Fake Men in Black

An Actual Conversation I Had With A Fellow Extra On the Set of “Veep” Yesterday

A big part of working as an extra on a movie or TV set is waiting. Go here. Wait. Go there. Wait. It’s just part of the drill. There was a guy yesterday whom I suspect was unfamiliar with the experience and wanted something to happen NOW. And he wanted someone to vent to. Now. I was that someone.

Him: I know what’s taking so long. One of the guys playing a Secret Service guy said that Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t even here yet!

Me: She’s here. I saw her a couple of hours ago.

Him: No. (gestures to the table of extras dressed in black suits) The Secret Service said she’s not here.

Me: I saw her this morning on the set. She stuck her head in to say hello to some people and then I passed her on the street about an hour ago when I was coming back to the holding area.

Him: (a bit upset that I wasn’t agreeing with him) No. The Secret Service guys said she’s not even here.

Me: Those aren’t real Secret Service guys. You do realize we’re not really Senators, right?

The Top 10 Animated Films Ever Made

When you start naming “Top 10” anythings, you’re bound to ruffle some feathers. Which I think is cool. I love this kind of conversation, so feel free to leave comments. Believe me, it was hard for me to not just list every Pixar film that’s come down the line because those guys can do no wrong (except Cars…I’m just not redneck enough to get into a movie about Nascar).

And this is probably one of the only “Top Animated Films” lists that won’t include Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or Bambi. I’m sorry. Just because something is old, or “the first”, it doesn’t make it good. Or interesting. In my less-than-humble opinion, Snow White is one of the most overrated, boring films to come down the pike. But Ed, you might say, It was a technological breakthrough in animation. It was the first of its kind. Yea, well, just because something is different doesn’t mean its good. Just ask Paris Hilton’s parents.

So here we go. The best in animation, according to me….

10. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas
 There is a moment in this film that always blows me away. Jack Skellington has gone off to become the new and improved Santa Claus and his #1 fan Sally is home lamenting because she knows something’s not right. While Sally is singing her ballad she steps through a gate and swings her head to the side. That moment right there is so smooth…so perfect…it’s almost hard for me not to believe it’s not a person in a big Sally costume. And there’s also the Oogie Boogie song.

9. Flushed Away
 I’ll admit it. I haven’t liked anything else this guy has done. And yes, that includes the Wallace and Gromit series. So my expectations for this were pretty low. Not only did this movie blow me out of the water, it also made Kate Winslet more attractive. The fun action peppered with jabs at America (and the UK) cracked me up. This movie probably would have ranked higher on my list if the characters didn’t look so much like those Wallace and Gromit idiots.

8. The Prince of Egypt
 Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, there’s one scene in this film that sticks in my head, but with a much larger emotional attachment. It comes at the climax of the film when Moses parts the Red Sea. That whole scene…the animation as the water rushes into the sky, the swelling music…and then the eerie silence…it gives me chills just writing about it and gets my heart beating like Ed Grimley in the presence of Pat Sajak.

7. The Emperor’s New Groove
 How is this cartoon not more popular than it is? Hey, I’m not the biggest David Spade fan either, but when he’s on, he’s on. And in this film, he’s on. Emporer’s plays like a Disney film done by the kids of the filmmakers: sick and tired of the schmaltz and cheese, they’re gonna show us that cartoons can be sarcastic, too. A cartoon that knows it’s a cartoon and says What the heck. Let’s just have fun with this one.

6. The Simpsons Movie
 Admit it. You were just as shocked into hysterical laughter as I was to see Bart’s junk.

5. Shrek
 I can still remember thinking to myself Cartoons aren’t supposed to be this irreverently funny while I was in the theater holding my side trying to stop laughing so I could hear the next joke. Like The Emporer’s New Groove, Shrek takes the world of children’s stories and pokes it in the eye as it dumps ice cubes down its shirt.

4. The Incredibles
 Are you kidding me? Superheroes more believable than their Marvel or DC cousins, an amazingly animated landscape, harrowing action (it’s hard to beat that jungle chase scene), all delicately painted around a couple struggling to keep their marriage together…wow. Well done, Pixar.

3. Aladdin
 Just the fact that the animators were able to keep up with Robin Williams’ mile-a-minute freestyle is a feat in itself. Disney loves putting our heroes in a spot where you think There’s no way they can get out of this. But when I watched this, I remember saying OK really, there’s no way he’s getting out of this one. One of these good guys is gonna die.

2. Finding Nemo
 Man, when things come together at Pixar, they really come together, don’t they? Everything from the casting down to the most intricate detail in a random air bubble was spot on. This is one of the few films you could pop into your player, press pause at any spot and the image frozen on your screen will be the very essence of art. You’d just look at it and say Wow. That’s beautiful. And hey, any film that is clever enough to incorporate the old Monty Python “Bruce” sketch gets extra credit.

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
 Only Steven Spielberg would be able to get Warner Brothers and Disney to shake hands and agree to let their greatest cartoon characters appear side by side in the name of good moviemaking. Considering this was done before the computer animation technology we have today, it’s amazing how they got this film to work.
Yes, those are actual guns and beer bottles floating around in the air, not CG recreations, and the way they orchestrated the chaos in the Ink & Paint Club is beyond me. Roger Rabbit is a movie that loves movies and is a love letter to an era that may be gone but won’t soon be forgotten.

Yay for cartoons.

Still in Florida

Last night Sarah and I were watching 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to the zombie-type horror flick 28 Days Later. We had to turn the movie off halfway through.

Not because it was too scary (and it was).

Not because it was too intense (and it was intense, too).

Not because it was bloody and gory and violent (check, check, and check).

No…we had to stop the movie halfway through because we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you know the honeymoon hasn’t ended.

Shut My Mouth

Life is filled with all kinds of opportunities to learn and one thing I’m learning is to keep my mouth shut. Or, more specifically, when to keep my mouth shut.

As much as I think of myself as an easy-going and carefree guy, I almost hate to admit that I actually have a lot of routines and have become a creature of habit. You have to do something this way or that way. Well, you don’t have to do it a certain way but there are certainly better ways of doing something.

Or at least that’s the mindset I realize I have. Or had. Have. But I’m trying to shake it.

Marriage will definitely show you areas you need to work on and brings to light all of those rough edges that may need smoothed out a bit. Sarah, whether she wants to or not, has been teaching me that I don’t have all the answers or know all the “right” ways. I know. You’re probably as surprised as I am, because I pretty much thought I had everything figured out.

The biggest area I’ve been challenged on, oddly enough, is cooking. Sarah approaches the kitchen differently than I do and I can learn something from her outlook. Let’s say the subject is a pasta dish. I’ll go online or check one of my cookbooks and find out what I need. If it calls for a cup of sauce, I’ll measure out a cup. A half teaspoon of garlic warrants a half teaspoon. I follow the directions step-by-step and am usually rewarded with a tasty meal.

Sarah tackles it entirely differently. If Sarah wants to make that same pasta dish, she jumps in and just….starts to make it. Tackling it from a I-think-this-is-probably-what-goes-in point of view, mixed with a what-if-I-put-this-in approach straight from Ratatouille she goes to town. Measuring cups and measuring spoons are nowhere to be found.

I found myself warning Sarah about doing it “that way.” You can’t just throw things in there and hope it’s the right combination. That’s not how it’s done, shouldn’t be how it’s done, and is only a recipe for disaster.

And sometimes I was right. Sometimes there was too much garlic or things would burn. But being right never brought the satisfaction I would normally get from proving myself correct and I wasn’t sure why.

Some girl once told me that Elijah Wood (he played Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) played the little kid from E.T. I told her that no, that kid’s name is Henry Thomas. And she insisted it was Elijah Wood. We went back and forth and I finally had to email her a link to IMDb (Internet Movie Database) to prove I was right. And that felt good. I showed her.

But in the case of Sarah and her cooking, I never felt good or vindicated when it turned out I was correct in my warnings.

And I don’t think I should.

It shouldn’t be about who’s right or wrong (or more specifically if I’m right or wrong). I was thinking about this early this morning and realize now that every time I tell her that she’s doing it wrong, her method is incorrect, it sends the message I don’t trust you.

And the most ironic thing about it? I end up criticizing one of the things about her I love most: her zeal for life, the fact that she goes into it knowing she can do it the fact that she can’t never enters her mind — doubt never settles in long enough to tell her otherwise. I could use a little bit of that myself.

Last night Sarah wanted to make quesadillas. I’ve never made them myself but have been in the kitchen when my uncle John made them. The point is I’ve never made them myself. And yet for some reason when Sarah said she was going to try to cook them in the oven I still felt the need to point out they are cooked on the stove top in a griddle.

And then I stopped.

I wasn’t helping. I wasn’t doing any good. If anything, I was taking the joy of cooking out of it. And even though my tone was friendly what I was saying was wrong. She’s showing love by cooking my dinner and all the thanks I had to offer was to let her know she wasn’t doing it the right way?

I was instantly angry with myself. Who was I to say what’s right and what isn’t? How long ago was it when I was trying things for the first time and they didn’t always turn out like the picture on the box? It wasn’t so long ago that I should have forgotten about it already.

I decided to shut my mouth and let Sarah do her thing. And she rocked it out. I don’t even know how she ended up making them and I didn’t ask. I ate an entire plateful and even had some of hers that she couldn’t finish. She did an amazing job and I was again upset that I would ever think to tell her she was wrong.

I’d like to blame the fact that I was sick all weekend for my lack of tact and thought, but why make excuses? To paraphrase Steve Martin, sometimes I’m just a big dumb guy.

Feeling Festive

Today I am submitting to my very first film festival ever. My buddy Hiram Ring gave me the heads up about a week ago and I thought I’d give it a shot. It’s the Rumschpringe:Winter 2008 Very Short Film Festival and my package is all ready to be sent out.

In case you’re curious, the film I am submitting is my comedic (hopefully) short film, The Failures of Ed. I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything back. Wish me luck!

“Sicko” sickos

I went to see the new Michael Moore documentary “Sicko” today. I’m not always a fan of Moore as a celebrity or personality, but I have to admit he knows how to put together a film, whether I agree with his point-of-view or not. In his latest outing he takes a stab at the state of America’s health care coverage. Don’t worry…it’s not nearly as boring and banal as my description makes it sound. In fact, it’s probably my favorite movie by Moore, besting even his “Roger & Me” debut. By the end of the film I found myself wondering the same thing I’ve been wondering for some time now:

1. Why DOESN’T America have free universal health care?

2. I now have yet another reason to go to Europe.

I was also very impressed with Lancaster today. At the 1:00 showing the theater was almost to full capacity and a large portion of the audience appeared to be teenagers. I have to admit I was sure they would cause a ruckus during the movie after learning they weren’t in the theater showing “Transformers” but I was pleasantly surprised. You couldn’t have asked for a better crowd.

On the way out I was walking behind an elderly couple and the woman commented on how she too was surprised at the large number of young people in the audience. Her (I assume) husband harrumphed in response, “Young people aren’t going to change anything. It’s the old people who will.”

An oddly pessimistic reaction from someone who, judging by his snail-like walking pace and trembling voice, only has about 4 months to start changing things before he drops dead.

Cast List

Without giving too much away, I’d like to announce a confirmed cast of characters who will be appearing in one of four upcoming short films written and directed by Yours Truly. This of course is not a final cast list and I’m not saying who is appearing in what. I will say that they have been confirmed to appear in one of the following shorts: “The Failures of Ed,” “The Heist,” “The Coffee Shop,” and/or “The Poker Game.”

I’ll keep you posted. I know I’ve been going on and on about these projects for some time with very little to show for it, so I’m hoping these random info tidbits will give you a bit of the fix you’re jonesin’ for.

Current projects cast roster (in alphabetical order)
David Beaman
Sarah Beaman
Alex Blowers
John Blowers
Lisa Blowers
Bob Boxell
Amy Hartman
Ben James
Mindy Lapp
Arni Placencia
Ed Placencia
Ray Placencia
Todd Sattison
Matt Stine