Lifetime of Simpsons

S07 E22 – Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”

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What a way to start off the week. This is such a fun and silly episode. I love episodes that put Homer and Lisa together, but man does Bart and Grandpa work well together too. We get a really fun episode, that has some great emotion in it too, the stuff we all love from this period of the show.

We start off with Bart bringing Grandpa to the Elementary School, since it’s some sort of “Bring your Grandparent to School,” day, where the grandparents I guess just lecture the classes about what they do. And Bart is stuck with good old Grandpa, who is busy spitting into Bart’s desk since they don’t have adequate spittoons. And after mocking Milhouse’s grandpa and his RV, and Nelson’s judge grandpa (who has sentenced 47 men to death) Krabappel finally lets Grandpa get up and ramble at the class. He then proceeds to sit in front of the class and yell about nonsense, like how the Kaiser stole our word from 20, and that he invented the “terlet.” Which makes the kids in class laugh, Grandpa get mad, and Bart get embarrassed.

That night Bart complains about Grandpa at dinner, saying that he hates how Grandpa just lies all the time and makes up his crazy stories. And while that’s going on, we cut over to the Retirement Castle, where Grandpa is sadly sitting alone in his room, going through junk mail before contemplating sleeping for days until some good mail builds up. But the last letter Grandpa opens is just a piece of paper with a single sentence written on it “Asa Phelps has died.” This freaks Grandpa out, and he starts talking to himself about something called the Hellfish Bonanza, because this episode really does a good job at making the plot mysterious.

So Grandpa heads to the cemetery, where he attends the funeral for this Asa Phelps, where the only other person besides Reverend Lovejoy that’s there is Mr. Burns. The two give each other intense looks and pull keys out of their pockets while Lovejoy talks about Phelps serving in World War II, and when Lovejoy finishes and leaves, the two men finally speak. We see that a giant monument in the Springfield Cemetery that has an engraving of the Hellfish logo has a hidden safe in it, and using their keys they open it to cross Asa’s name off the list. We then learn that there’s apparently some sort of treasure that Burns and Grandpa are waiting to collect, and that whichever of them survives longest gets it. And with that knowledge, Burns announces to Smithers that he wants Grandpa killed to get the treasure quicker.

Smithers finds this plan of action a little strange, since just waiting for time to kill Grandpa is feasible, but Burns disagrees, and gives a call to a Latin American assassin named Fernando Vidal. He faxes over a photo of Grandpa eating peas, and Vidal is on the case, flying to Springfield to kill the old man. First he tries to poison Grandpa’s teeth while he’s sleeping, but when he wakes up he accidently puts his alarm clock in his mouth and throws his teeth away, ruining the plan. Next up they try to get Grandpa to come out to the common area by saying he has family visiting, but it’s just Vidal, Burns, and Smithers dressed as the Simpsons, while he throws a knife at Grandpa. And after these two failures, Vidal just decides to bust into the Retirement Castle with a machine gun, firing wildly. Grandpa flees and Vidal is fought off by the nurse, who has a shotgun for some reason, and Grandpa escapes to the Simpsons house for sanctuary.

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But when Grandpa gets to the house, he for some reason refuses to tell them about the Hellfish Bonanza, so they just think he’s crazy, and make him stay in Bart’s room. Which Bart isn’t happy about. But for whatever reason, Grandpa decides that he can tell Bart the truth, and not the rest of the family, and shows Bart the tattoo he got in WWII saying that he’s a member of the Flying Hellfish, a badass unit from Springfield. Grandpa then tells him the tale of how he and a bunch of family members of character we know (like Barney, Skinner, Flanders, and Wiggum) went to war, along with their annoying partner Mr. Burns. And after some adventures in WWII, like Grandpa almost assassinating Hitler, the unit finds a German castle that’s full of stolen artwork. So they decide to take the art, but keep it hidden for a while since it’s stolen. So the group seal the artwork in a safe, and enter into a tontine, which will make the last surviving member of the unit get the paintings.

Bart doesn’t believe any of Grandpa’s story, but changes his mind when right on cue Mr. Burns busts into his room with a cherry picker. Burns is there to steal Grandpa’s key, which will give him the Bonanza, and Grandpa capitulates immediately. Bart then acts like he’s changing sides by hugging Burns, but in actuality he stole both of the keys without Burns noticing. So Grandpa and Bart run off to the cemetery to get to the treasure before Burns realizes what they did, and when they put all the keys into the monument, it’s eye sends a beam of light out into a lake, which shows the place where the treasure is kept. Grandpa then steals Ned’s boat, who is very accommodating about the whole thing, and the pair head off into the lake.

Bart puts on some scuba gear, and Grandpa comes up with a complicated system of pulling on ropes before Bart jumps out into the lake. He swims down to the bottom and finds the safe full of paintings, and after Grandpa briefly thinks Bart is signifying that he ran out of air, they bring the treasure up to the boat, victorious. They open up the safe, and fawn over the paintings, before Mr. Burns ominously appears on their boat in a really well animated moment. Burns then steals the paintings, and in one of the cruelest things he’s ever done, kicks Bart into the safe and knocks it off the boat, leaving him to drown. But Grandpa springs into action and dives into the lake, saving Bart. And once Bart is safe, the two chase after Burns’ speedboat, which leads to a crazy scene where Grandpa water-skis with a harpoon gun before having a drag-out fist fight with Burns. And in the end Grandpa wins and formally kicks Burns out of the unit, which means the paintings are his. Unfortunatley right as they grab the paintings, some Feds show up, because they’ve apparently been hunting these paintings for decades. So they take them away and give them to some shitty German techno guy, who drives off with them. And the episode ends with Grandpa and Bart embracing, because Bart doesn’t care who knows he loves his Grandpa.

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What a wonderful episode. It’s so fun and thrilling, while still having a really great emotional through line. This episode felt like a really good thriller, or even a mystery more akin to a Sideshow Bob episode. We learns about the Hellfish Bonanza throughout the episode, in bits and pieces which makes it really intriguing, and it really brings a new side of Grandpa out. I’m on record of loving Grandpa Simpson, and he’s in great form in this episode. I really loved seeing him be a badass soldier when he was younger, and while it was funny seeing him incompetently beating the assassin, it was awesome to see Grandpa spring into action there in the end, save Bart and beat up Burns. Plus, even with all of the fun Hellfish stuff, we also get that amazing ending. I’ve lost half of my grandparents so far, so stories about people realizing not to take their grandparents for granted, and to love spending time with them while you can really get to me and this one was really well done. That ending with Bart hugging Grandpa, and saying he doesn’t care who knows he loves his Grandpa is so moving, and I loved it so much. Plus we get Mr. Burns, so perfect episode!

Take Away: Cherish your grandparents. And believe them if they claim they’re being hunted by assassins.

 

“Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellfish”” was written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Jeffrey Lynch, 1996.

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Bat Signal

Issue 49 – “Clayface Walks Again”

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So last week we had the most current issue of Detective Comics that I happened to pull for this project, and this week we have the oldest yet. And holy crap does it have an exciting cover. I mean, Batman punching guys in a cemetery or the crazy cover to the Box story had some really fun covers, but this one straight up has Batman fighting pirates while Robin is tied to a mast! What an amazing cover! Hell yes I’ll pay 10¢ to read this story! How could they mess up the promise that this cover makes? Well…let’s get to that.

This issue starts off with a text box that fills us in on some previous adventures that are important to the plot, kind of like a “Previously, in Detective Comics,” where it tells us about the time Batman fought washed-up actor Basil Karlo who started dressing like his most famous role, a killer called Clayface, and began killing people involved in a remake of one of his movies. Which isn’t exactly the origin story for the Clayface I know, and it seems weird to me that he’s just a guy in make-up instead of a man made of weird shape-shifting mud like he is now, but it’s certainly more realistic. Turns out there was only one person involved in that remake that Clayface wasn’t able to kill, an actress named Julie who is poised to become the next it-girl in Hollywood. We see her scuzy agents talk about how they’re going to make her a star before changing her name to Portia Storme to be more marketable. We also see that Julie, or Portia I guess, is engaged to Bruce Wayne which is a little shocking. But she says she doesn’t like the fact that Bruce doesn’t have a job, and decides to call off the marriage. Bruce is super okay with that in a way that makes him seem like a total dick, but I guess he’s too busy Batmanning.

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Well, anyway, after the weirdest break-up of all time we see that Basil Karlo is being transferred from prison to a state asylum in the middle of the night, during a rainstorm. Great timing guys. And predictably, the car transporting him goes over a cliff, killing the officers and freeing Karlo. He then immediately goes to a costume shop, kills the proprietor and makes himself up in the Clayface costume, which is mainly just a creepy mask, a cape, and a big Carmen San Diego hat. And the whole escape from the transport and murder of a costume shop owner tips Batman and Robin off to a connection, since they are the world’s greatest detectives, and they decide to investigate Karlo. Batman assumes he’s going to go to the movie studio he used to work at since he seems pretty obsessed with his old career, and they’re right! The two split up and Batman ends up looking through a set designed as a yacht, which is where Clayface is hiding. He spots Batman, and the two end up having a big fight that spill over to the model town that’s being used for the shots. And in the middle of their fight Clayface manages to grab a brick and huck it at Batman’s head, knocking him out. He then sets up a needlessly complicated way to kill Batman where he gets a car to start moving toward him to crush him. Clayface then wanders off to take care of Robin, and ends up smashing the Boy Wonder in the back of the head with a blackjack, and tossing him into a set before igniting the whole place with an incendiary bomb! Jesus! He’s just a boy!

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But in a classic villain mistake, Clayface leaves without actually seeing either of his foes die, which makes it a lot easier for them to escape. Batman basically just wakes up and gets out of the way of the car, and then goes to look for Robin. He realizes that Robin is inside the burning set, and since the fire department isn’t really doing anything, he grabs one of their hoses and douses himself in water before diving into the burning set. he runs through the flames until he comes across Robin, saving his protege while also calling him “the best friend I’ve got,” which is pretty sweet.

And after that colossal failure, Clayface’s antics are reaching the newspaper, and Portia is getting pretty worried. But she’s apparently too nice to stop production on her newest movie, so they just announce to the world that she has added security, which couldn’t possibly come off as a challenge to the deranged serial killer that’s after her. But Batman has a plan, and ends up coming to Portia’s home in the middle of the night to talk with her and figure out what they’re going to do to stop Clayface and keep her safe. And the next day we see Karlo, still wearing his weird Clayface mask, dress up as an extra in Portia’s movie so he can get close to her. Batman and Robin then show up at the shoot to protect Portia, but I guess no one told the added security that they’re legit, which causes them to have a crazy fight with the security guards. The two get to Portia, and Batman continues fighting guards while Robin tries to escape with her to safety. Unfortunately Karlo shows up with a goddamn bow and arrow, and shoots Portia in the back. Batman then chases after Clayface while the guards deal with  body. Batman gets in a huge fight with Karlo before finally getting the upper hand and knocking him the hell out. The police come to arrest Karlo, and we learn that it wasn’t Portia who got shot with the arrow, it was Robin, who put on the cloak Portia was wearing so Clayface would shoot him instead. But it’s all good, Robin was wearing some weird vest made out of cork and cotton that was designed to deflect an arrow or a knife, so I guess everything’s good. The story then ends with everyone laughing about how to screwed Karlo over, and Portia’s producer asking Batman if he wants to be a movie star, while Batman gives this hilarious response.

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So there we go, the return of Clayface! Without this project even knowing who he was in the first place. This was a pretty fun little story with some actual mystery and detective work, which is always greatly appreciated in this project. We saw Batman and Robin look at clues and hunt down Karlo, while beating him at his own game. I didn’t realize that Clayface was ever like this, not actually having the weird superpowers that he has now, and it actually makes way more sense. I’ve always thought that the more superpowered villains that Batman fights are a little weird, since Batman doesn’t have any powers it usually seems unfair, and the idea of having Clayface just be a killer who is good at make-up works better with Batman, at least in my opinion. It’s also really weird that Bruce Wayne had a fiance in the beginning of this issue, especially since I assume the two met in the last Clayface story since she was so linked with him, and it’s even weirder that Bruce just straight up doesn’t care when they break off the engagement, and really neither does she. But the biggest disappointment of the whole issue is that there were no goddamn pirates! C’mon Detective Comics, you can’t tease me with Batman literally throwing a pirate over his head like Donkey Kong throwing a barrel, and then not have anything even remotely like that happen. The closest that scene came to was when Batman fought Clayface on a fake yacht, and that’s not even close. Just a shame guys, not a bad story, it just could have had pirate fighting.

“Clayface Walks Again,” was written by Bill Finger and supposedly drawn by Bob Kane, 1941.

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Reel Talk

The Beautifully Crafted Bummer that is Son of Saul

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There are certain subjects in film that I have kind of complicated feelings towards. Some subjects, while enormously important and deserving of analysis through fiction and non-fiction, tend to be used very manipulatively. Things like slavery, 9/11, or the Holocaust are immensely monumental subjects that really should be used in storytelling, because we should never forget the darkest moments in humanity. However, it’s also incredibly easy to use subjects like these to be emotionally manipulative. They’re such harrowing times, and have a built in tragedy that creators can use to instantly get you emotionally involved in the story, sometimes letting them skimp on storytelling because hey, you’re already invested. There’s also the fact that creators often take these subjects, and use them to make heart-warming, life-affirming movies, despite the fact that the majority of people involved in these events didn’t exactly have good outcomes. I absolutely loved the movie 12 Years a Slave, but it seemed designed by pull on every single one of my heartstrings, while at the last moment giving us a happy ending, despite the fact that so many countless other similar stories ended in tragedy. It totally makes sense to me, people generally don’t want to watch a movie that ends on a complete down note, because that kind of bummer will really sit with a person, and kind of ruin their day. We prefer to think about slavery or the Holocaust stories as having a happy ending, because in the end things did get better. The Holocaust ended and slavery was banned, so these stories ended with happy endings! But statistically there were vastly more people involved in these kinds of stories that had horrible, depressing ends, and yet it’s so rare to see a movie where we go with the realistic and soul-crushing ending that’s more likely. And look what we have here, a movie that’s going with that lesser used model of Holocaust stories, Son of Saul.

Son of Saul, or Saul fia as it’s known in its original language, is a Hungarian film that has a premise that’s already immensely depressing. We follow a man named Saul, who is a Hungarian Jewish man forced to work in the Auschwitz concentration camp as what’s known as a Sonderkommando. What is a Sonderkommando? Well they were Jewish prisoners in the camp who were forced to do menial labor in the camp, including actually working the gas chambers and crematoriums that killed so many of their brethren. Yep, that was a thing that actually happened, which I feel like I had heard of, but certainly never would have imagined that someone would have the guts to make a story about such a thing. And this movie did not pull its punches. It’s one of the saddest, bleakest, and more fascinatingly filmed movies I’ve ever seen. But let’s talk about the plot first.

The movie follows Saul for a day and half as he works in Auschwitz. He’s clearly been at this for a while, and seems pretty numb to the whole ordeal. But when he’s dealing with the corpses of people killed in the gas chamber, they find one boy that actually survived. He brings the boy to a doctor, who kills the boy and tells Saul to bring him to a room to get an autopsy. But while doing that Saul decides that the boy is his illegitimate son. Now, every other character in the movie tell Saul that he doesn’t have a son, but he keeps insisting that he does, and this kid is him, so I’m really not sure what the truth is. This boy may actually be his son, or he just may be a sign of Saul finally breaking. But whatever the truth is, Saul makes the decision that this boy needs a proper Jewish burial, not a trip to the ovens, and makes it his singular mission to get the boy the burial he deserves. Thus he begins a quest to find a willing rabbi among the prisoners who will perform the proper rituals.

While Saul begins his mission several of the other Sonderkommando’s begin planning rebellion against the Nazis, and start working on ways to escape and kill the guards. They attempt to get Saul in on the plan, but he really doesn’t seem to care about the escape, and is way more interested in the burial. But he does help them with a plan to photograph atrocities in exchange for information about rabbis. He learns about a rabbi called the Renegade who works for another Sonderkommando unit, so he just sneaks off into another unit, and somehow makes it to the guy, only to realize that he doesn’t want anything to do with Saul, and ends up getting executed. This freaks Saul out, but he still doesn’t give up, and heads back to his camp. And when he gets there he finds a new batch of Jews who have arrived in the camp, and while they’re being led into the woods to be executed, Saul finds one who claims to be a rabbi. So Saul saves the guy, and brings him back to the camp with him. But when Saul gets back, he finds out that more than likely his whole unit is probably going to get gassed soon, so things are really getting down to the wire. And just on time, the rest of his Sonderkommando’s decide that now it the time, and they begin their attack on the Nazis. Several of the men escape, including Saul and the rabbi, with the child’s corpse in tow. But once they get outside, Saul begin digging a grave, while asking the rabbi to start the ceremony. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes evident that this guy isn’t actually a rabbi, and he had lied in order to get Saul to save him, and just ends up running away. But Saul still doesn’t give up, and ends up following the guys across the river, still with the corpse. But things still aren’t as bad as they can be, so Saul begins having trouble getting across the river, and the corpse ends up getting washed away from him. The other guys drag him out of the river, even though it’s pretty clear that Saul would be fine with just dying at that point. But he trudges along with the guys as they end up hiding in a barn before striking out to find some Polish resistance fighters. But the movie wasn’t dark enough yet, because as they’re sitting in the barn, Saul sees a small farm boy peeking in, who then runs off before passing a squad of German soldiers, who then kill everyone in the barn.

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Yikes. What a depressing movie. And it was extremely worth it. We get so used to depressing movies having happy endings in America, that it was genuinely shocking that this movie stayed so bleak throughout. I just kept thinking that they were going to give Saul at least something to hold onto. But no. Literally everything goes wrong, and everything is taken from him. Which, while an aberration in movies, was probably a much more common occurrence in reality. This movie was so incredibly realistic and dark, that it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It was shot, and at least where I saw it projected, on 35 mm film, which gave it that scratchy, lived-in feel that I really love, and even had a strange aspect ratio that kept the movie tight and claustrophobic. The performances were great and incredibly believable, creating some truly monstrous characters. But I think the best thing about this movie, and the thing that gets brought up the most in regards to it, is the cinematography. The movie was pretty much solely shot with the camera in about a two foot radius of Saul at all times. Pretty much every shot had Saul directly in the foreground, either in closeup of his face, or more commonly, hovering directly behind his shoulder, like we were piloting him the whole time. It made for an incredibly intimate experience where you begin to almost feel like you are Saul. And they took full advantage of that camera-work, even blurring out the background at times, so that Saul was the only thing in focus, as if we were to see that Saul is so used to the horrors of the concentration camp that he doesn’t even see them anymore. We see piles of corpses frequently in the movie, but almost every time they’re blurred out, because Saul has seen them so many times they’re commonplace, and he’s doing his best not to even notice them. Really the only quibble I have about the movie is that the subtitle situation was a little strange. So many languages are being spoke in this movie, but they all receive the same subtitles, which led to me not realizing that there were other languages being spoke. I don’t speak German or Hungarian, so I couldn’t figure out why Saul wasn’t reacting to the Nazis speaking to him at first, before I realized that he just didn’t speak German well. Honestly, I feel like the movie could be even better if they removed the subtitles for every non-Hungarian line, making most of the dialogue in the movie incomprehensible, which is what Saul would be feeling. You would be just as lost as he was, struggling to understand what’s going on, and not knowing that some things are about to happen.

The last thing I want to talk about is how powerful I found the central premise. So often in American cinema we look at things like the Holocaust, and focus on huge stories. In a Hollywood Holocaust movie we would see much crazier things happening. Hitler would be personally visiting the camp, or the Allies would have come bursting in at the last moment to save everyone, or something like that. Or we would have had Saul find his illegitimate son alive and they bond, or some terrible crap like that that would be meant to find the bright side in tragedy. And I think the most brilliant thing about his movie is that there are more Hollywood plots going on in the background, like the rebellion thing, but Saul doesn’t give a crap about any of that. He doesn’t want to break out and get freedom, he doesn’t want revenge against the Nazis who have ruined his life, he just wants to do one last human, decent thing for someone. Who cares if the kid is actually his son or not, that’s irrelevant, all he wants to do it make sure that just one of these people gets a proper burial and the respect that they deserve. And honestly, that’s the most beautiful and heart-breaking thing I could imagine, and this movie handled it perfectly.

Son of Saul was written by László Nemes and Clara Royer, directed by László Nemes, and released by Mozinet, 2015.

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Reel Talk

The Juvenile Highs and Lows of Deadpool

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Oh Deadpool. I have very conflicting feelings about this character. He’s extremely over-hyped, and has generally been embraced by a demographic of aggressively eccentric people who think being random is the funniest thing in the world, and that I generally find intolerable. He’s basically become a joke, and with the exception of a handful of comics writers, his appearance in a comic is generally going to be pretty aggravating. And yet, he’s the character that really got me into comics. I had fooled around with comics through my life, and in high school began grabbing random trades at Barnes and Nobel, trying to find something I liked, but for whatever reason it was Deadpool that really clicked, especially the run written by Daniel Way, which hasn’t aged very well, but really brought me into the character. And honestly, Deadpool is probably the best gateway drug of a comic character there is, because he interacts with so many of the different characters in the Marvel universe, since he so frequently had cameos from different people. So when I heard that they were finally getting a movie off the ground, even after the disastrous showing in Wolverine Origins, I was cautiously optimistic. Because the character really could be used effectively in a movie, I really do believe that. And was this that movie? Eh, not really.

Now, I wouldn’t say that this was a bad movie, it was pretty good, it just wasn’t great. It was a valiant effort, that showed real promise, and while it wasn’t as good as it should have been, it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And I think the main problem with the movie was that it, for the most part, focused on the worst, but more marketable, parts of the character. But before we get into that, let’s talk about what the movie is actually about. Now, even though origin movies are pretty played out, that’s what they went with, and the movie basically just tells a version of Deadpool’s origin through an extended flashback. The movie opens up with a truly great credits scene that listed the stereotypical roles the characters were playing, instead of the actor’s names, like saying “Comic Relief” instead of TJ Miller. We then see Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds finally getting his chance to do the character right) and his cab driver heading to the middle of a busy freeway so he can ambush a group of mercenaries that are guarding a sketchy guy called Ajax (Ed Skrein). We see an extended version of that test footage that the director “leaked” a couple years ago, where Deadpool attacks the mercenaries on the highway, and goofily murders everyone involved. And after a pretty great scene where he manages to kill all of the mercenaries with only 12 bullets, we begin the barrage of flashbacks that make up most of the movie.

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Now, the flashback is more or less based on some of the backstories that we’ve seen before in the comics, but Deadpool, much like the Joker, doesn’t really have a definitive backstory. It’s changed a lot over the years, and is generally chalked up to the fact that he’s crazy and has memory problems, so not even he exactly remembers what happened. But the one we get here has Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces solider who works as a mercenary at a bar run by his only friend, Weasel (TJ Miller). But along the way he meets a prostitute named Vanessa that he ends up falling in love with. They get engaged, and right on cue Wade finds out he has all kinds of terminal cancer. He pretty much gives up on life, until he’s approached by a mysterious man representing a shady organisation that offers to experiment on him and possibly heal his cancer. He wavers about it, but ends up sneaking off, not even telling Vanessa that he’s going to do it. So he’s brought to the shady Weapon X facility (at least I assume it’s Weapon X, I don’t remember if they actually ever called it that) where he meets the head of the facility Francis, a.k.a. Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his super partner Angel (Gina Carano). And right away Ajax admits that this place isn’t on the up-and-up, and the whole plan is to torture people in the hopes that their mutant gene activates and gives them powers. So Wade is essentially tortured for some nondescript amount of time, and finally his healing abilities manifest, along with a side-effect where his skin becomes gruesome. Wade and Ajax then fight, leading to a massive explosion that devastates the facility, and Wade is left for dead.

But he didn’t die, and then spends a while becoming Deadpool, with the help of Weasel, in a great montage where he gradually makes his suit, fights a bunch of guys in ridiculous ways, and starts tracking down all of Francis’ men, hoping to finally find him. And while all of that’s going on, he thinks about talking to Vanessa, letting her know that he’s actually alive, but decides to wait until he finds Francis to do that, since he thinks Francis has a way to fix his face. And we’re finally at the point where the flashbacks began. Deadpool has killed all the mercs, and finds Ajax among them. Bur right as he’s about to torture the guy in order to get him to fix him, he’s attacked by two X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. They stop Deadpool from dealing with Ajax, since Colossus wants him to be a hero, and Deadpool generally responds by being an asshole. And during their squabble, Ajax gets away, and Colossus gets ready to take Deadpool back to the X-Mansion, by any means necessary. And this ends with Deadpool cutting his own wrist off to avoid the handcuffs before jumping off onto a dumpster. He then gets back to the shitty little house he lives in with Blind Al, which was a character I was shocked to see in a movie. The two hang out and argue about Ikea furniture until he gets a call from Weasel that Ajax and Angel attacked him in the bar, and know where Vanessa is. The two run to the strip club where she works, and we get to see the weirdest Stan Lee cameo yet, but they’re too late, and the bad guys have stolen Deadpool’s love.

So they race off to the weird scrapyard that Ajax is hiding out in, and that has what I think is supposed to be a Helicarrier? Maybe it’s just a battleship, but I’m pretty sure I saw the turbines that they had in the Avengers movies. Colossus and Warhead join Deadpool, and the fight is on, as Colossus and Warhead fight Angel, and Deadpool wipes out a bunch of useless goons, before running into Bob, Agent of…I guess Ajax. But Deadpool finally makes it up to the top of the carrier in time to fight Ajax, who has locked Vanessa in the weird oxygen deprivation tank that made his power manifest. The two beak the hell out of each other, Deadpool saves Vanessa, and the carrier ends up exploding. Deadpool finds Ajax in the rubble, and Colossus begins rambling about how heroes don’t kill. But not surprisingly Deadpool still kills Ajax, says he doesn’t really care about being a hero, and then still gets the girl, even though his face is fugly.

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So there we go. The Deadpool movie. It wasn’t that bad, but man was I hoping for more. The movie started out very strongly, and I felt like it had a real fighting chance. The opening credits, the cab ride, and the first fight on the highway were all great. It had some parody elements, some fun dialogue, and some bonkers action, just what I want from a Deadpool movie. But then the flashbacks begin, and the movie starts to get shaky. It became a pretty paint-by-numbers superhero origin movie, just a dirty one with lots of sex jokes and profanity. I feel like the best bet would have been to make the movie a parody of origin films, which maybe was what they were going for, but it really didn’t come across that way. It was just a dirty origin story, instead of a satire of one. And man was Ajax an incredibly boring villain. Yeah, Deadpool doesn’t have many good villains, but this dude was such a waste. They made him just hateable enough go along with Deadpool’s hatred as he begins a pretty standard revenge plot. It hits pretty much every plot point that you would think it would, which I could see someone argue makes it a satire of the genre, but it just felt lazy to me. There was no satire involved, it was just a cheesy action movie.

And I was really not into the whole concept of Deadpool doing everything he could not to be a hero. The movie was so obsessed with showing us that he’s no hero. He kills people, which makes him extreme! It’s so tired and played out, and just seemed to date the character to his 90’s origins. I love that the Deadpool of today’s comics spends most of his time desperately trying to be a hero, while all of the established Marvel heroes want nothing to do with him, and avoid him at all costs, while he’s essentially trying to befriend them as a sort of apprenticeship. But Deadpool wanting to do something that isn’t murder just isn’t appealing to the target demographic of this movie, so of course they wouldn’t go that way. He’s still so entrenched in this weird 90’s detached cynicism, that it would feel weird in the movie we got if Deadpool was going with Colossus, and trying to be hero. Which would have been awesome if this movie came out in the 90’s, but in the modern day when people are loving the Marvel Studios movies that revolve around characters doing everything they can to be heroic, it seemed weird that this movie did everything it could to make Colossus and his love of heroism seem lame and ridiculous, when it’s Deadpool’s obstinence and commitment to be an “anti-hero” that came off as ridiculous. At least to me.

I will say, the thing I love most about Deadpool is the fact that he’s a parody of superheros, the industry, and the genre in general. Which is what makes the character so enjoyable, in the right hands. Yeah, you could make him a super simple meme machine that yells about chimichangas and Bea Arthur, which would appeal to the reddit fanbase, but the runs that really work for me are ones that have Deadpool wander around the Marvel Universe, poking fun at how ridiculous things are. And this movie just couldn’t get that across, mainly because of the studio issues. He obviously can’t make direct references, or talk to any of the characters being handled at Marvel Studios, and the movie is left with only the X-Men characters, which this movie didn’t even use right. We had two X-Men, one virtually no one has heard of, and the other being Colossus, who I really don’t care about. I guess the movie made an accurate Colossus, since he was mainly worthless (seriously, read the early issues that had Colossus written by Chris Claremont, he spends most of the time complaining about how he’s useless in every situation he finds himself in). And other than that, and a few cheap jabs at Green Lantern and the Wolverine Origins movie, it’s pretty devoid of parody of the genre. And taking away the satire basically leaves us a movie that embraces basically everything about the character I’m not fond of.

Now, Deadpool is supposed to be a funny character, making jokes all the time. Unlike Spider-Man, I usually do find the guy funny, especially in the right hands. But one thing that seemed wrong with the movie was the tone. Yeah, comics stick with some rules that keep things kind of at a PG-13 level, so essentially everything I’ve seen of Deadpool is in that mindframe, but the crudeness of this movie felt weird. I’m by no means a prude, I’m perfectly fine with a movie full of sex jokes, but it just didn’t seem like Deadpool. He’s usually more of a cultural reference guy, less “blue” material. It just felt like they were desperately trying to seem “mature” which means it’s trying to appeal to teenagers. At the very least it didn’t go the route of the terrible DC movies that are about to assault us by making everything incredibly grim and dark, but it seemed to be taking the same methodology of just being vulgar to equate maturity. I just kind of walked away from the movie with the feeling that this movie was aimed directly at hyperactive high-schoolers. Which isn’t a problem, I mean movies have to be directed at someone, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

There are good points to the movie too. The humor, when it wasn’t doing it’s best to be in the gutter in an attempt to be edgy, was pretty great. Moments like Deadpool killing a guy with a Zamboni, making references to the convoluted timeline of the X-Men films, and some of the silly fourth-wall-breaking asides were really fun and worked great. I think Reynolds did a great job, and really works at spitting out the rapid-fire puns and jokes. And there was some really solid action in the movie, especially that opening scene, even though it was basically just that test footage that we saw a couple years ago. And while these positive parts did help the negative, in the end it didn’t really save the movie for me. Like I said, I didn’t hate it, I just feel like we should have gotten a much better, more satiric film. Although I do kind of hate feeling that, because it’s a little weak to complain about the movie you didn’t get. And I feel like we’ll never get the Deadpool movie I actually want, since it would require full use of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I feel like the best bet would be to make a movie more inspired by the recent run of Deadpool that’s been written by Gerry Duggan. It uses some great satire of the universe, wonderful humor, some really solid new supporting characters, and a whole lot of heart. This movie seemed to be really focused on the early years of Deadpool, when he was trying to be a parody of ridiculous 90’s characters while still being firmly in the 90’s and still falling into all the same pitfalls. The Deadpool of today is a more realized and interesting character, and that’s just not the guy we got. It was nice to see that some emotion was put in this movie, which I really didn’t see coming, it just wasn’t enough to make this the movie that would have really changed things, and become the true superhero satire movie that we’re waiting for.

Deadpool was written by  Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller, and released by 20th Century Fox, 2016.

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S07 E21 – 22 Short Films About Springfield

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What do you know, another episode that’s kind of hard to wrap my mind around writing about. This is a fascinating and really enjoyable episode, and it honestly got even better for me this time, especially as I’m looking at it so in depth this time. It’s so wonderfully structured, and I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated how well the different short stories flow together. Let’s get into it!

The episode starts with Bart and Milhouse standing on an overpass, hocking loogies down on the passersby. And in between the phlegm, Bart has a realization that the people they’re spitting on may have stories of their own, and he wonders aloud what kind of stories the various people of Springfield may be having right that moment. Milhouse doesn’t really care, because he’s too busy spraying mustard at a convertible, but Bart’s question gives us the premise of the episode, and from their we begin swinging around the town, checking in on various characters and what they’re doing that day.

Things start off when Bart and Milhouse go to the Kwik-E-Mart, and we hop over to Apu, who is arguing with Sanjay about how Apu works too much and never takes a break. So he agrees to close the Kwik-E-Mart for five minutes and go to Sanjay’s house for a party. We’re then treated to “Apu in the Jolly Bengali” as he quickly experiences a party by eating, drinking, dancing, having sex, and playing in a pool as fast as he possibly can, before getting back to the Kwik-E-Mart just in time for Hans Moleman to complain that Apu stole four minutes of his life. And we go through Apu’s radio to the next story, which involves Lisa going outside to recycle one of Homer’s beer-cans, just as Bart skateboards past and tosses some gum into her hair. She freaks out and runs to Marge, who uses some mom-logic to put peanut butter and mayonnaise on the gum in the hopes that that gets it out easy. But all it accomplishes is getting Lisa’s head swarmed by flies and bees.

And one of those bees goes buzzing off around town, and ends up landing on Smithers’ glasses as he’s doing all the work on a tandem bike with Mr. Burns. Smithers freezes up since he’s apparently allergic to bees, but Burns won’t have that, and tries to swat the bee away, which just ends with Smithers getting stung. And as Smithers starts to go into anaphylactic shock, Burns beings berating Smithers, and ends up getting them to the hospital just in time for them both to collapse in exhaustion. Unfortunately the orderlies just grab Burns and bring him in, leaving Smithers to get some spare change from Dr. Nick, who says that great line “holy smokes, you need booze!” We then follow Dr. Nick briefly as he goes before a malpractice board who yell at him for all the heinous things he does, before he saves the day when Grandpa shows up at the hospital and demands to see a quack. And after warning Grandpa that he’ll give himself “skin failure” Dr. Nick begins shocking Grandpa’s teeth to fix his issue. Free nose-jobs for everybody!

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We then see that the power fluctuation from Dr. Nick’s procedure is messing with the lights in Moe’s which momentarily distracts him from announcing to Barney that he sent his bar tab to NASA to get tabulated. And the amount ends up being $14 billion, to which Barney just pays him $2,000. But right as Moe puts the money in the register, Snake bursts in threatening to rob the place. Moe quickly goes in a safe-room, which makes it that much easier for Snake to just steal the money and get away.

And from there we go to a wonderful story about Principal Skinner inviting Superintendent Chalmers over for lunch, which gets it’s own title card of “Skinner and the Superintendent.” It basically revolves around Skinner telling increasingly outlandish lies to convince Chalmers that their lunch is going well. He burns the roast and ends up going to Krusty Burger to buy burgers while calling them ‘steamed hams,’ which is an Albany thing. Although it does end with the hilarious joke of Skinner’s kitchen being on fire while Skinner claims it’s just Aurora Borealis, with this great interaction:

Chalmers: Aurora Borealis?! At this time of year?!? In this part of the country!? :Localized entirely within your kitchen!?!

Skinner: Yes.

Chalmers: May I see it?

Skinner: Er, no.

 

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This then has a firetruck race to save the Skinner household, which goes right past Homer, who is out walking with Maggie, Santa’s Little Helper, and some groceries. But when Homer sees a newspaper headline about a donut tax, he scrambles to buy the paper, and ends up getting Maggie trapped in the machine. And since he doesn’t have any quarters he has to try and pull her out of the little door, which just makes her naked. And since his plan to have Santa’s Little Helper carry a note ends with him eating it, Homer just ends up stealing the whole machine and bringing it home with him. And as Homer tries to play with Maggie in her machine, we see an add for Krusty Burger which leads us right over to one that has Chief Wiggum, Eddie, and Lou in it. We then get a silly scene where the three cops start talking about McDonalds and basically parodying the Royale with Cheese scene from Pulp Fiction before heading out.
After the ridiculous Royale with Cheese scene we briefly follow the Bumblebee Man as he goes home from a long day at work before destroying his house with his silly antics. Although it does lead to his divorce, which is a bummer. But while Mrs. Bumblebee Man is leaving the ruins of her house, Snake comes racing by in a car before stopping at a stop sign where Chief Wiggum is crossing the street with a box of donuts, singing about them before happily exclaiming “Hey I know you!” at Snake when he recognizes him, which is exactly why my college friends and I would do when we saw each other on campus. But Snake tries to run over Wiggum, and the two end up reenacting the Butch/Marsellus fight from Pulp Fiction until they end up in Herman’s Military Antiques, where the will presumably be raped, if the parody is accurate.
But we cut away from that unpleasantness to see Reverend Lovejoy walking his dog with the express intent of getting him to do his “dirty, sinful business” on Ned’s lawn. So Ned goes to get a shovel to take care of that, and ends up seeing Marge still trying to get the gum out of Lisa’s hair, and he stars to help by recommending they freeze it and hit it with a hammer. That doesn’t work, and we get a ridiculous scene where all sorts of Springfield weirdos come in to give their two-cents, like Willie, Captain McCallister, Otto, Dr Hibbert, Sideshow Mel, Lionel Hutz, Uter, the Capitol City Gooftball, Kent Brockman Leopold, Dr. Colossus, and Lenny. Which is followed up with a silly scene with Cleetus the Slack-Jawed Yokel where he gets his own theme song, and just tries to get his wife to wear boots to her stripper audition.
And after that we see Milhouse desperately trying to pee in the Android’s Dungeon, but Comic Book Guy wont let him without buying something. And since the photo of Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore is outside his price range, he has to buy some little Hamburglar comic, which just pisses Kirk off, who makes Milhouse leave before getting to pee. So they go to another store for Milhouse to pee in, and it turns out to be Herman’s, where things have escalated to Herman holding the two men hostage with ball-gags. Milhouse goes and pees while Kirk awkwardly stands there trying to figure out what the hell is going on. And right as Herman is about to capture Kirk as well, he’s knocked out by Milhouse who is walking around swinging a mace, which narrowly saves everyone from rape.
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Wiggum then escapes, and starts hopping down the street while still tied to a chair, and passes Lisa who is giving up on the gum situation and is just going to get a haircut. The weird barber guy ends up getting rid of the gum, and even gives her a hairdo like a normal person. But when she leaves the barber she finds Nelson outside, who laughs at her, making her sad. Nelson then laughs at Mrs. Glick falling over and a really tall man inside a tiny Volkswagon Bug. But the Tall Man is not in the mood to be mocked, and he chases Nelson down, and ends up deciding that he needs punishment. So the Tall Man makes Nelson drop his pants, and walk through town so everyone can laugh at him for once. And the episode ends with Bart and Milhouse squirting ketchup and mustard from that overpass while agreeing that yeah, some people in the town have fun stories to tell. Oh, and we also see Professor Frink run up to the camera, distraught that we ran out of time to talk about the Tomfoolery of Professor John Frink, as he promises that “that monkey is going to pay.”
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This episode is so silly, and it’s a blast. We did get to see the family members do stuff, but the real draw of this episode are all of the fun secondary or tertiary characters having their own brief little adventures. I know I heard that this episode almost inspired a spin-off series, which would have just been Simpsons episodes that didn’t feature the family, and just been tales of Springfield, which probably would have been pretty fun for a while, because I gotta say sometimes episodes that revolve around other characters can feel a little weird, since they have to shoe-horn the Simpsons into it. But that obviously never came to pass, so we’re left with this glorious little episode, with it’s random vignettes and great transitions.
Take Away: There should have been a series about Springfield. Oh, and don’t shop at Herman’s…that dude’s sketchy.

“22 Short Films About Springfield,” was written by  Richard Appel, David Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Josh Weinstein, Bill Oakley, and Matt Groening, and directed by Jim Reardon, 1996.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S07 E20 – Bart on the Road

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Hey everybody! It’s time for fake ID’s, grammar rodeos, Winnipeg, purple fruit and Marlon Brando’s Island! Did that sentence seem like gibberish? Then read on!

This silly episode starts off when Principal Skinner is preparing for his spring break trip to Hong Kong, when he notices a slight discrepancy that has him leaving the day before the break actually begins. He calls the airline and finds that it would be a lot of money to change it, so he decides to close the school a day early by making all the kids go to “take your kid to work” day. And let me tell you, those days really do seem to be designed to just give teachers a day off while kids have to awkwardly meet their parents’ coworkers and sit around even more bored than usual for a day. And once the kids get home they split up who will go with who, and Lisa ends up having to go to the Plant with Homer, while Bart plans to stay at home and watch cartoons while watching Marge. But Lisa has the last laugh when she points out that since Bart wants to see women in the workplace, he should go be with Patty and Selma at the DMV, which Marge thinks is a great idea. So it’s off to the DMV with Bart.

So Bart goes to the DMV with his horrible aunts, Lisa goes to the Power Plant, and we briefly see that Milhouse got to go to the cracker factory where his dad works, and it’s basically Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but for crackers, and looks like a blast. And right off the bat Lisa isn’t really having a lot of fun, since she and Homer don’t typically have that much in common. Although it does lead to the wonderful interaction of:

Homer: “Lisa, would you like a donut?”

Lisa: “No thanks. Do you have any fruit?”

Homer: “Uh…this has purple in it. Purple is a fruit.”

Which is just spectacular, and is something that I still quote at a shockingly regular degree. We also get a little foreshadowing when Homer shows off the map of the country that shows every other nuclear power plant in the country that he has for some reason. And even though things were awkward at first, Lisa and Homer start to actually have fun when they start goofing off together. They put on radiation suits and spin around on chairs, and just generally start to have a good, and adorable, time.

But the real plot gets going when we briefly see that Martin has made $600 during his day with his father in the stock market, and when we see what Bart has done at the DMV. While Selma is busy laminating Cleetus’ driver’s license, Bart uses the machine to make his own license, with his age listed as 25. So the next day Bart goes and shows off the fake ID to Nelson and Milhouse, who decide to go do all sorts of fun things that come along with being an adult. Like going to see Naked Lunch at a theater, and trying to drink beer at Moe’s. But when Moe’s just ends up depressing them, they leave, and run into Martin who starts flaunting his money, even though Milhouse tells him that they don’t need another nerd in the group. But the four start spit-balling, and they realize what they have to do for their spring break. They rent a car!

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So the four ten-year olds start driving around town, since Bart knows how to drive a car for some reason, and decide that they should go on a road-trip. So Bart creates an air-tight alibi, that all four of them have been selected to go to a National Grammar Rodeo at the Sharaton Hotel in Canada, because apparently there’s only one up there. So the kids tell their parents, except Nelson who just leaves, and they begin their roadtrip. Milhouse finds a AAA travel guide in the glove compartment, and start flipping through it to get ideas. But while that’s going on we get the really cute scene where Homer is bored at work, and calls the house to talk to Lisa, after briefly disappointing Marge who thought he was calling to talk to her. So Lisa comes to work with Homer again, and the two keep having fun and bonding.

Back at the roadtrip, the boys pull their car over when they realize they headed out without a destination, and start debating where to go. And when Milhouse finds an article about the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, they quickly agree that that’s the best bet, and head off to Knoxville. We’re then treated to a silly montage of things that they do while driving, like getting ice cream, weighing the car, picking up a creepy drifter, and getting him ice cream too. There’s also a hilarious scene where they pass a disgruntled family who are going on vacation to Cape Canaveral, and Nelson reaches over and smacks the angry father, who decrees that they’re turning around and going back to Winnipeg, which is such a dumb joke, but it makes me laugh so much.

And while all of this is going on, Homer and Lisa are having a lot of fun together. They break into a candy machine, and bribe Smithers into looking the other way, and decide to have a sleep over together when Homer has to work some sort of night shift. There’s also a really sad scene where Lisa just peaces out, and leaves Marge alone with Maggie, but that’s quickly undercut with how adorable it is that Homer and Lisa are having a sleep over. They make a fire in his office and have sleeping bags while playing truth or dare, which ends with Homer getting her to admit that she has a crush on some boy named Langdon Alger. It’s just so cute.

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There’s a funny scene in the road-trip plot when the kids end up going through Branson, Missouri, which Bart describe as “Las Vegas if it was run by Ned Flanders,” and they’re forced to stay and watch Andy Williams by Nelson, who is apparently a big fan. But after that detour, they make it to Knoxville, only to find that the Wod Fir has seen better days, since the fair ended more than a decade ago. There’s nothing there except a wig store, and when the kids are forced to buy some wigs, and Martin buys a talking Al Gore doll, they realize they’re out of money. And right as they start to panic, Nelson throws a rock at the giant Sunsphere that was in the fair, and it knocks over and destroys their car, trapping them in Tennessee.

So with no other options left, Bart calls home, and after once again hilariously disappointing Marge, he talks to Lisa. He admits that the Grammar Rodeo was a fake, and explains the situation to her, and makes her promise not to tell the parents. She starts brainstorming, and the best idea she has for getting them all home free would be for Bart to use his fake ID to become a courier. And that works, so Bart goes off on his first courier job, which is to deliver eyeballs to Hong Kong, where he’s spotted by a confused Principal Skinner. But when he gets back to Springfield, he realizes this could take forever, especially since his next job is taking 800 Big Macs to Marlon Brando’s island, so he asks Lisa to come up with something better.

Lisa then goes to work with Homer again, but is clearly upset about something to the point that even Homer notices. So he gets her to break her promise, and she just lets everything lose, telling Homer everything. Which leads to the hilarious scene of Homer putting on his radiation helmet and swearing so much it fogs up the glass shield. But he agrees to help Bart out, and the two decide that they need to order something large enough that they could smuggle Martin, Milhouse, and Nelson inside, and they decide that they need a new computer consol that Homer uses for his job. So they use that map from earlier and call a Nuclear Plant that’s near Knoxville and order a new consol, after Homer sabotages his perfectly fine one. So Bart gets to come home, and the other kids come too, although Bart makes them get crammed in a box they don’t need to be. And when he gets home, Bart keeps up the lie about the Grammar Rodeo, which pisses off Lisa and Homer, but just makes Marge proud, so they keep the lie up. And the episode ends with the hilarious scene of Homer and Marge in bed while Marge gets phone calls from Skinner who asks about Bart being in Hong Kong, the Knoxville police department who want to question Bart about the car accident, and the courier guy who asks if Bart is available to work more, and while she gets increasingly confused Homer just starts to giggle.

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What a fun and silly episode. Both plots are so strong, and work together beautifully. The B plot with Homer and Lisa having fun “working” together is so freaking adorable, and serves as a mini Lisa episode, without having any big conflict between the two, we just get to see this cute father/daughter team bond and have fun with each other, which was really refreshing. And that road-trip plot is just so great. I love those four boys and the weird dynamic they make, and just the idea of four ten-year olds renting a car and driving to a poorly researched destination was so much fun. This is some peak Simpsons here.

Take Away: Plan out your road-trips.

 

“Bart on the Road,” was written by Richard Appel and directed by Swinton O Scott III, 1996.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S07 E19 – A Fish Called Selma

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Guess what everybody; it’s a whole episode about Troy McClure! I really love this episode, but it kind of blew my mind that this was the first episode that Troy McClure actually interacted with the Simpsons. He’s in the show so many times, but before this I feel like the closest they ever got to him was Krusty’s fake funeral a few episodes ago in “Bart the Fink.” So buckle up and get ready for some Troy McClure goodness.

Things start off with the family watching a terrible Muppet movie on TV called “Muppets go Medieval,” that seems to feature Troy McClure as the human that’s seducing Miss Piggy. And the kids have lots of questions, first and foremost what a Muppet was, which is explained by Homer as “Well, it’s not quite a mop, it’s not quite a puppet, but man… [laughing hysterically] to answer your question I don’t know.” I also love that Bart thinks that Troy McClure is a Muppet made out of leather, even though he’s seen the dude in a million things. We’re then introduced to the weirdest gag from the episode when Homer talks to Marge about the weird rumors that surround McClure about his fish fetish. A joke which is super funny and strange, but gets hammered into the ground by the end of the episode.

But when the joke is still funny we cut right over to Troy driving his DeLorean with its “Follow me to the Springfield Aquarium” bumper sticker. He’s swerving all over the road, and ends up getting pulled over by Chief Wiggum, who doesn’t recognize him from any terrible movies. And when Wiggum checks his license he finds that McClure is supposed to be wearing corrective lenses, which he hates because they make him look like a nerd. But Wiggum demands he goes to the DMV to pass an eye-test after giving him a bribe. So Troy heads over to the DMV, and runs right into Selma, who freaks out since Troy used to be such a hearththrob. And taking advantage of that fact, Troy manages to talk Selma into passing his eye-test in exchange for a date. So the two head to the Pimento Grove for a truly horrible date where Troy couldn’t be more bored and Selma is just gushing like a fan-girl. But things change when the date ends and they head outside where some lingering paparazzi see McClure with a human female, and freak out. Troy then realizes that this could be a good thing, and milks his kiss with Selma for a primo photo that ends up on some gossip page along with a hilarious headline of “Look who’s drunk,” with a smashed Ranier Wolfcastle.

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The next day we cut over to Troy’s sad mansion, which looks kind of like the Deaton Sculpted House outside Denver, complete with a bedroom aquarium, and he gets a call from his agent, MacArthur Parker, who has good news. That picture gave him some good buzz, and there are now actually some people who have interest in casting him in things, so Parker recommends that he keeps dating Selma, and keep getting his picture taken. So Troy and Selma begin dating, which hits a speed-bump right away when Selma gets kicked out of a fancy restaurant for smoking, but it’s kind of saved when Troy comes outside with her to smoke his cigar, which was actually kind of a sweet gesture. And things start moving a little fast when Troy later invites her to a special screening of “Muppets go Medieval” at a dingy drive-in theater, where he ends up proposing to Selma by using his dialogue that went with Miss Piggy. Selma’s getting married again!

So Selma moves into Troy’s creepy house, where he sleeps in a guest room rather than with her, and right away his career is starting to revitalize. Parker calls him and gets him a job as the lead in a new musical based on Planet of the Apes, which has the amazing title of “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I want to Get off!” We’re then treated to the truly crazy Apes musical which features a parody of “Rock Me Amadeaus” that’s about Dr. Zaius. There’s also the truly wonderful line from Homer “I love the legitimate theater,” which I saw after every live theater I see. And the play is a success! Troy’s star is on the rise.

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But at this point, when the Simpsons are over visiting Selma and Troy, Selma starts to get really shitty about the whole thing, making fun of Marge and Homer’s marriage, and just generally gloating about being with Troy. And at some point after that we see Homer and Troy drinking together and Moe’s while Homer tries to pitch Dracula movies. But after Homer is done with terrible movie ideas, Troy drunkenly tells him the truth about everything, that the marriage is a sham and that he doesn’t actually even like Selma. Unfortunately the next scene is the wedding, and when Lovejoy asks if there’s anyone with reason to not let the wedding go through, Homer is too busy singing in his head, and isn’t able to impart that important knowledge. So Selma and Troy get married and drive off into marital bliss.

And later that night Homer and Marge are chatting in bed when Homer finally remembers the thing Troy told him, which freaks Marge out. And as we know by now, Marge isn’t one to let something like this go by without being meddled in. But while that’s going on we cut over to the hotel that Selma and Troy are in for their wedding night, where Troy gets a call from Parker, who has some big news. There’s a new McBain movie coming out, and people say they want McClure to be the sidekick, so they’re going to have to kick things up a notch.

There’s a slight wrinkle though when Patty and Marge have an intervention for Selma, and tell her that Troy just married her for the fish rumors. She gets furious at them, and storm out, and heads straight to the house to ask Troy about what they said. But shockingly Troy just openly admits that it’s true, and ends up actually convincing her that it’s okay and for the best. So they decide to stick together and live a lie, and enjoy the results.

And with them both on board, Troy’s career starts to get even better. We see him getting Buster Keaton’s spot on the Springfield Walk to Fame, even threatening that Selma will get a star soon too. And while all of that’s going on the hunt for McBain’s sidekick is heating up, and Parker tells Troy that the only way to get the role is to be a family man, and have a son. So he and Selma talk it over, and they decide to have a baby, despite the fact that Troy is repulsed by sex with her, and doesn’t even seem to know how to do it. And during the awkward night when they try to conceive, Selma finally gives up, and tells Troy that she’s fine living in a loveless marriage, but that it’s too cruel to bring a child into a loveless marriage. So she calls the agreement and the marriage off, and heads off into the night with Jub Jub. The episode then ends with the hilarious revelation that McClure turned down the McBain role to make his own kids movie, “the Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel,” which is going to be a sure fire hit.

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I really enjoyed this episode, even though the whole fish fetish thing got carried way too far. It was a funny gag at the beginning, but man did I not remember that they mentioned it every couple minutes. Plus, for being an episode about Troy McClure, they didn’t come up with that many great fake movie titles, except “They Came to Burgle Carnegie Hall.” But there’s a lot of great jokes in this episode, and I really like the premise of McClure having a fake marriage to get his career back on track, at the expense of poor Selma. But the true shining moment of the episode is that ending. I’ve mentioned this before, but Selma isn’t really my favorite character, and in episodes that aren’t about her, she’s usually horrible. But that ending is so sad and affecting that it really moves Selma up a couple pegs in my book. She gives up a life of fame, money, and luxury because she doesn’t want a child to grow up in a loveless house, which is a really brave thing that a lot of people don’t go with. There are plenty of people who bring kids into loveless homes that don’t even have the wealth and luxury to fall back on. It’s just a really emotional and powerful ending that really made this episode work.

Take Away: Don’t have sham marriages, and maybe think twice about bringing kids into loveless marriages.

 

“A Fish Called Selma,” was written by Jack Barth and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1996.

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