For school teachers, Labor Day weekend is the last chance at running with the bulls, before the 40 week long monastery cloister. And while I’m on the topic of ‘get thee to a nunnery’ (Shakespeare’s Hamlet), may I beg anyone in driving distance to Geneva, New York, to PLEASE get to the Smith Opera House, a gorgeous elderly saint of a building showcasing films on designated nights.
My bull run finale was two independent movies: Land-Ho and A Short History of Decay, which both have certain charms, the former being the better, and hence more widely screened, of the two.
Land-Ho was written by two youngsters (ok, they’re 20 years my junior). First, there’s the male equation of Aaron Katz (recognized in award nominations for two other films Quiet City and Cold Weather (neither of which I’ve seen, but am now interested in). The female half of the writing team is Martha Stephens, who also is an actress.
In a nut shell, though Land-Ho is only exciting in its location, I credit Katz and Stephens for saving the day with witty dialogue that felt real. The actors, Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn were also so genuine that I searched for past films to view at some point, “This is Martin Bonner” starring the latter, Australian actor Paul Eenhoorn being one.
A Short History of Decay was written by former foreign correspondent/non-fiction book author named Michael Maren. This film is much more amateurish than Land-Ho, both in its setting and acting.
The film is set in Sarasota Florida, (which I have intimate knowledge of, visiting annually for the past five decades and where my parents now reside) but actually smartly filmed elsewhere (probably ridiculously expensive to film in Sarasota, not to mention excessively tedious in its soul crushing traffic).
The acting has its highs and lows. Let’s start with the pros: Bryan Greenberg, Harris Yulin, Kathleen Rose Perkins (ugh these names, pick one! Rose or Kathleen for God’s sake), and Benjamin King (whose imdb photo was definitely graphically tailored) are all believable characters, from Greenberg’s mid-thirties arrested development, to KR Perkins’ school marmish nail technician. Yulin and King (playing Greenberg’s dad and brother respectively) also add cantankerous and machismo humor.
Don’t get me wrong, Linda Lavin’s character as mother with early onset dementia is difficult to play ‘real’. Anyone with relatives suffering from this medical horror knows it never seems real. And as ‘hot’ as she probably is to the male persuasion, Emmanuelle Criqui’s performance is as flat as the Floridian terrain.
The scenes and writing were just not as tight as the Land-Ho’s duo, hence why Ho beats Decay in the Labor Day battle.