Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Meet The Kid Who Could Paint That (When She Was 4)

Meet the moppet Miró, the kinder Kandinski.
You will — one of the more engaging documentaries at the 2007 Sundance Festival is MY KID COULD PAINT THAT, director Amir Bar-Lev‘s look at the controversy over child artist Marla Olmstead, whom some gallery owners called a prodigy, and whose abstract work some critics compared to Paul Klee and Juan Miró.
Sony Pictures Classics announced this week that it had acquired the rigths to the film for $2 million, and festival reviews – including this one from the Hollywood Reporter – are enthusiastic.
Remarkably, the director asked the Olmsteads to participate in the film, and they agreed — even after the authenticity of their daughter’s work had been challenged in a Feb. 2005 installment of 60 Minutes. Over the course of filming, writes the New York Times, “”Mr. Bar-Lev begins to have misgivings and finds his role as family familiar and advocate morphing into something darker. The movie is a transparent rendering of the journalistic process, and the picture is none too pretty.”
When Bar-Lev started work, the young artist was already a sensation — she’d had her first solo show, sold several paintings, and a Birmingham, NY area reporter had broken the story.
By October, 2004, Gaby Wood of The Observer (UK) became one of the first international print journalists to visit Marla Olmstead en-suite — at the studio of gallery owner Anthony Brunelli.

That summer after young Marla’s first show, Wood reported, the artist’s canvases were fetching $1,500 each. .”Three weeks ago they had gone up to $6,000, and on my arrival at the gallery the one piece remaining had been priced at $15,000. What they’ll be worth by the time you read this is anyone’s guess.”
Gaby Wood continues:

“I am greeted at Anthony Brunelli’s loft – two floors above his gallery – by Marla’s extended entourage: her mother, her brother, her grandmother, her aunt, and her gallerist’s wife. (Brunelli and Marla’s father are downstairs, bringing her latest work in from the car.) They are sitting around a huge open-plan space with exposed brick walls and all the mod cons a small star could hope for – plasma TV, vintage arcade game, supersized jars of sweets on the kitchen counter. Marla, a lovely-looking slip of a girl wearing a blue tar tan miniskirt, is tucking into a bowl of jelly beans. Her two-year-old brother, Zane, has nearly finished his, and zips around, talks over her, grins at the slightest opportunity. Marla, by way of greeting, offers a wide-eyed stare.
I tell her I like her paintings.
‘What do you say when someone compliments you, Marla?’ her mother calls from the other end of the room.
‘Thank you,’ she says obediently, and looks down at her jelly beans.
‘What’s your favourite colour?’ I ask, bending down to look at them with her. Rarely has that seemed a more loaded question.
‘Pink,’ she says, automatically. There isn’t a pink jelly bean, nor is there really any pink in her paintings. Her answer is the same as any four-year-old girl’s. Of course. What did I expect her to say – international Yves Klein blue?

Again, the link to Gaby Wood’s “http://observer.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,6903,1334512,00.htmlWhat I Did Today” in the Observer.
And again, a photograph of the artist, then four years old, from the Sundance press site. Her parents must be extremely proud of her.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon