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Top Movies of 2007

Usually each January I poll my friends to find out what they thought the best movies of the previous year were. This year I decided to do something a little different and go to a few select pals who usually have some interesting insight and ask them to write about their top picks.

And so without further ado, here they are. The Best of 2007 according to people I know. And me.

My picks:

1. The Simpsons Movie
Quite simply the movie that made me laugh the most and the hardest all year. And I laughed a lot this year. Going into it I was a bit nervous about how much I’d like it because I haven’t seen the TV series in about 8 years. But I didn’t miss a thing because, quite simply, when something is funny, it’s funny. And this was funny.
2. Dan in Real Life
Maybe I missed all the buzz on this one. But probably closer to the truth is the fact that there really wasn’t any, and that’s a shame. This one kinda slipped under everyone’s radar and I don’t really get why. I mean, after Little Miss Sunshine it should come as no surprise that Steve Carell can do a movie that isn’t Anchorman-slapstick and still make a great movie (and be funny). Dan is no exception. When Dan sings his song in front of the family….wow….what a great scene. I almost lost it, I freely admit it. Plus Dane Cook. Score.
3. Hot Fuzz
The guys who brought you Shaun of the Dead are back (along with most of the S.O.T.D. cast) and finally cop/buddy movies are fun again.
4. Sunshine
Loved it. Blogged about it. Read it.
5. Ratatouille
Really, can Pixar do no wrong?
6. Once
I could go on and on about how cool this Irish indie film is but every time I’ve tried to tell someone about it, I never seem to capture how cool it actually is, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. If you’re a music fan, this is a definite must-see.
7. Superbad
Yes it was raunchy. Yes it was rude. Yes when it was over Sarah turned to me and said, “I hope our kids don’t talk like that.” But that doesn’t mean I we didn’t laugh our heads off.
8. 3:10 to Yuma
Once again Russell Crowe (an actor I hate) stars in a western movie (a genre I hate) and I loved it. Between this and The Quick and the Dead he’s a wily guy.
9. Knocked Up
Yea. I admit it. I’ve become a Judd Apatow fan. But who hasn’t?
10. Grindhouse
This is one of those you-had-to-be-there films. Seeing this in the theater was a roller coaster ride like nothing I’ve experienced at the theater. A double feature of crazily over-the-top action films with ridiculous fake trailers in between. My buddies and I (but not my brother) experienced a ride that may never be captured again.

My Worst of ’07
I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry – Hey…anybody know where I can hear some really bad gay jokes? Over and over. And over. And over. And over. And over. (Repeat as desired)
Reno 911 – Aw, man….and I really like the TV show. I think the whole premise of the movie was “Wait…you mean we don’t have to blur out the boobs? DONE.” And as a result, they ended up blurring out the funny.
Pirates 3– Hi, I’m Johnny Depp. How about in this one it’s just me running around the boat but the boat’s crew is a hundred other me’s? But for no real reason. It’ll be fun!
Transformers – I really thought I was going to like this one and then halfway through realized “Oh wait…I’m not a 17-year old.”

Keith Soljacich is a writer/filmmaker living in the Chicago area. His work has been recognized at the Chicago 48 Hour Film Festival three years in a row, and in 2007 his short film Last Hand won the City Award to compete in the National finals.

Went in to the year with high hopes came out with mostly disappointment

Best…
1. Knocked Up
I picked this as my favorite movie of 07 because I had really high hopes going in to the movie and it exceeded my expectations. It was easily the funniest movie of the year, and for me a good comedy goes a long way.
2. The Simpsons Movie
3. American Gangster
4. Hot Fuzz
5. Superbad
6. 300
7. Grindhouse
8. Zodiac
9. Aliens vs. Predator
10. Hot Rod

Worst…
Balls of Fury (surprise surprise), Everything but Venom in Spidey 3, Good Luck Chuck, Rush Hour 3, Black Snake Moan (boring), License to Wed

Best TV of 07
Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm (You got some long ass balls Larry), 30 Rock, Weeds, The Soup, The Office

Best Shows I Never Watched Before 2007 (Netflix is great)
Dexter, House, Weeds, Veronica Mars, Monk

John Allenlives in Louisville and works in sales with EMI in the national music retail division. John has also worked at Gotee Records in the same capacity and is an aficionado of all pop culture. John also maintains a great blog.

There were a ton of films I didn’t see this year. In fact, if I had seen everything I wanted to, I would have probably had a completely different list. But all that said here is my end of the year ten best and a few random awards:
Biggest Misuse of Talent:We Own The Night/ Duvall.
Pheonix. Walberg. Mendes’ Breast (just one). And its a cop story set 20 years ago. What more did it need? A plot that ways at least marginally believable. Oh and something more believable than a cocaine using Jaoquin leading a police raid 10 minutes after we see him doing said cocaine.
Movie I Refuse To See Since Ed’s On the Cutting Room Floor: August Rush
Biggest Destruction of a Well Performing Series: Spider Man 3.
Everyone’s mailing it in and Spidey has never been a bigger joke than in this one. Reluctant Hero? That’s Tobey Mac. Cocky Superstud? Not so much.
Biggest Hypocrite: Robert Redford/Meryl Streep/Tom Cruise/Lion From Lambs
They spend two hours having what seems to be a logical discussion of the war on terror, only to have it come to conclusion of how all the right wing/republican perspective is propaganda and lies for foolish kids to believe, which really just makes the whole movie feel like left wing propaganda. Could have been so much more.
The Top Ten
1a) 3:10 To Yuma
I Never saw the original and honestly its not all that original, but I love a good western. This one killed me. I went in with low expectations and was happily blown away. Ben Foster is downright sinister and always brings something to the table. On a related note, Christian Bale is steadily becoming one of my favorite actors.
1b) The Kingdom
I love these type of films and the trailer had me dying to see it. Nothing but a bunch of actors I love and a great “state of our times” kind of story. Here’s a hint Hollywood: if you put Chris Cooper in it, chances are I will least pay the “on demand” fee to see it (ala Breach). But here is why it was so great. It tackled a political theme and did so without turning into a propaganda piece (for the right or the left). Tim McGraw is on screen for 2 minutes tops and literally moved Kara and I to tears (almost). Just a great film. A thrill ride with plot, dialogue and characters (someone forgot to tell Bruckheimer or Bay this is possible). Great movie!
2.5) Juno
3) American Gangster
True Story? Check. Oscar Winning Actors? Check and check? Good Supporting cast? A little overuse of rappers as actors, but nonetheless check.
This movie was pretty good. Only one thing bothered me. As a true story the writers knew how it would end (stop reading here if you haven’t seen it……)
The knew Washington and Crowe’s characters would end up working together to take down bigger criminals. They knew the two would become friends. If they knew this, than why spend so much time turning Washington’s character into such a cold-blooded killer/criminal? Why showing violently killing so many people and being blind to his own ambition to end the movie on the “hey look we’re buddies now” tip? Other than that, good movie
4) Meet The Robinsons
We are forced at times to take Jake to movies we would never choose to see ourselves. On a trip in March to Ohio Jake and I went and saw this. Kara’s grandpa was dying and I needed to get Jake out of the hospital before he started climbing the walls. This was the only kids friendly film at the theater in the little town so we went. In short we got a great movie with a tremendous message and some really fun laughs. Sure its campy, but its a kids flick so whaddya want?!? Haven’t seen it? You should.
5 & 6) Harry Potter/Bourne Ultimatum
Here’s the deal. You would really have to “mail it in” for you to screw up these series in my life. I love the Harry films and this is the best one yet. They successfully managed to capture the bulk of what was the biggest of the books to this point and not leave mush out. The only knock on this film is it could have been longer. Same thing with Bourne. The movies are not even close to the books but I love the action and the attitude. Damon was Bourne * to play the role and they tap into Bond style espionage, better than Bond ever has.
(*thanks Gene Shalit)
7 & 8) Knocked Up/Superbad Combo
To you its fairly obvious why these should count as one film, so I will throw this out there, as it is a great story.
I’m in Ft Lauderdale with my boy Rick, who is a pastor here in KY. Rick has to be pretty selective with what he goes to see in theaters as he works with kids and you never know when one might walk out of the theater and ask what you’re seeing. Can’t tell an impressionable 15 yr old, you’re seeing “Knocked Up.” So Ricky often doesn’t see these until they are ON Demand. Well, we’re in FTL and we decide we’re gonna see a movie. We want to see Superbad, but it doesn’t start for another hour to which, Rick says, well I haven’t seen “Knocked Up” yet and its ON Demand back at the hotel. This leads me to say, in front of about 10 people no less, “well, let’s go back to the hotel and get Knocked Up.” Good times
9) Grindhouse
Really not much of a Tarantino fan but his half of this B Movie double feature stands up well over time. Rodriguez is one of my favs and he delivers as usual here. It’s worth it if only for the fake movie trailers with such great tag lines as: “White Met. Dark Meat. This year everyone gets carved. “
10) Live Free or Die Hard

Cheesy as hades at times, but John McClaine gets the nod here, for one line in the movie. There’s a scene were he’s riding with his sidekick (the guy from “Accepted” and the Mac commercials) and there having this talk about why McClaine is always trying to be the hero and McClaine says because no else is. Perfect. It fits in the movie, but it also speaks to my generation a bit. McClaine, Rambo and Balboa are all back because, there’s an abscence of that type of hero in movies today. Nostalgic piece, but I enjoyed it.

Stacey Gagne works at WJTL and is deeply involved in music, movies, and all things pop culture. Stacey is also a published writer and keeps a blog at Infuze.

Amazing Grace: Powerful and Inspiring
The Bucket List. Great Mix of comedy and drama. I laughed, I cried, I reminded myself to get my passport and get to livin!
PS I Love You. Sweet love story, not necessarily the expected ending.
Hairspray: fun, and I always love a musical
Music and Lyrics Drew and Hugh… what could be better
Wild Hogs: Great cast, I like a movie I can watch with anyone once in a while.
Shrek the Third You gotta love a Shrek movie, although i feel like the jokes are all out on the table now…
Pirates: Again, well done, but nothing beats the first one
Spider Man 3: I liked the darkness of this one
Premonition: lots of twists, but so heart breaking!!

Others I saw:
> Evan Almighty: cute but not hysterical, just cute
> Blades of Glory: funny, but too raunchy for me
> Ratatouille: cute and fun, I think I enjoyed it more because of the company I was with… I think it might have been a little slow otherwise
> Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: another Harry…
> Atonement: well done, but so depressing… I can’t bring myself to put in my top 10

Brad Moist is a movie and music wizard. We also met at Gotee Records and he went on to found the record label Mono Vs Stereo. Brad is still involved in the music and is a contributing music reviewer for CCM Magazine. Brad not only has his hand on the pulse of what is cool but also what is about to be cool.

1. TRANSFORMERS
2. The Kingdom
3. 300
4. Sunshine
5. The Lookout
6. 30 Days of Night
7. Shoot ‘Em Up
8. Live Free or Die Hard
9. Smokin’ Aces
10. Disturbia

Sarah Placencia is a fitness instructor who can also make one mean white mocha (being a Barista Supreme will have that affect). She loves movies and has declared her goal of becoming a movie geek.

1. Hot Fuzz
I  am a big fan of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and I am definitely planning on seeing ‘Run, Fat Boy, Run!’. Simon Pegg, yeah he’s cool.
2. Mr. Bean’s Holiday
I could watch this movie over and over. Rowan Atkinson is brilliant!
3. Ratatouille
Very cute movie.WARNING: Do not think you are a chef after seeing this movie, some foods should not be made into soup. My bad.
4. Simpsons Movie
Pure Classic. This was actually the first movie that I watched by myself in the theater and I still laughed out loud, alot.
5. Once
This movie was great. At first I had wished for a different ending, but then I thought ‘who am I to think it should end a certain way?’ And in a way it didn’t really have an ending. It was a film about new beginnings, which are stories that I’m all for.
6. Superbad
Sure these guys are crude and cuss like sailors but in the end, they really are ‘gentlemen’. And it goes to show how important friendships really are……now all together…’aaaawwwwww’.
7. Sweeney Todd
Hmmmm. The music, the makeup, the actors were very intriguing. Who knew that I would actually rooting for their ‘meat pie’ shop to flourish…I’m gonna go see my psych…right now.
8.Shoot Em’ Up
Am I dude? Sometimes I wonder….heh, but I actually really like this movie. It had a Rodriguez/Tarantino feel to it. And I have a weird # that I see at random times in my life. It shows up in this movie for a split second, right before it gets ‘shot up’. Look for it; 1026……yeah I’m weird.
9.Freedom Writers
This movie is true story that shows the determination of one teacher reaching out to help her students excel, not only at school but in life. It’s encouraging to see how one person can do so much. Highly recommended.
10.August Rush
I’d say this movie was pretty much amazing. It made me really appreciate music, and I don’t even play anything. Great story as well.

Todd Sattison is my oldest friend…not that he’s the oldest person I know, but that we’ve known each other  were 4 and 5 years old. Todd’s a big movie buff who’s always up for a trip to the theater.

1.300– The best I’ve seen this year. THIS IS SPARTA!!!! What a wonderful film.
2.Smokin Aces–  Fantastic Cast. Ryan Reynolds was really good in this.
3.The Number 23– I’m not sure why I liked this movie so much. It just had me from beginning to end.
4.Fracture– Nobody plays the part like Anthony Hopkins.
5.Disturbia– I rented this movie and thought I would hate it and I ended up loving it.
6.Mr. Brooks– I really have to rave about this movie. Kevin Costner was great as a bad guy. The “I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner movie”.
7.1408– I really don’t like Cusack that much, but he pulled it together for this Stephen King story.
8.The Bourne Ultimatum– Love this story. Can’t wait for the next one???????
9.Superbad– Funniest movie I have seen this year.
10. 3:10 to Yuma– Crowe and Bale were both great in this western.
 
Going to see No Country for Old Men this weekend and could bump someone.

So…how’d we do? Agree with our picks? Think we’re way off? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts!

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Tour de Lanc

Yesterday after work Stacey, who is the office manager here at the station, drove me around the city of Lancaster to sort of give me a refresher course and try to recapture my bearings. It didn’t work. I spent the whole time turned around, not sure which way was north, and never ending up where I thought we were.

One nice thing, though, was seeing how many things are here that I never got to experience the last time I was here. Stacey pointed out all of the cool spots to take Sarah when she visits and even showed me the coolest Irish pub in town. A few days ago I hung out with my pals Ethan and Aubrey and they showed me and told me of a few treasures in the area I’d never heard of.

Of course when most people think of Lancaster, they automatically think of the Amish. You don’t think about the small streets that remind you of Chicago or New York City, the little Mexican restaurants and grocery stores, the vineyard that has a live big band for dancing, or the new Minor League baseball stadium. Stacey worded it perfectly yesterday: “There’s a big difference between Lancaster County and Lancaster City.”

So many cool things I can’t wait to see and do. It really is like I never lived here before. I’m grateful to have this second chance to experience the place I live and not just reside here.

Foiled Again!!!

I’m really getting a kick out of all of the extra work I did while in Chicago and New York City…and the fact that there’s no proof of it.

The Break-Up: Two days in Chicago and my awesome roller blading scene was deleted. It was even deleted from the DVD’s deleted scenes!! But like I’ve said before, I got to roller blade behind Jennifer Aniston, so there are no regrets.

Devil You Know: My role as the snooty matire’d who gives Lena Olin an angry look will very likely always remain a hidden treasure as it never went to theaters and I never heard anything about it since.

Without a Trace: I got to play an FBI employee fleeing from a building and after close examination of the episode, I was nowhere to be found.

And now another one to add to the list. I did work for a new FOX TV show called The Wedding Album about a wedding planner and his zany adventures. I believe I would have gotten some good “hey there he is” screen time but it seems FOX has gone with a different TV show about wedding planners, The Wedding Bells. Awesome.

There’s only one left…a movie with Robin Williams called August Rush. I haven’t seen any previews for it or heard any buzz yet, so I’ll keep you posted. It’s currently scheduled to come out in August. On the same weekend as the Bourne Identity sequel. So…good luck.

Who knows. If this doesn’t work, I may have to jump back in and try it again. Don’t think I won’t, doggonit.

*UPDATE
Ok, I found this website on August Rush. Apparently some guy who does special effects worked on the movie and he has a couple of clips on his website of the film and how he made it look like there were actually a lot more of us in Central Park than there was in reality. He has four scenes in his clip; I am somewhere in each of the first three, but it’s impossible to find me. Hopefully when the final product comes out I will be ready for my close-up.

To watch the scenes click here. Once you’re there, click on REEL in the top right-hand corner and then choose August Rush. If nothing else, it’s kinda cool to see the before and after of the effects.

Robbed

Someone stole my money clip, doggonit.

Last night I went to drop off my rent and decided to drive instead of walk. I stuck my money clip in the little console between the driver and passenger seats and forgot to grab it when I returned. Of course, when I went out to get it this morning, it was gone.

How can I live in cities like LA, Chicago, and New York and never once meet any harm and then come to Auburn Indiana and get ripped off. I hope they tried to use the credit card because the card I had in there was no good. I had $14 cash, my membership card to a video store (I should call to make sure no one tries to rent anything) and Borders, my tip chart, and some other stuff that I guess wasn’t too important (except my discount card I bought that gets me 3 cents off every gallon of gas I buy…crap!). The most annoying thing will be replacing my driver’s license.

Ugh.

Coming to a Theater Near Me: Me

I was watching TV tonight and saw another preview for the new Vince Vaughn/Jennifer Aniston romp, The Break Up. For those of you who have been faithful readers of my blog for any amount of time (or at least since last July) you’ll recall that this is the movie on which I did some extra work while I was in Chicago.

The movie opens this weekend so if you happen to go out to see it, keep an eye peeled for me. There are 3 opportunities for you to see me (actually more like two, the third is a long shot).

1. Jennifer Aniston and the girl who plays her sister are walking along the boardwalk on Lake Michigan. They are walking directly toward the camera (camera man was walking backwards) and I and some other guy (as you look at the screen I will be the blader on the left) are behind them roller blading, also going toward the camera and after a short bit, we stop to rest. This is probably the scene with the highest probability of seeing me, so if you blink and miss it, kindly ask the projectionist at your local theater to rewind it.

2. The “Jennifer Aniston’s sister” character is on the beach with a small child (I forget now if it was a little boy or girl) and there are a bunch of people in the background lounging. Me and another guy walk by in the background, moving from right to left as you look at the screen. I have on red shorts. Ladies, please, at least pretend like you don’t recognize my legs immediately.

3. The other scene I worked on was at a ball game at Wrigley Field. I wasn’t even near the camera. There’s no way you’re going to see me in this one.

So hey, while we’re on the subject, if anyone reading this is in Indiana, wanna go to the movies Friday night?

THE SLAP HEARD ‘ROUND THE WORLD

July, 1982.

It was one of those days when everyone was outside. Every kid in the neighborhood was out riding their bike in the cul de sac where I grew up (AKA The Circle). Some grown-ups were out encouraging their lawn to grow by watering it; others were doing their best grass-growing discouragement by mowing it. Some were laying out getting a tan and others were just hanging out and enjoying a cold one, talking about everyone else.

The point is, everyone was outside.

You know when you think back on a perfect summer day and the sky is blue and everything is good and there is love in the air? This was one of those days.

And it would soon be changed.

Eastwood Court was not a place where perfect harmony stayed around for long. Eastwood Court was where perfect harmony came to visit and we would take it around the back and beat the crap out of it.

Observe:

I remember how happy I was. I was 11 years old and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I felt great. It was an awesome day outside, everyone was riding their bike, and my relatives were in town.

We have a family reunion every year, but it’s only every few years when the ENTIRE family from all over the states comes into town. This was one of those years, and I was so excited to see my cousin JP from California.

And Aunt Alice was coming in from Idaho. Idaho!! (Once Alice gave me a little pin that was shaped liked a tiny potato and IDAHO was written across it. The tiny eyes on the pin were made of little indentations and I remember running my finger across it so I could feel the little grooves. Idaho!)

My cousins from Chicago would be there, too. My cousins who frightened me. My cousins who grew up speaking English and Spanish and listened to rap music before our little corner of Indiana had ever been exposed to it. My cousins, who spoke really loudly and talked a lot of trash and spoke to each other in code-in Spanish!-and were always laughing and poking fun and chasing and hitting – they hit! – and whom I always steered clear of. Lalito and Roberto. I had to keep an eye on them.

Everyone would be there tonight when we all gathered together for the first time in years.So things were good. I was excited and happy and nothing could go wrong.

Until Benny Jo Hideout cut off my sister on her bike and made her fall and he laughed.I couldn’t believe it.

My little 5-year-old sister was riding her bike in front of me and mean ol’ Benny Jo Hideout came up behind us on his bike and slammed into her. She lost control of her bike and managed to crash land in the Sattison’s front yard.

Benny Jo Hideout!!

That of course, wasn’t Benny’s real name. He got that name the only way kids get their nicknames. From other kids who are really reaching.

THE HISTORY OF BENNY JO HIDEOUT

Benny never had a chance. If Benny was a character in a book (and I suppose now he kind of is) or in a movie, you’d be able to see how his life ended before it happened. I’ve never been a fan of clichés, and when they happen in real life, it’s just weird. Because clichés aren’t actually supposed to happen. They’re clichés.

Benny was a couple of years younger than me. I think I had only been in Benny’s house once and I remember it smelled of bacon or some other food that required a lot of grease in which to cook. I also remember realizing it was nowhere near breakfast time, so their house must always smell of cooked grease.

Their floor was dirty.

The TV was on and turned up really loudly. No one was watching it.

Yikes.

I don’t’ remember why I was in Benny’s house, but I do remember running away and swearing never to return.

Benny’s dad was named Charlie. He was a really skinny guy with a big moustache and glasses. We never saw or heard much from Charlie except after he’d been drinking. We would be outside playing and then hear the screams and shouts. We would try to sneak up to the house to see what was going on, but were never successful.

And when Charlie would yell, he was usually yelling at Benny’s mom, Ann. Or, as we called her, Big Fat Ann. Which soon got shortened to just Fat Ann. Fat Ann, Fat Ann, Fat Ann, we would chant and soon even that became shortened to “F’dann” and it became a sound effect that we would use when imaginary bullets ricocheted around us when playing cops and robbers. F’dann! F’dann!

Don’t feel bad for Fat Ann. After all, she was fat. It’s not like we were saying anything that wasn’t true. But you see, F’dann was worse than big or fat. She was MEAN, and if you don’t want chants made up about you by the neighborhood kids, then don’t be mean.

F’dann was mean and she yelled. But most of all, she hated us. She hated all of us non-F’dann kids because we lived in The Circle and we were all good kids. F’dann could see the future as well as anyone; she wasn’t blind. And she knew what was going to happen. She knew that we were going to grow up as good, nice people. She knew we were going to move out of Eastwood Court and live good lives. We were going to get married to other people who had grown up to be good people and were going to continue breeding and reproducing other good people.

F’dann knew that she and Charlie had not produced good people. They had produced two offspring who had taken the worst traits from their parents and put them on display.

They had produced DeeDee, who was basically a miniature version of F’dann. She was 7 years younger than most of us on the block and had already inherited her mother’s propensity for food and yelling. Most of the time DeeDee was just ignored or left behind (which wasn’t hard to do; she simply wasn’t a fast waddler).

And Charlie and Ann had produced Benny Jo Hideout, who would use his girth and size to try to intimidate the other kids. Benny Jo Hideout, who although did indeed have girth and did indeed have size could not intimidate the other kids because he was a pinhead. Benny Jo Hideout was a bully who didn’t know how to bully.

Sad, really.

And, I realize now, they were hillbillies.

It’s not uncommon to find Southern accents in the lower part of Indiana, but up where we were at, only about 40 minutes from the Michigan state line, you didn’t find a lot of that.

Benny’s family had southern accents. Their backyard was a veritable treasure trove of all things hillbilly. A vast assortment of barbecue grills that had rusted reddish-brown. A riding lawn mower graveyard. The standard Pile of Wood With Rusty Nails Sticking Out Of It.

And, standing tall and serving as the ultimate Hillbilly Beacon–the sketchy clubhouse. The clubhouse that Charlie had made for his children that reached high into the sky with supports that couldn’t come close to holding the weight of his children (let alone the heavyset Gradeless kids who would also climb into the clubhouse with them).

Charlie was neither an engineer nor an architect, and it only took a week or so for the tiny 2x4s holding up this wooden deathtrap to wave the white flag and send the entire construction leaning at an angle that would make the Leaning Tower of Pisa appear to be square and plumb.

There was a commercial on at the time for cereal that had a catchy little tune that featured kids in a cool clubhouse and would end with the rough scratchy singer pleading for kids to “Come to the Honeycomb hideout!” Being the Saturday morning cartoon junkies that we were, we heard this song countless number of times, and it was ingrained in our psyche.

And soon, the catchphrase was adapted by us to become “Come to the Benny Jo Hideout” (”Jo” of course being added not because it was part of Benny’s name, but because we needed to make sure our song had the same number of syllables as the commercial).

And thus Benny Jo Hideout was born.

NOW WHERE WAS I

Because of all of this, plus the fact that his heart had about as much feeling as a Bundt cake, on that beautiful day when nothing could (or should!) go wrong, Benny rode his bike up to my sister and forced her off of the street and made her crash.

I didn’t even think.

You know on the Bugs Bunny cartoons when Daffy Duck would get upset, and to signify how enraged he was, the cartoonists would draw his feet red and then the redness would slowly climb up to his duck bill like a thermometer? That was me. Had I actually thought about what I was doing, I probably would have stopped to help my sister instead of trying to take on someone who had 80 pounds on me. But I wasn’t thinking.

And besides, come on. This was Benny Jo Hideout.

I put my bike into high gear and tried to catch up with Benny. He was still laughing. That high-pitched rat-a-tat laugh that echoed through the neighborhood and made small children weep and small birds fall dead from the sky. It wasn’t unlike Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit at the end after he’d taken off his mask to reveal the maniacal toon that he was.

Benny laughed like that.

Hee-heehee-hee-hee.

The Gradeless kids were there, too, riding their bikes, and had seen the whole thing. They laughed because they were also evil (They were kind of like the Crabb and Goyle to the sinister Draco Malfoy, if you follow Harry Potter at all).

They were all cackling and howling and my sister had started to cry on the side of the road. Todd had stopped to make sure she was OK. I was in hot pursuit. I was going to catch up with Benny and be the hero. I was going to catch up with him and punch him in the face and send him reeling with a How Do You Like That right hook. I was going to make Benny fall with my powerhouse punch and make him cry. I was going to make Benny pay.

And guess what?

I did.

I don’t know how it happened. It all happened so fast, but it happened.

Somehow, the whole scenario I had pictured in my head played out just the way it was supposed to. How often does that happen? Believe me, I was as shocked as you are now.
I caught up beside Benny Jo Hideout and it was picture perfect. Benny was too busy laughing to notice me creeping up and when he turned to his left to see me riding alongside him, he had no time to react. I swung my tiny skinny-boy arm and connected to his jaw with my little angry fist.

Bip!

And Benny cried.
He didn’t fall like I had wanted, but by God, Benny cried like the big baby he was. And justice had been served. Eddie Style.

The look on his face was priceless. I still see it in slow motion as his face morphed from that devilish laugh to a look of shock and awe. His mouth went from a huge smile to a stunned “O” and then went plastic as I socked him.

And Big Benny Jo Hideout rode his bike back to his end of the spoon-shaped cul-de-sac, crying all the way. The Gradeless kids, not knowing if they would meet a similar fate for laughing, followed Benny home to regroup and presumably eat and get even more dirt in their never-clean hair.
Children cheered. People whooped. The marching band showed up and the celebratory music was enjoyed by all.

Soon, kids were rushing inside to spread the good news.

“Eddie hit Benny!”

“Benny pushed Jaime down and Eddie hit him!”

“Eddie made Benny cry!”

Parents ran outside throwing streamers and confetti and paparazzi came from the bushes to take my picture and post it in the Daily News.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. I did hit Benny. And Benny went crying home.

My parents, who had seen the whole thing, were smiling and proud, waving from the front yard. Their son, The One Who Never Hit, had stood up for his little sister and by God he had won.

It was a beautiful day indeed.

I rode my bike in circles in the spoon and was on top of the world. Todd and Brian and Jake were all telling me “Good job!” My sister was back on her bike and OK, and shouted thank you’s my way.

You’re welcome, little sister. You. Are. Welcome.

All this was going on around me and I was flying high.

Which is why I didn’t see Charlie come running down to the circle to get me.

He came out of nowhere and grabbed the handlebars of my bike, jerking me to a stop.

What the–

And suddenly everything changed. All of a sudden my day went from celebration to utter horror. It happened too fast for me to even register what was going on.

Suddenly I was stopped and Charlie had his hands on my bike and I couldn’t get away and he was leaned over and yelling at me for hitting Benny, the gnawed end of his pipe being jabbed at my nose over and over again. I don’t even remember what Charlie was saying, I was so caught by surprise. I was so preoccupied trying to fathom what was going on that I didn’t register the Hillbilly rambling he was spewing at my face.

I finally looked up at Charlie and he went pale and suddenly took a step back.

I turned.

Dad was coming.

Charlie knew he screwed up.

Just like I had seen what happened to my sister and made it all good, Dad was watching this odd turn of events that unfolded before his eyes and was about to balance things out.

Dad wasn’t about to stand by and let some guy scream and yell at his 11-year-old son, holding him prisoner on his bike while shoving a pipe in the aforementioned son’s face.

Dad told Charlie to get away from me.

Charlie stepped back again, a mix of surprise and seething redneck anger twisting his face into a comedic scowl. (Have I mentioned my Dad is a Golden Gloves boxing champ? That would account for the priceless look on Charlie’s face.)

Charlie told Dad that I had hit his son and I had it coming.

Charlie grew testicles and took a step toward Dad.

Dad told Charlie that’s what his son got for pushing over a little 5-year-old girl on a bike.

I slowly began to roll my bike backward. I’m outta here.

Charlie waved his pipe in Dad’s face and said to stay out of it.

Dad told Charlie to get that pipe out of his face.

Charlie waved the pipe closer.

And Dad reached up and smacked the pipe out of Charlie’s hand.

The world stopped.

Time froze.

I heard a choir of gasps from all around me.

Whoa.

Charlie couldn’t believe it.

None of us could.

It took all of us a second to realize what happened because it happened that fast. No one saw it coming, especially Charlie.

Point. Whap. Tink!

All Charlie knew is that suddenly his pipe was on the ground and he couldn’t wrap his mind around how it got there.

Dad didn’t move.

Dad was cool.

And then Charlie flipped out.

He bent over and got his pipe and again began yelling. How dare you and you’re in trouble and on and on, arms flailing to accentuate his point.

And Dad just stood there.

All I saw was Charlie yelling in slow-motion, his tobacco stained teeth and black gums moving at 90 miles an hour and I wondered what his breath smelled like.

And then, in a move of such bravado I still don’t know where Charlie found the guts to do it, he began waving his pipe in Dad’s face again.

Look how calm Dad is. He is a Ninja.

As Charlie continued ranting and waving, Dad calmly told Charlie to get that pipe out of his face or he was going to smack it out of his hand again.

Dad was like Clint Eastwood; like Steven Seagal. They weren’t badasses because they intimidated people by screaming and yelling. They were badasses because they intimidated by talking quietly.

Charlie should have known.

And that is where Charlie’s bravery turned to sheer idiocy.

He took that as his cue to shove his pipe even closer to dad’s face. How he managed to avoid poking out one of Dad’s eyes I’ll never know, because that pipe was close.

Charlie punctuated his backwoods tirade by popping the pipe in his mouth and leaning in to dad to put the butt end next to Dad’s nose.

And before Charlie could blink, Dad smacked the pipe again.

Smack!

Right out of Charlie’s mouth!

I still hear the “clack” of wood against teeth as the pipe was again hurled into the air.

A sea of cheers and laughter erupted and Charlie knew he had lost. He had been shamed. Charlie was the Loser.

He turned, snatched the pipe off the ground, and like his son before him a few minutes earlier, retreated home. Only this time instead of a wail of sobs accompanying the journey, it was a wail of shouts and swearing and threats of being arrested.

I sent Benny home crying, and Dad took care of Charlie.

This really was a beautiful day.

AND THEN…

Shortly afterward, the entire neighborhood had convened in our yard to congratulate Dad.

Way to go.

to stand up to him.

That was great.

Good job.

I think Dad was a little embarrassed. He hadn’t gone out there to show off or put on a show, he had gone out there to make sure this guy (this grown-up!) wasn’t going to try to do anything to his son.

Soon after we all returned to our respective homes. An uncle who had flown in that day came to visit us before we had to leave for the bigger gathering that evening at my Aunt’s house and I tried to recapture the glory and magic of what had happened. I was talking a mile a minute when The Cops arrived.

Garrett is a small town where everyone pretty much knows everyone else, and The Cops knew my dad. And they also knew Charlie. They talked to Dad for a few minutes and they all got a good laugh out of it. I think one of them gave Dad the thumb’s up and told him good job.

When they left the house without Dad in custody, Charlie (who was waiting at the end of our driveway to witness his final I’ll-Get-You-All triumph) couldn’t believe it.

This was a travesty. An injustice. Arrest that man!

It was obvious that, in the time between calling The Cops and The Cops arriving at his house, Charlie had thrown a few back, and he was fairly intoxicated. The Cops tried to explain why they weren’t going to arrest my dad and everything was OK now, but Charlie wouldn’t have it. And soon The Cops were the target of Charlie’s rage.

And The Cops put Charlie in the squad car and drove away.

I like to think that Charlie was taken to jail where he was promptly raped and sodomized, but I have no proof to back that up.

But you never know.

The Year In Review 2005

What have I been doing? What have I been up to? If you have a few moments I’ll fill you in with my First Annual Year In Review…..

2005 – YEAR IN REVIEW
A Timeline by Ed Placencia
JANUARY
As the year began I was still living in Nashville, working at the Opryland Hotel as a tour guide on the Delta Riverboats. Deanna was living in New York City
January 19 My good friend Aaron Marrs was lost at sea during a deep sea fishing excursion. He lived his life in a way that inspired me to chase my dreams and changed my year.
January 24 I began rehearsal for Sunday in New York at Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theater.
FEBRUARY
February 11 Opening night of Sunday in New York marks my first time on the stage in over four years.
MARCH
March 12 The final performance of Sunday in New York.
March 29 Deciding it was time to get off my butt and put my money where my mouth is, I performed comedy at an open mic night, marking my first time doing stand-up since my years in college, 15 years earlier. Despite the long hiatus, it went well.
APRIL
Still not earning enough money after losing my job the previous year, expenses finally catch up with me and our house is foreclosed upon. This marks one of the most difficult periods of time in my life but with the help of loved ones, especially Davy and Jenn Baysinger, I somehow make it through. All of our belongings are put into storage and the Baysingers allow me to stay with them while I prepare for the next phase. I plan to move to Chicago along with most of the cast from Sunday in New York.

MAY
I make the move to Chicago. Things (housing and job situation) don’t unfold the way I was led to believe they would, and I am forced to improvise. I begin writing again and crank out the first of three short stories.

JUNE
June 19 I go to a bookstore where Cheech Marin is making a presentation on Chicanos in the arts. To say it was inspiring would be an understatement.
June 22 I film 2 different scenes for The Breakup, a film starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn. Keep your eyes peeled and you may see me as a Roller Blader and Guy At The Beach Walking By. The film is currently scheduled to come out in the Spring of 2006.
June 28 Another day of shooting for The Breakup at Wrigley Field. I’m 99.9% sure you won’t be able to pick me out of the crowd, but it was a day at the park and we got paid for it.

JULY
July 9 I had an opportunity to work on the film Smile, Darling for the 48-Hour Film Project with director Keith Soljacich. Not only was it a great experience (our film won an award!) but it also gave me a chance to meet and work with a great upcoming director and visionary. Remember Keith’s name! You’ll be hearing it a lot in the future!
July 18 Being away from Deanna for so long has not helped mend a rocky relationship and I decide to move to New York City so we can be together and try to patch up what we have. I leave for Indiana, where I will be staying for a short time to work with Dad and earn some money for the trip out [since gas is now $45 per gallon]. While back in my hometown in Indiana I get a chance to reconnect with family and rejuvenate.

AUGUST
August 11 I leave Indiana for New York…via Nashville. I make the drive south to get all of our belongings in order and put away in storage. I’m in and out like a ghost. I then leave and head for Lancaster PA and the home of John & Lisa Blowers. They are kind enough to let us keep our car at their place so we don’t have to take it with us to the City. While there I also get a chance to visit and catch up with Stacey Gagne and Linda Spuck.
August 15 I arrive in New York City. I know I’m going to love it.
August 17 I shoot a scene for Court TV’s Parco P.I. It’s my first time doing green screen and I feel like a Jedi.
August 19 I audition for [and land] “Accomplice: NY,” an improv/interactive theater/walking tour-type experience that is one of a kind. A great way to see lower Manhattan. That same day I shoot a scene for an upcoming Discovery Channel show, Cash Cab.

SEPTEMBER
September 20 I do some work on the film Devil You Know where I am chosen from all of the extras to play the maitre d’ at a restaurant and get to shoot a scene with Lena Olin. Apparently she’s famous.
Also in September I read the entire series of “Fletch” books. Highly recommended!

OCTOBER
October 8 Auditioned for the National Comedy Theater. Got to do some improv again and a few days later received a call from them asking me to join the troupe. Rehearsals start in just a few days!
October 26 Shot four scenes as an extra on the upcoming film The Devil Wears Prada with Meryl Streep. Look for me in the fashion show scenes and in a post-fashion show party.

NOVEMBER
November 17 I turn 35 years old [physically]. Mentally, I turn 6.
November 22 My sister Jaime gives birth to her new baby, Maya.
After 6 years of marriage, Deanna and I decide to separate.

DECEMBER
I’m still working with the National Comedy Theater and look forward to performing soon. There’s going to be a huge New Year’s bash at the theater that will be a lot of fun, so if you’re in the New York area at the end of the year, come on out! I’m working at Entertainment-Link and enjoying that as well [if you need tickets to Broadway shows with some great discounts, then check it out!].

I am looking forward to seeing what 2006 has in store. By the beginning of the year the divorce papers will be filed and it will be a new chapter for me. Who knows what new adventures lie around the corner but I am eager to tackle each and every one of them.

And that’s what I’ve been up to. I look forward to hearing from you and finding out how the past year has been to you. I’ve done a lot this year and been through even more; it’s been one of my favorite years.

Jumping into 2006 with both feet,
Ed