Labor (Day) of Love, Battle of the Two Indies: Land-Ho and A Short History of DK

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.

Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Double Header Pilgrimage

Living in Rochester, New York grants me the privilege of seeing Philip Seymour Hoffman movies on the big screen once a week for the next few months at the grand Dryden Theater (George Eastman House). And since one of his last movies “The Most Wanted Man” opened at the independent Little Theater on Friday 7/25/14, I gladly took in a double header of PSH films.

Listening to the podcast “On Being” this morning afforded me the musings of an artist by the name of Dario Robleto, “Sculptor of Memory”. Mr. Robleto spoke of how art is our way of keeping deceased family and friends in our memory. Watching the films “State and Main” and “The Most Wanted Man” is an obvious way of memorializing.

Having met PSH very briefly during his visit to the Little for the opening of Flawless doesn’t in any way make me a friend, but being of his generation and having lost a friend to addiction in 2000, keeps me rooted in this loss, in a good way, a way of keeping memories alive.

“State and Main” from 2000 showed that as in Boogie Nights, PSH can deliver poignant vulnerability. I had not seen the film before last Wednesday and was struck by Mamet’s renowned razor sharp dialogue, William H. Macy being the antagonistic foil to PSH’s sweetness. The only thing negative about the film was the cheesey music that curdled in the background of the budding romance scenes between PSH and Mamet’s real life wife, Amy Pidgeon.

I feared going to see “The Most Wanted Man” after spending a miserable couple of hours at the adorable Burns Court Theater in Sarasota Fla watching “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”, another John Le Carre novel-turned movie, but hooray for Andrew Bovell, a far better screenwriter!

Instead of the flat terrain of “TTSS”, The Most Wanted Man at least provided an incline to a climactic finish. PSH was never better as a depressed failure of espionage yet a character who still had enough punch to duel with the always fantastic, but in need of a new hair-do, Robin Wright.

And while it may sound shallow to comment on a woman’s hair, I do so, only because of what I discovered in my own life. I found that getting my hair chopped off was one of my tendencies toward self-loathing, along with an ultra strict diet, both of which I am proud to say I moved on from in my more self-confident middle age. Perhaps RW’s hair is a positive choice for her, I’m simply commenting on the sadness in her eyes, maybe more than the characters she portrays. Chalk it up to my Masters in Counseling observation skills.

Certainly seeing a sad over weight PSH mad me sad, but simultaneously I benefited from the beauty of one his last do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night performances.
In addition here’s to my friend Mary whose red headed Irish temperament also hung on to her bitter end. To remembering!