Reel Talk

Colossal and Our Personal Demons

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When you’re a movie lover you can sometimes feel like you’ve seen everything before. It reaches the point that you kind of trick yourself into thinking that there’s nothing new that can be made. That you’ve seen every story done in every way it possibly could. But then something glorious happens. You come across a movie that’s so incredibly original, and does something so shocking with plot and genre expectations that it revitalizes your faith in the movies. And when this happens, it’s a magical experience. To find something new and original doesn’t happen every day, and when it does it needs to be cherished. So you can imagine my pleasure when I first heard about Colossal. Like a lot of great movies I first heard rumblings of it during a Fantastic Fest where it seemed to blow just about everyone away. Because just that central premise, and that wonderful trailer, shows you that this movie was going to be something different. It was going to be something special. And, shockingly, when you actually sit down and watch Colossal you find something amazing. It’s even crazier, even darker, and even more inventive than you possibly could have imagined. This is a movie that I highly recommend seeing, but I also recommend going in as blind as possible. Because this movie is a hell of a trip.

Colossal revolves around a woman named Gloria whose life has completely fallen apart. She’s been fired from her job as a writer, she’s an alcoholic, and her boyfriend Tim has just kicked her out of their apartment. So, with no other alternatives, Gloria moves back to her hometown and into her parents old house. And, almost immediately, she runs into a guy named Oscar that she knew when they were kids. Oscar is very friendly to Gloria, and takes her to the bar that he owns, that used to be his fathers The two catch up, get drunk, and in the morning Gloria shuffles back to her sad little house. And when she wakes up the next morning she finds that something horrible has happened. A giant monster materialized in Seoul, South Korea, and it destroyed some buildings before vanishing without a trace. This is obviously all the people in the town can talk about, and Gloria gets dragged into many conversations about the creature. She also gets offered a job at Oscar’s bar, to help her get back on her feet, which she accepts. So Gloria begins working at the bar, and almost every day the creature reappears in Seoul, causing more damage. And as Gloria becomes obsessed with the monster she realizes something. It has the same mannerisms as her. So she begins doing some experiments, and finds something ridiculous. When she walks through a playground in town at 8:05 in the morning, she controls the monster. Somehow she is the monster. So she of course shows Oscar and some of the guys from the bar this astonishing ability that she has. However, while showing off she suddenly starts to panic when she realizes that she’s killing innocent people by proxy, and she falls down. She wakes up the next morning, and finds something shocking. When she fell Oscar jumped into the playground too, and that caused a giant robot to appear in Seoul. Oscar has the curse too.

Gloria realizes that she’s causing serious damage, and manages to make her monster give a message to the people of Seoul, telling them that she’s sorry and will never do it again. And everything seems okay at that point. Until Gloria drunkenly sleeps with one of Oscar’s friends. When he finds out, something snaps in Oscar. He drops his nice-guy act, and a much darker person emerges. Oscar becomes angry and vindictive, deciding to go around and cause havoc in Seoul as the giant robot. Gloria tries to stand up to him, but Oscar kind of has the perfect threat. He promises that if she leaves, if she does anything to irritate him, he’ll destroy more of Seoul, and she’ll be responsible. It’s at this point that we learn that Oscar is a complete creep. All of his life he’s been resentful for Gloria’s success, and when she came back to town he was thrilled that her life became as pathetic as his. Now he wants to keep things that way, and will threaten the lives of unknown amounts of people to get it done. Gloria tries to talk sense into Oscar, but he’s too far off the deep end, and she realizes that there’s only one thing to do. Go to Seoul, find the corresponding area there, and attack Oscar as a kaiju. And it works. She flies to Seoul, and as Oscar’s robot is about to attack the city she causes her monster to appear in the small town, grabbing Oscar and defeating him and his robot. She’s then free of her burden, and has to figure out what to do with her life.

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This movie is a hell of an experience. I had heard great things, but it really exceeded all of my expectations. The sheer premise of the movie, a woman finding herself while also realizing that she sometimes controls a massive monster that’s destroying a city, is so completely bizarre and wonderful, I knew that I was always going to like the movie. But then things got even crazier, with the Oscar reveals, both the robot and his true intentions, and the movie just got better and better. It threw me thought a loop, having me have no idea where it was going. Which can be a rarity. This movie was anything but predicable, and really became one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had in a theater this year. It’s a wonderfully crafted film that is somehow able to weave between what feels like a grounded tale of a person finding her place in the world, a big kaiju film, and what essentially becomes a horror movie. And it doesn’t feel wrong. It spins all of those plates, and effortlessly weaves between them. Plus we get two legitimately terrific performances, possibly each actor’s best. Anne Hathaway has had a wide variety of roles, but this is legitimately the most interesting and believable performance that I’ve seen from her, and I absolutely loved her in this.  But the person that I came away most shocked about had to be Jason Sudeikis. I’ve always been a fan of the guy, and the first half of the movie had him exactly in his wheel-house, as a lovable loser. But then the twist happens, and his performance goes into over-drive. I had no idea that Sudeikis had this in him, and it’s a pleasure to see him get as dark and twisted as possible.

Because there’s a lot of darkness in this movie. Which stands to reason, since it’s ostensibly about a woman dealing with her alcoholism and the crushing reality that her stupid actions are killing innocent people. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very funny movie too, but at its heart is a really dark and compelling movie about something that almost everyone can relate to. That keeping your issues bottled up can hurt those around you. In this case things get very literal, with Gloria’s alcoholism and Oscar’s inferiority complex manifesting physical forms that for real hurt people, but that message still comes through loud and clear. Both Gloria and Oscar have legitimate problems that they’re just ignoring instead of confronting. Gloria’s alcoholism and general apathy towards life is slowly destroying everything around her, hurting her friends and family, and she just keeps letting it happen. It’s not until her drunken antics literally kill people that she starts to take stock of her life, and tries to better herself. Which is when Oscar’s issues come up. He’s apparently spent his entire life being bitter, thinking that someone else’s life is better than his, and it’s their fault that his life is boring. He blames everyone for his problems, and becomes an angry and resentful person as a result. And when he doesn’t deal with that, he starts lashing out, hurting people. We all have emotional baggage, and ignoring it leads to nothing but chaos. We end up hurting ourselves and those around us. It’s a very human idea. Which makes it even crazier to see it handled with giant monsters and robots.

Colossal was written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo and released by Neon, 2017.

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Reel Talk

Free Fire: Machismo Ruins Everything

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We really seem to be in a golden age for action movies. The last couple of years have been resplendent in truly amazing action flicks, which is fantastic news. We’ve finally made it out of the glut of ugly, CGI-filled, boring action flicks that the first half of the decade seemed to adore, and we’re getting some real masterpieces. And one of the most interesting parts of this new trend is the fact that a lot of these movies are telling very simple, yet compelling, stories. Action movies have never really been overly bothered with plot, really just stringing along scenarios that lead to crazy gunfights, but there’s been a recent surge in actions flicks that are beautifully simple. Mad Max Fury Road is literally just about driving somewhere, then driving back, and yet it was handled with such grace and craft that it became one of the best films of the last decade. And while I wouldn’t necessarily say that the movie I’m talking about today, Free Fire, is in the same league as Fury Road, it’s still a great movie. And it has a splendidly simple premise. It’s literally a feature-length stand-off. Which seems like a rather ridiculous idea. It doesn’t seem sustainable. And yet, this movie proves that assumption wrong. Because this is one of the most fun movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Free Fire is about some criminals meeting up in an abandoned factory to make an arms deal. One one side we have Chris and Frank, to members of the IRA who are journeying to America to buy rifles. Along with them is Frank’s idiot brother in law Steve and his buddy Bernie. They’re there to meet their contacts, Justine and Ord, intermediaries who have planned the whole deal. And once they get inside the factory they meet the arms dealers, the flashy Verne, the stoic Martin, and their two lackies Harry and Gordon. Things are pretty tense right from the get-go, with everyone trying to prove that they’re the alpha-male, the toughest guy in the room. But they manage to keep it civil. That is until Harry and Steve realize they know each other. Turns out just a couple nights ago Steve beat up Harry’s cousin so bad she had to go to the hospital after basically attempting to rape her. Harry had beat the hell out of Steve the previous night, but he’d gotten away. And as soon as the two recognize each other, all hell breaks loose. They begin yelling at each other, causing a riff between the two groups. And it all reaches a fever pitch when Harry shoots Steve. He doesn’t kill him, but it escalates things to the point of no return.

The factory suddenly becomes a battleground, with the IRA folks and Verne’s people fighting against each other, trying to survive, while Justine and Ord get caught in the middle. The Irish want the guns and the dealers want the money, but now there’s enough bad blood that they also want the other side killed. What follows is is some of the most inventive and slap-stick gun-fights that I’ve ever seen. The movie is basically a live-action cartoon, with everyone getting shot multiple times and mainly just complaining about it. A series of coincidences occur during the shootout that potentially could upset the balance of power, such as the realization that there’s a phone in the building that could be used to call reinforcements, Justine and Ord’s rapidly changing allegiances, the appearance of another Irishman, and two hitmen who for a long time seem unaffiliated showing up. But in the end none of these things really pan out, and it’s just a matter of time before the various combatants start being whittled down. None of them are going to get out of this in great shape, and that certainly pans out.

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This movie is a goddamn delight. I’ve only seen one film from director Ben Wheatley before, last year’s High-Rise. And I liked that movie quite a bit, it even showed up on my best of the year list. And this movie is very different than High-Rise. They both show that Ben Wheatley has a serious affection for the aesthetics of the 1970’s, but other than that the movies are night and day. High-Rise was a slow and unnerving examination of class warfare, and Free Fire is an absolutely manic and frenetic action/comedy flick. And I adored it. The action in the film is top-notch, showcasing a cavalcade of ridiculous gun-fights. And that action is held up by across the board fantastic performances. Everyone in this movie is tremendous, handling the ridiculous concept and the comedic chops necessarily to make it all work. This is a tremendously silly movie, and everyone here needs to simultaneously be a credible fighter and comedian. And they all nail it. Hell, the movie even made me enjoy a Sharlto Copley performance, which is no small feat. And he’s certainly not the only one. Everyone in this movie is delightful, especially the three ostensible leads, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, and Cillian Murphy. They all knocked it out of the park, and convinced me that Armie Hammer really needs to be in more movies. And his performance, along with all of the other male actors in the movie, help hammer in an interesting theme that I noticed in the film.

Men are idiots and ruin everything. Especially when they let their balls do their thinking for them, relying on show-boating and machismo. This should have been a simple business transaction. There was money, there as goods, and there was an assumption that these things would be exchanged for each other. But things almost immediately get screwed up when every goddamn man in the movie has to try and show that he’s the toughest. They’re constantly negging each other, tossing off little put-downs to try and show who is on top. And that’s before Steve ruins everything by refusing to just admit that he did something shitty and apologize to defuse the situation. Because once he does that it falls down a slippery slope and reaches the point that none of them can get out alive. All because they’re stupid men, trying to show how tough they are. And that’s really one of the big problems with the world. It’s one of the biggest problems in history. Men being idiots and escalating issues because they want to be big and tough. Sometimes it leads to wars and sometimes it leads to a bunch of idiots dying in an abandoned factory. But it always leads to trouble.

Free Fire was written by Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley, directed by Ben Wheatley, and released by A24, 2017.

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Bat Signal

Issue 267 – “Batman Meets Bat-Mite”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing project to read random issues of Detective Comics with basically no context. And folks, look who we’re getting to talk about again today. That’s right, everybody’s favorite little imp from another dimension who isn’t Mr. Mxyzptlk, Bat-Mite. Now, we’ve already discussed Bat-Mite here on the project already, but it just so happens that the issue that my random number generator spat out today is the first appearance of the little twerp. And guess what? They still barely explain who he is, what the extent of his powers are, and if he is in actuality related to Mr. Mxyzptlk at all. At least he’s better than Qwsp. But all that matters is that we have another issue where Batman and Robin are going to be driven to their wits end while dealing with a rambunctious little imp who is going to do everything he can to prank the Dynamic Duo. And you know I’m into that.

The issue starts off with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson rushing down to the Batcave to change into their costumes and begin their nightly patrol. However, when they get down into the cave they find that something is amiss. It’s clear that someone has messed with their equipment, both their criminology gadgets and their utility belts, which obviously is going to startle them. They begin wandering around the Batcave, trying to find if there’s an intruder. And when they finally do come across the person who has messed with their stuff, they’re certainly shocked. Because they run into Bat-Mite, a tiny little man with a giant head who is wearing an ill-fitting Batman costume. Batman and Robin don’t seem overly shocked about the appearance of this little person and are more irritated that he broke in. And things are made even more confusing when Bat-Mite explains that he’s a nigh omnipotent being from another dimension who has gotten obsessed with them to the point that he’s torn a hole in space and time to come to their reality so he can be their pal. And Batman is having none of it.

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Batman doesn’t really have a lot of candor, and basically just refuses Bat-Mite’s offer to help him out. He does give at least a bit of an explanation, saying that people would be confused about the appearance of a magical being. Bat-Mite sullenly agrees with this assessment, and promises not to bother them. Which obviously isn’t going to happen. Because as soon as Bat-Mite agrees to these terms he pretends to return to his reality, but actually just turns invisible and sits atop the Batmobile, ready to go help out on the night’s adventure. And he doesn’t have to wait for long, because as Batman and Robin begin their patrol they make their way to the waterfront and come across a gang getting ready to escape after a heist.

Batman and Robin race after the criminals, eventually crashing into their getaway car. Once that happens the criminals bail out and begin to run across a bridge, and because Batman and Robin have a sense of fair-play, they too hop out of the Batmobile and race after the criminals on foot. Which is when Bat-Mite decides to be a dick. He uses his magical powers to transform the steel of the bridge into rubber, causing the entire bridge to begin wiggling and wavering around, throwing everyone into disarray. Batman quickly realizes what’s going on though, and starts using the attributes of the bridge to bounce towards the criminals and catch them. The criminals are a little confused about what just happened, and Batman has to make up some stone-cold bullshit by saying that the nearby chemical factory made them all hallucinate. The criminals accept that, and after Batman and Robin bring them in to the police they have a talking to with Bat-Mite. They tell him that crime-fighting isn’t for fun, and tell him to leave them alone.

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So yeah, Batman and Robin are incredibly gullible. Because as soon as Bat-Mite “vanishes” he just shows up in the trophy room and awaits Batman and Robin’s next patrol the next day. And the next night the Dynamic Duo get word that a gang are robbing some sort of high-fi convention and race off to help. Bat-Mite accompanies them, and watches Batman and Robin fight a group of criminals who are hiding among giant record players. The criminals quickly give up though, and Bat-Mite grows bored. So he controls a massive album, causing it to scoop the criminals up and fly them away. Batman and Robin realize what’s going on again though, and thinking quick, launch Batman onto the record using a massive tape recorder. Batman stops the criminals, who are baffled about what they just saw. Batman makes up more bullshit and arrests the criminals. And, once again, Batman and Robin scold Bat-Mite, and he promises not to interfere.

Which mean he’s going to do it again. Because Bat-Mite spends the entire next day stealing props from a movie studio, just assuming they’ll come in handy. And they do! Because Bat-Mite overhears Batman and Robin plan a sting on some criminals where they’ll trap them in an empty warehouse. Bat-Mite knows that this sounds boring, so he goes and fills the warehouse with his props, like a Viking ship, a sphinx, and a giant Batman. So that night when the Dynamic Duo and the criminals show up everyone is shocked. The criminals are pretty confused about all of this, but seeing an opening they all pile into the Viking ship, since it’s on wheels, and use it to escape. Bat-Mite is worried that this won’t be good enough, and offers to let Batman and Robin ride the sphinx to victory. But this ends up not working, so Batman has to make an executive decision and starts yelling at Bat-Mite. He tells him that if he allows the criminals to escape he’ll be branded a terrible crime-fighter. So Bat-Mite agrees to help them, and obviously animates the giant Batman into becoming a goddamn kaiju. Batman and Robin hop into Giant Batman’s utility belt and watch as it chases after the criminals and captures them. And with that taken care of Batman and Robin say goodbye to Bat-Mite. For real this time. He agrees to be a better imp, and returns to his dimension. For now.

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Let me be real with you folks. I love me some Bat-Mite. He’s a delightfully insane character, even by Silver Age standards, and I’m always onboard to see him pop into an issue of Detective Comics. And today’s issue, his introduction to the DC Universe, really hammers in an interesting point. Batman is so goddamn lucky that Bat-Mite is a fan of his. I know that Mr. Mxyzptlk is often portrayed as something of a trickster, just bothering Superman, but he’s basically omnipotent, and could cause some serious issues for Superman. And Superman is essentially a god. Batman’s just a dude. If Bat-Mite was more malevolent he could utterly dominate Gotham City. But instead Bat-Mite is the universes biggest Batman fan, and instead focuses all of his power and attention on loving Batman, and trying to give him better adventures. Which is problematic in its own right, but at least somewhat less deadly for Batman. Bat-Mite is just the ultimate fan, basically pitching story ideas to Batman on Twitter. And Batman just has to grit his teeth and accept it, knowing that if he angers Bat-Mite, he could get turned into a duck or some nonsense. The issue itself is just kind of fine. It’s a tad repetitive, and just does the same gimmick three times. But the heart of the issue is Bat-Mite, and he’s in fine form here, showing that the character has potential for decades to come.

“Batman Meets Bat-Mite” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Charles Paris, 1959.

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Apparently Improv was not one of the skills Batman has mastered
Lifetime of Simpsons

S20 E18 – Father Knows Worst

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Well, we’ve done it. We’ve made it through another week of Lifetime of Simpsons. And it was kind of a rough one. Lots of episodes that have better versions of themselves from previous seasons. But we get to end the week on an episode that’s certainly unique. Because I sure don’t think we’ve seen saunas and helicopter parenting before.

Things start off with Homer and the kids going to some sort of carnival on a boardwalk. But apparently in the world of the Simpsons some truth in advertising law had been passed, so the carnival barkers are having to explain how horrible the food is for you and how unlikely they are to win some prizes. Which is a solid gag. We also get to see Homer heckle a unicycle juggler before tossing the kids into the mix, giving him more of a challenge.

Meanwhile, back at home Marge is having “fun” by replacing their hot water heater. Neat! However, while she’s cleaning up the area around the heater in the basement she makes a shocking discovery. There’s a secret door in their basement. Not that one that had the jerky lab from last season though, no, this time it’s a secret sauna that’s apparently been in their house the whole time. Marge turns it on, and of course plans to tell Homer and the kids about it. Until she realizes that if she invites Homer she’ll eventually have to deal with a pervy Moe. She then decides to keep the sauna her little secret.

Back at the carnival though, disaster is about to strike. Because while Homer’s messing with a guy juggling fire, he ends up sticking a torch into his mouth, burning his tongue horribly. Homer’s then raced to the hospital, and finds that he’s going to have to have a tongue cast for a while so it can heal. But this isn’t just going to be a ripoff of the episode where his jaw is wired shut, and we immediately cut to several weeks later when he’s getting his tongue cast removed. But things aren’t fine.

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Because when Homer grabs a lollipop as a reward for his cast he finds something horrible. His taste buds are now hyper-sensitive, and all food is too strong for him to handle. Dr. Hibbert says that this should be only temporary, but until they’re fixed he’s going to have to eat the blandest foods possible. So Homer begins his quest to find that food, and finally comes across it with Lisa’s help. Elementary School cafeteria mac and cheese.

Apparently all the food from the cafeteria is as bland as possible, so Homer makes an executive decision. He’s going to start eating all of his meals at the cafeteria. Which kind of cramps Bart’s style, especially when Homer realizes he didn’t bring any money, and has to work with Lunchlady Doris to afford his terrible food. Bart is obviously mortified by this development, and tries to avoid Homer as much as possible.

And because Bart won’t sit with Homer during lunch, he ends up having to sit with some weird kid named Noah whose mother is also eating at the school. But, as Homer learns, she’s not there for the food. She’s there to make Noah’s life horrible, and ensure that he’s a perfect student who doesn’t get distracted by silly things like friends or fun. Homer thinks that this is pretty ridiculous. Until she points out that Bart is an idiot and Lisa has no friends, which will therefore make it so they will never succeed as adults.

This really gets to Homer, and he decides to do something horrible. He’s going to become a helicopter parent like that horrible lady. Homer of course runs this proposal by Marge, but she’s too blessed out on the saunas to bring logic to the table, so Homer starts spending all of his days at the Elementary School, trying to meddle in Bart and Lisa’s lives. And it turns out he’s not alone, because there’s a shitload of terrible parents stalking their children at the school.

It seems pretty mundane at first, but then Homer makes a discovery. Bart’s class is having a competition of make balsa wood models of famous buildings, and Homer decides that Bart needs to do the Washington Monument. And, since Mrs. Krabappel is impressed by Bart’s choice, Homer decides he’s a successful helicopter parent. Which results in him moving onto his next project, making Lisa popular. This of course takes the form of Homer giving her a book on cliques and how to neg people into wanting your approval. Great job Homer.

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But he can’t just get these balls in motion, he has to make sure they pass the finish line. So Homer drags Bart to a hobby shop to get the wood for the model. But while they’re there Principal Skinner mocks their choice of the Washington Monument, since it’s easy. This then spurs Homer onto choosing a new building. He asks the clerk for the hardest one, and he recommends Westminster Abbey. So they buy the kit and all of the balsa wood and head home to build it. And once that’s taken care of he hosts a cellphone decorating party with all the popular girls at school, helping Lisa out.

However, that night Homer runs into an issue. Westminster Abbey is way too hard. Homer of course decides to take over for Bart, and begins building it himself. However, this takes the whole damn night, and he does a terrible job. Especially when Homer falls asleep during the middle and gets a dream where he’s visited by the ghosts of several ghosts buried at the Abbey, like Chaucer and Oscar Wilde. They all tell Homer that being a helicopter parent is a terrible idea, and that he should stop doing it.

Homer ends up waking up from the dream, and finds that he’s destroyed what little he’s done of the Westminster Abbey model. So he begins rapidly trying to put it back together, and does a terrible job. However, the next day at the competition Homer finds something shocking. Because Bart’s model looks so terrible it’s the only one that Chalmers actually believes was made by a student. He disqualifies all of the other models made by helicopter parents and makes Bart the winner.

However, Bart can’t lie, so he tells the crowd of students the truth, and even gives a speech about how terrible helicopter parents should be. Nobody seems to listen though, and Homer moves on to checking out Lisa’s progress. Which actually has gone good. She’s popular now, but she hates it. She tells Homer that she doesn’t want to be popular anymore, and he admits that this was a failed experiment. So Homer returns to being a lackluster father, and goes home to tell Marge all about it. But, luckily, she’s able to cheer him up by finally telling him about the sauna, making everything okay.

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This is certainly an interesting episode about a topic that really bugs me. Parents who participate in that kind of parenting, the helicopter parent style, are just a total and complete bummer, and will almost certainly raise children who have mental breakdowns as adults. Part of being a child is enjoying life. Because while school is important, education isn’t the sole focus. It’s also important for kids to learn how to socialize. It’s kind of the same problem I have with parents who insist their kids go to a community college the first two years and live at home to save money. Because the point of your first two years isn’t really to learn anything academic, it’s to learn how to be an adult and live on your own. And having parents who try to control their lives and make their childhoods as sterile and academic as possible completely misses the point of life. Homer forces his children to do things they don’t want to do so that they’ll be “normal.” And it blows up in his face. Because it turns out that they already knew who they were. Even though Homer’s meddling worked, Bart is a good enough person to tell the truth. And even though Homer’s meddling worked, Lisa knows who she is and tells him that despite popularity she can’t handle how shallow they are, and wants friends who challenge her. Homer and Marge are actually really good parents, and when they let their kids kind of find themselves on their own, they succeeded. They’re both becoming good people, and they did that because they were allowed to grow without being stifled by pressure. Which is a great lesson for Homer to learn.

Take Away: Don’t helicopter parent your kid. Let them lives their lives, make mistakes, and learn who they are.

 

“Father Knows Best” was written by Rob LaZebnik and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 2009.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S20 E17 – The Good, the Sad and the Drugly

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This was kind of a weird week for Lifetime of Simpsons. Basically every episode has played with a topic that’s been done better in previous episodes. And today is no different. Because today we’re treated to Bart having a crush and his first girlfriend. Something we’ve dealt with before. Hell, Bart’s almost gotten married on two separate occasions in the last couple seasons. So just dating isn’t exactly going to be too surprising. But, let’s see if it worked out for them.

Things start off with Bart and Milhouse hanging around the Springfield Elementary School, praising themselves for their latest prank. And it’s a doozey. Because they’ve apparently gotten to the school before everyone else, and have painstakingly traveled through the school, unscrewing every single screw in the building. I have no idea how long this must have taken, but Bar and Milhouse are certainly masters at committing to their bits.

So the boys stand by and watch as the students and teachers march into the school, unaware that the whole damn school is about to fall apart. Which it promptly does. Lockers, desks, doors, and basically everything else in the school, just falls to pieces, and everyone begins panicking. And, in typical Simpsons fashion the boys are caught pretty quickly. Well, not all the boys. Just Milhouse, who seems more than happy to take the blame for this prank, and let Bart get off easy.

Skinner and Chalmers do everything they can to push Milhouse into telling them who his accomplice is, despite the fact that it’s always Bart. But, shockingly, Milhouse remains resolute and doesn’t rat out Bart, which earns him a suspension. Bart starts to feel guilty that Milhouse took the heat for him, and heads over to Milhouse’s house after school, thanking him for that solid favor. He also promises to visit Milhouse every day, hoping that will make his suspension easier.

And as soon as that trip’s over we see Bart get picked up by Homer, and taken to the Retirement Castle. Apparently Bart is just going to have to sit with Grandpa while Homer sleeps in the car. Bart just kind of awkwardly stands around with Grandpa in the day-room, when something interesting happens. Some little girl named Jenny who routinely visits the elderly arrives, and Bart instantly falls for her. Despite the fact that she’s a fifth-grader, and voluntarily comes to the Retirement Castle to spend time with old people, which Bart can’t imagine isn’t punishment.

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Meanwhile, we’re introduced to our bonkers little B-Plot by establishing that Lisa has a new school project for social studies. She’s supposed to write an essay about what Springfield will be like in fifty years. So she of course starts searching on the internet for what the world will likely be like in half a century, and things don’t look good. She finds article after article about climate change, animal extinctions, war, petulance, and basically all sorts of Apocalyptic harbingers. Which really starts to bum Lisa out.

But before we see how that shakes out we follow Bart to school, who can’t get Jenny out of his head. He finds her on the playground, and decides to go talk to her, despite the fact that they’re so incredibly different. Plus, he gets some terrible advice from Nelson, who tells him that he needs to be mean to Jenny to show her that he’s into her. But Bart ignores that advice, and actually just chats with Jenny, trying to be decent. And it works out for him, because the two make plans for a date.

But hey, how’s Lisa doing? Well, she arrives to school, ready to give her presentation, and she does not look good. She quietly waits while the other kids give their innocuous reports, before storming up to the front of the class, looking bedraggled, and starts ranting and raving to the kids about how hope is futile, and the world is doomed. Which of course means Lisa’s going to be reported to Skinner, and he’s going to recommend to Homer and Marge that Lisa see a childhood psychologist. Which is probably a good call.

We then cut to Bart and Jenny, ready to go on their little date that weekend. They head to a park, and begin riding around in a canoe on a lake, chatting and getting to know each other. And there’s plenty of red flags on Jenny, who seems to be a devout Christian and who is always talking about helping people. Which doesn’t really seem like Bart’s speed. But he’s desperate to impress Jenny, and pretends that he’s a good kid. He even goes and gets beat up by the bullies in exchange for them to stop picking on some ducklings, hoping that this will earn him more brownie points.

At the same time though Lisa is going to her first psychologist appointment. And it doesn’t seem that involved, because the psychologist basically just immediately writes her a script for a drug called Ignoreitall, which will help her repress the evils of the world. But they decide to give it a shot, and Lisa ends up taking some drugs. And they work. Mostly. When Lisa’s on the drug she’s happy, everything bad in the world is covered in smiley faces, and she’s generally able to drift through life without noticing anything bad.

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And it isn’t just Lisa who starts acting differently, because now that Bart is trying to impress Jenny he begins acting like how he thinks a good kid should. And Marge is loving it. Especially when Bart says that Jenny will be coming over to dinner, which means Bart’s going to keep being a good kid. The rest of the family? Not so much. She’s confused at Homer’s lack of attention and how utterly drugged up Lisa is. Marge seems nice though, and they have a mostly fine evening.

Well, until the doorbell rings in the middle of the meal. Bart gets up to see who could possibly at the door, and finds it to be someone surprising. Milhouse. Apparently Milhouse is no longer on suspension, but he’s plenty pissed. Because it turns out once Bart met Jenny he broke his promise and never came to visit Milhouse. And when Milhouse finds out that the reason Bart bailed on him is over a girl, he decides to get some revenge. Especially when he learns that Jenny thinks that Bart is a good kid.

We then cut over to a bake sale at the church, which Jenny has convinced Bart to participate in. Bart’s becoming terrified that Jenny will learn the truth about him, which gets worse when Milhouse shows up and starts slyly threatening Bart. And it all really starts to bother Bart, who becomes terrified that Jenny will immediately dump him when she realizes that he’s not some pious loser like the guy she apparently wants.

Oh, and it’s time to finish the Lisa plot. Because she’s become hardcore addicted to the Ignoreitall, and is basically just drifting through life, being doped to the gills and ignoring everything bad. Which of course leads to Maggie trying to convince Lisa to stick her tongue in a movie fan. For some reason. Marge notices this at the last minute though, and stops it from happening, while also deciding to get Lisa off the drug so she can go back to normal.

Anyway, Bart starts becoming paranoid, terrified that Milhouse will appear at some moment and spoil his relationship, so he starts trying to hide with Jenny at places that Milhouse can’t go. Like the pier, where he gets nosebleeds. But Milhouse deals with the bleed, and shows up at the pier, ready to tell Jenny the truth. And when he does, she immediately dumps Bart. Just like he was worried about!

So Bart goes home, heartbroken and miserable, and ready to get advice from Lisa. She tells Bart that he can’t wallow in despair, and that he should just go say how he feels. Bart agrees, and surprisingly heads over to Milhouse’s house to apologize for being a shitty friend. They patch things up, and hatch their latest prank on the school, hiring a zamboni to make the floors too slippery to walk on. And things are back to the natural order.

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This episode is just kind of fine. There’s nothing that special about it though. We’ve seen several episodes about how hard it is to maintain friendships when a lady is introduced. Sometimes it’s been Milhouse with the girlfriend, and sometimes it’s been Bart, but the outcome is always the same. Their friendship gets strained, the girl dumps them, and they get back together to be friends. And this one really did nothing new with that formula. We’ve seen this episode, but with better jokes and more interesting premises. The Lisa stuff was kind of funny, and looked at how weird it is that we over-medicate kids, but it’s that main plot that drags the episode down. There’s not really anything wrong with it, it’s just that we’ve seen it before.

Take Away: Don’t change yourself for a romantic partner.

 

“The Good, the Sad and the Drugly” was written by Marc Wilmore and directed by Rob Oliver, 2009.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S20 E16 – Eeny Teeny Maya, Moe

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Hey folks. Listen. We have a weird one today. I’m not quite sure why “Moe gets a new girlfriend” is a type of episode, but we’ve had a couple of them, and we have another today. But there’s an added spice to this one that’s very strange. Because I can’t quite tell if this episode is sweet or exploitative. Let’s work it out.

The episode begins with Homer watching a minor league hockey game, and primarily just rooting for brutal fights. None of the hockey is that important, but it did make me notice that every single sports team in Springfield is the Isotopes, which I can’t decide is stupid or genius. Anyway, things actually happen when Maggie comes toddling over to Homer, and tries to play with him. And he promptly ignores her in favor of hockey.

And this makes Marge mad. She’s tired of how little Homer seems to care about Maggie, and is worried that Maggie barely knows him. Which is demonstrated by the fact that Maggie sees to think her father is Santa’s Little Helper. So, Marge tells Homer that he has to spend the whole day with Maggie. Homer bitches and moans for a bit, but then sticks Maggie in a stroller and hits the town with his daughter.

They go get donuts, wander around the tire fire, and of course end up at Moe’s. Moe doesn’t really seem to mind, since he’s busy cleaning the walls of the bar. And while Maggie goofs off on the pooltable Moe makes a startling discovery. One of his walls is actually a window, and it shows a daycare behind Moe’s. And Homer is thrilled. Because now he can park Maggie at the daycare while he drinks all day. Everybody wins!

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So Homer and the barflies begins hanging out next to the window, gawking at Maggie and the other babies while getting drunk, and Moe starts to get frustrated. Mainly because no one is caring why he’s cleaning the bar. He finally gets their attention and he tells them that he’s cleaning the bar because he’s been hanging out in the library a lot lately, trolling around on internet dating sites, and has met a woman named Maya.

Moe and Maya really hit it off, and they even ended up sending each other photos of themselves. And Moe even sent in a real photo of himself, after briefly considering photoshopping it to the extreme. And when he sends the photo of himself he’s shocked to find that Maya thinks he’s cute. Plus, in her photo she’s a bombshell. And they’ve agreed to meet, here at the bar. So that’s why Moe is cleaning, and why he’s now kicking the barflies out. So Homer leaves, and grabs Maggie from the daycare, just in time to save her from being bullied by a bunch of random babies.

A little later Moe is awkwardly standing at the bar, terrified of his impending date, when Maya arrives. And there’s something about Maya that she didn’t tell him. She’s a little person. And, shockingly, Moe isn’t weird about it, and acts pretty decently to Maya. He doesn’t make a big deal about her size, and is ready to just have a normal date with her. And they end up having a great time. The two click and have a lovely date, and Moe actually thinks that there may be a future with this girl. Which makes him nervous, worried that Homer and the rest of his idiot friends will be insensitive toward his new girlfriend.

Oh hey, but this episode isn’t just going to be about Moe. Because Homer is still brining Maggie with him to the bar every time he goes to drink, and is still dropping her off at that daycare. And Maggie is still being harassed by these weird mean babies. She even has to deal with a little muscular baby who appears to be related to Kearney. But, Homer keeps saving her before anything bad can happen. Other than psychological scars. Those are staying. And Marge starts to notice, and become a little concerned. So she obviously buys a nanny-cam and decides to spy on what Homer is actually doing.

Meanwhile, Moe and Maya are still going out, and really seem to be falling for each other. Although, Moe still seems to be constantly afraid that he’s going to offend her, which makes everything a little on edge. There’s also the fact that Maya has noticed that she hasn’t met any of Moe’s friends. So Moe decides to be a little brave, and sets up a double date with him and Maya and the Simpsons, just hoping that Homer won’t be an ass.

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So, Moe and Maya show up at the Simpson’s house, and make chit chat with Homer while Marge finishes getting ready. Well, she’s actually preparing to watch the nanny-cam video, but gets distracted right before the footage of Maggie getting attacked by the babies. So she still doesn’t know what’s going on, and gets ready for a lovely date at the carnival. And they have a great time. Marge even tells Moe what a catch he’s made.

Which seems to be the final sign Moe needed to do something extreme. He proposes to Maya. And she accepts immediately. However, as they’re sitting there fawning over each other, Maya drops a short joke, and Moe decides to join in. And he doesn’t stop. Moe sits there for far too long, just pumping out a bunch of short jokes that he’s clearly been holding bar. And Maya is not pleased. So much so that she asks him to leave.

So Moe is pretty worried, because things didn’t exactly end well that night. And, because he’s dumb, he asks Lenny and Carl for relationship advice. They’re of course full of terrible advice, and tell him to do what movies have taught them fix all relationships. Grand gestures. Which Moe decides obviously should go to go to Dr. Hibbert and ask him to remove his shins so that Moe will be a little person like Maya.

Oh, and before we finish this plot we need to finish that Maggie one. Marge finally sits down and watches the video, and sees the hordes of evil babies getting ready to beat up Maggie. She’s obviously horrified, but things change when Homer comes running into the frame to battle babies and save Maggie. Until the babies beat up Homer, and Maggie has to save him. But whatever, Marge is pleased that Homer would defend Maggie’s honor.

Dr. Hibbert obviously doesn’t agree to this procedure. But Dr. Nick sure does. Oh, and Dr. Nick is alive again, I guess. Anyway, Moe gets ready for the procedure, until Maya shows up at the last second. And she’s horrified. Moe says some sweet things, about how he wants to be with her, and live like her. But she responds by saying that if being short is all Moe thinks about her, then their relationship won’t work. So Maya leaves Moe, and he’s pretty crushed. That is until Homer tells him that everything will be okay, because being with Maya showed that someone could love Moe, which means someone could love him again. And that really works for Moe, who decides to move on as a stronger person.

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I think more or less I like this episode. It’s strange, but it’s interesting. Like I said up top, the idea that we’ve had several episodes about Moe’s love life is a little strange, but they’ve oddly been pretty solid. And this episode ends on a very sweet and realistic note. Moe is often such a depressed sad-sack, and you would think that the loss of a potential spouse would be pretty damaging to him. But Homer actually gives some solid advice, and you legitimately feel for Moe at the end. What feels a little strange to me is Moe and Maya’s relationship. Because I’m not quite sure what was going on there. Moe seemed to be doing a great job in the relationship for a long time, but then after the proposal I guess we were supposed to think that they had basically never actually talked about the little person thing, causing Moe to blow up and say all sorts of tasteless jokes. But instead of communicating they basically break up, leading to the whole shin-removal thing. Moe then tells her all about what a beautiful person she is, and that it’s her soul that he loves. But then she says that all he can focus on is the height and leaves him. I don’t know, that feels strange to me. Like they didn’t want either Moe or Maya to come off as the villain, but also didn’t want to them to actually get married. This may just be me, but there’s something odd about that whole interaction in the hospital that kind of throws this episode off for me, but otherwise it was one that I enjoyed quite a bit.

Take Away: When in a relationship with someone you should maybe have an open dialogue about things, so that you don’t keep weird observations bottled up.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S20 E15 – Wedding for Disaster

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Hey, you know what we haven’t had in a while here on Lifetime of Simpsons? A wedding. And even more specifically we haven’t had a wedding between Homer and Marge lately. So how about we fix that for convoluted reasons.

The episode starts off with everyone at church while Reverend Lovejoy is explaining that really only two of the Commandments matter, and the rest are filler. And with that important information imparted on his flock Lovejoy then tells them that he has big news. One of the leaders of their particular sect of Christianity, a man only known as the Parson, will be visiting Springfield. And the town promptly loses their shit.

Everyone in town is apparently a member of this sect, and they’re all really psyched to see the Parson come to town. To the point that there’s a huge crowd of citizens standing around in the center of town, waiting for him to arrive. And when he does, he doesn’t disappoint. The Parson is basically just Bing Crosby, and is a very charismatic fellow, easily convincing the people of Springfield that he’s a great dude.

But the Parson isn’t here for no reason. He’s on a mission. So he heads over to the church, where Lovejoy and Helen are waiting for him. Turns out the Parson and Reverend Lovejoy went to college together, and used to be roommates, but since the Parson is basically Lovejoy’s boss he still acts a little weird. Especially when the Parson drops the reason for his visit on Lovejoy. Apparently a while back the church had been going through some hard times due to a stolen credit card, and as a result for a few months Lovejoy wasn’t a certified minister.

This shouldn’t mean much, but according to the episode this means that everything Lovejoy did in those months are no longer valid. So he’s going to have to go and tell people that all the random blessings, funerals, weddings, and other priestly stuff he does didn’t actually happen. Or something. Listen, I don’t really understand what the big deal is, I guess because he didn’t pay the Parson his magic wasn’t active or something.

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But what does matter is that one of the weddings that no longer are valid is the one that Homer and Marge had way back in Season 8 in “A Milhouse Divided.” They give us a handy refresher on the plot of that episode, since it happened more than a decade previously. But the bottom line is that Homer and Marge were never legally remarried after Homer’s spur of the moment divorce. So they’re going to have to go downtown and fill out a new marriage license.

However, as they’re waiting in the horrible line downtown at City Hall, they start to get bummed out. Because even though they had a decent wedding in “A Milhouse Divided” this weird little ceremony isn’t that great of a wedding. And while they’ve had two different weddings, neither have been full blown ones with receptions. So they decide to leave City Hall, and plan a more legitimate, full-scale wedding that they’ve never had.

Homer then plans out and incredibly elaborate proposal for Marge. It involves Homer calling Marge and having her look out the window, where she finds a sky-written cloud telling her to open the front door, where she finds Barney standing with a message on his chest that says to turn on the radio, and when she does that Bill and Marty say to go down to the basement, where Homer is waiting. He then proposes to Marge and tells her that they’re going to have a fancy wedding.

So Homer and Marge then hit the town, ready to get everything planned. They go get tuxes, dresses, flowers, cakes, and everything else that goes into planning a wedding. And along the way Marge gradually becomes more and more domineering. She has a very specific vision for this wedding, and she’s pretty short-tempered with anyone who stands in that way. In short, she’s becoming a Bridezilla. And when Homer points that out things get pretty bad. She yells at Homer, leaving him in a weird state.

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The day of the wedding then arrives, and while Homer is sitting in his changing room he starts to feel strange about the whole wedding. Marge is acting very different from all of the wedding planning, and he seems to be having some doubts. Which really becomes a problem when the ceremony is about to begin, and Homer is gone. They go check his room, and find that all signs point to him having bailed on the wedding. Everyone is pretty understandably crushed about this.

But the episode has a pretty big curve-ball for us. Because Homer didn’t bail on the wedding. He was drugged and kidnapped, and awakens chained to a pipe in a mysterious room like he’s in a Saw movie, while having to eat a hot sauce lollipop to get the key for the chain. Yep! Shit’s getting weird! And it gets even weirder when we check back in on the wedding and find that while Marge is getting drunk and crying with her bridesmaids, the kids decide to investigate. And when they go into Homer’s room they find a set of keys with an SB on it, which they obviously decide means Sideshow Bob.

So Bart and Lisa set out to find Sideshow Bob, and somehow come across a shed in the woods that he’s living in. But when they get inside the find that Bob is just hanging out with Krusty, making wooden sculptures of each other. Huh? Whatever, Sideshow Bob isn’t the kidnapper, but he does have a pretty good suggestion. Selma Bouvier. Which turns out to be correct. Yep, Patty and Selma have kidnapped Homer, locked him in a room, and are watching him suffer while working at the DMV.

They apparently plan on keeping Homer there until he agrees to split up with Marge, because they’re goddamn monsters. However, their plans change when Homer starts reading his vows to his mysterious captors, and they’re so moving that Patty and Selma just let him go. So Homer returns to Marge, just as the kids arrive to explain everything, and Homer and Marge head downtown to just get their quickie wedding. However, Bart and Lisa blackmail Patty and Selma into hosting a massive reception outside the Court House, giving Homer and Marge the party they deserve.

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This is an incredibly strange episode. And I kind of keep changing my mind how I feel about it. On one hand, it’s so insane that I kind of appreciate how little sense it makes. On the other hand, it’s kind of garbage. The idea that Reverend Lovejoy wasn’t ordained back when “A Milhouse Divided” happened and no one ever noticed is a little ridiculous, and really the whole idea of Homer and Marge needing to have a third wedding is dumb. I don’t know how it works in other states, since I got married in Colorado, but here it doesn’t matter if you’re married by someone ordained. You just need someone to sign the stupid paper, which Lovejoy presumably did. But whatever, let’s just deal with the necessary set-up, because the writers clearly learned about the concept of a Bridezilla and worked backwards to have an episode about that. But then I guess they got bored with the idea of Marge being a Bridezilla, and it suddenly becomes a weird Saw pastiche. Which is kind of terrible. Plus, I’m so not a fan of Patty and Selma being this monstrous. They’re literally trying to destroy their sister’s marriage in a very hands-on matter in this episode, and it bugs me. Really, the whole episode bugs me. It really just felt like four different episodes stitched together, which can sometimes be entertaining, but in this case it’s just kind of a complete mess.

Take Away: Don’t kidnap your sibling’s spouse. And don’t take your wedding so seriously, it’s a celebration.

 

“Wedding for Disaster” was written by Joel H Cohen and directed by Chuck Sheetz, 2009.

 

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