Bryn Mawr Film Institute
$4.50-$9.25 (unless otherwise noted). 824 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr. 610.527.9898. www.brynmawrfilm.org
My Kid Could Paint That
(2007) (Shown on DVD): The year's best documentary returns to the Philly area after a predictably short run at the Ritzes this past fall. Director Amir Bar-Lev's intentions were simple: Portray the already heavily covered story of Marla Olmstead, a child prodigy who was selling deeply layered abstract paintings (think Kandinsky or Pollock) for five figures when she was 4 years old. But he wound up in the right place at the right time; mere months after earning the trust of the Olmsteads, a 60 Minutes piece questioned the veracity of the paintings, suggesting they may have been painted in part by her struggling artist father. What's already an inclusive examination on the nature of art, the way of the biz and the whims of art buyers (do Olmstead's patrons love the paintings or love that she's mid-single-digits?) twists and turns further, spiraling off in infinite directions. Eventually it falls back on itself, ruminating on whether a documentary can portray the "truth" at all. In the age of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, Bar-Lev speaks to the camera only once and it's to express insecurity over whether he's the right man for the job, and how far he should go in trying to prove or disprove Olmstead's work on her paintings. And it does it all in 82 minutes. Damn. A- Sat., Dec. 22, 11am; and Wed., Dec. 26, 1:30pm and 8pm.
(1990) (Shown on DVD): Please come out of retirement, Joe Pesci. Your 30 seconds in The Good Shepherd don't count. C Sat., Dec. 22, 11am.
$4-$7. 227 Bridge St., Phoenixville. 610.917.0223. www.thecolonialtheatre.com
A Christmas Story
(1982) (Shown on film): Shortly before TNT's 24-hour yuletide block once again makes you wish all copies were burned in a glorious bonfire, make sure to see Porky's mastermind Bob Clark's loving Jean Shepherd adaptation, where the fellow audience members and lack of commercials may remind you that it's actually a pretty good movie. B Sat., Dec. 22, 2pm.
It's a Wonderful Life
(1946) (Shown on film): Usually mistaken for a paragon of yuletide cheer and fuzzy sentiment, Frank Capra's masterpiece is, much like the similarly misunderstood Miracle on 34th Street, anything but. Before running into the smug, self-serving angel Henry Travers, James Stewart plummets from worn complacency to the pits of despair, even (let's remember) wanting to commit suicide. What follows is only retroactively uplifting: a nightmare sequence the likes of which cinema has rarely seen, which allows the film to earn its barrage of sentimental acclaim. Think of it as a Carl Dreyer film that's safe for NBC--but every bit as transcendent and punishing. Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and a typically pouty Gloria Grahame lend support. A- Sun., Dec. 23, 2pm.
$5. 7141 Germantown Ave. 215.247.3020. www.mtairyvideolibrary.com
(2007) (Shown on DVD): This year's trend toward movies about unwanted pregnancies and the women who decide to keep them began with this mildly overcast comedy, in which Keri Russell's Southern waitress and serial piemaker gets knocked up by her abusive husband (Jeremy Sisto) and has a fling with her ob/gyn (Nathan Fillion). Writer/director (and Hal Hartley regular) Adrienne Shelley was murdered just before the film's Sundance premiere, but you don't need to revel in tragedy to succumb to the film's charms. The across-the-board excellent cast also includes Cheryl Hines, Shelley herself and Andy Griffith, reminding viewers he was also the titanic madman of Face in the Crowd. B- Fri., Dec. 21-Sat., Dec. 22, 8pm; Sun., Dec. 23, 7pm.
WHYY Independence Foundation Civic Space
Free. 150 N. Sixth St. 215.351.0511. www.whyy.org