are falling and fireballs are exploding. And you don’t have to be a clairvoyant to see how it ends. You know exactly how “2012” is going, with the exception of a neat twist that allows our heroes to reach China despite the fact that they’ve run out of fuel. So If you can switch off the logic center of your brain “2012” is a moderately enjoyable popcorn movie. But even among Emmerich's catalog, it’s not one of the best. My tweet: 2012-After failing to destroy earth by alien invasion & ice age, Roland Emmerich looks to the Mayans for ideas. 3rd time's not the charm. 5 (out of 10).

Another end-of-the-world movie you might enjoy: “Knowing”


Released: 2009

Rating: PG-13

Length: 158 minutes

Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Thandie Newton, Danny Glover, Woody Harrelson

Director: Roland Emmerich

Genre(s): Action, Sci-fi, Thriller