It's time for my annual SIMPSONS article! Woohoo! Last year, I wrote about my favorite movie references in SIMPSONS episodes. If you missed it, it's here: www.matchflick.com/column/1642 (1)
This year, I want to let you know how to increase your enjoyment of THE SIMPSONS. Thus, here are some films you need to have seen to get the show. Now, I won't repeat any of the references from last year and I'm not aiming for a complete list at all—I'm not writing a book (well, I am, but not here (2)). Below is a list of a few films that are requisite viewing, either because of multiple references in the series or because an episode parodies a movie almost completely.
THIS IS SPINAL TAP. One of the members of Spinal Tap is Harry Shearer, who does the voices for many of Springfield's residents. Spinal Tap's tour lands in Springfield in "The Otto Show." When I first saw the episode, I hadn't seen THIS IS SPINAL TAP. I missed almost every related joke—from their half-inflated dark lord to the mean questions they're asked by a radio host. Tap rules, as illustrated by the fact that Milhouse has their poster in his room in "Bart's Friend Falls in Love." (And for those who think Spinal Tap died at the end of "The Otto Show," note that they're in the audience at the Grammies in another episode.) (3)
"Like Father, Like Clown" is the story of Krusty and his estranged Rabbi father. Krusty's desire to be a clown was at odds with his father's desire to see him become a man of God. This episode is basically THE JAZZ SINGER, which had the same father/son problem (with the added detail of the Jazz Singer son performing in black face). This film has been remade many times, but the original is famous for being the first "talkie" (although it still has silent film dialogue screens in some parts).
THELMA & LOUISE. In "Marge on the Lam," Marge actually makes a friend (oh, lonely Margie). Unfortunately, her friend is not always a good influence and the end of the episode plays on Thelma and Louise's adventure. Marge also watches THELMA & LOUISE while drinking tequila and eating a sundae in a bubble bath while relaxing at Rancho Relaxo in "Homer Alone."
CITIZEN KANE. The references to this film are too numerous to list, but two are the song sung for/about Mr. Burns at the retirement party in "Marge Gets a Job" and Homer plays with a play program in "A Streetcar Named Marge." You can also see the script for CITIZEN KANE on Ned's shelf in "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass." The main plot of the film is traced loosely in "Rosebud." (By the way, don't be fooled by bad museums. As Lisa reminds us, "there's no cane in CITIZEN KANE.")
Even if you "hate" musicals, you should see these. MY FAIR LADY is remade as "My Fair Laddy," EVITA is remade as "The President Wore Pearls," MARY POPPINS is "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" (although they are quite clear that she is "Sherry Bobbins"), "and 101 DALMATIONS is "One Dozen and One Greyhounds" (with a bit of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST thrown in). Want to see THE SOUND OF MUSIC without Nazis? Try "Yokel Chords."
Want to see a town go completely crazy for a bad scheme?
Well, you can watch either THE MUSIC MAN or "Marge vs. The Monorail," but you really want to see both. You can learn how you can prove association through rhyming and who "Bitey" is.
The only man to rival Harold Hill for my shill affections
PLANET OF THE APES. When Troy McClure stars ("as the human," "the part [he] was born to play, baby") in STOP THE PLANET OF THE APES, I WANT TO GET OFF, in "A Fish Called Selma," you want to know why it makes no sense for him to say, "I love you, Dr. Zaius."
SEVEN UP! Wondering why a man voiced by Eric Idle has been documenting certain Springfield residents every few years to follow them along life's journey? It's because documentarians have been doing so in England since 1964. Homer's decision to try to fake out the documentary crew illustrates the central starting hypothesis of the show, which was that social class is the determinant of your future (Europeans are more honest about this than Americans, who largely believe that social class can be escaped.)
I'm not sure if a working knowledge of PULP FICTION makes "22 Short Films About Springfield" more or less disturbing. You decide.
I was going to say the same about a working knowledge of HEAVENLY CREATURES and "Lisa the Drama Queen," but then I realized that having seen HEAVENLY CREATURES makes THE SIMPSONS episode much creepier.
Speaking of creepy, when I saw CAPE FEAR (the remake) many years ago, I was very upset (I really don't like rape stories). The one good thing to come out of it was an appreciation of "Cape Feare," one of the fabulous Sideshow Bob episodes. (I can confidently say that I like THE
SIMPSONS version of this tale way better.)
this is why I refuse to keep rakes
THE GODFATHER. Lisa and Homer both wake up with horse heads in their beds (though Lisa's horse head has a living horse attached). James Caan is ambushed in "All's Fair in Oven War" by hillbillies (that's Hill Williams to me) in a fabulous parody. The episodes that feature Fat Tony and the Springfield Mafia make constant allusions to the famous film.
THE GRADUATE. There are plenty of references to this movie. When Dustin Hoffman guest starred in "Lisa's Substitute" (uncredited), Mrs. Krabappel tries to "seduce" him. Homer runs home to Marge and bangs on their front window in "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish." "Lady Bouvier's Lover," however, is the greatest tribute, featuring a love triangle, Grandpa interrupting a wedding by banging on glass, and "The Sound of Silence" scene.
I know there are many, many films that I haven't included here. Just to understand the Halloween episodes, which are usually more parody-centric than other episodes, you have to have a working knowledge of classic and contemporary horror films and the complete TWILIGHT ZONE oeuvre. There just isn't time.
However, use the comment box below to let other readers know what other movies they should see to augment their SIMPSONS viewing.
(1) Note that I had an error on 10—the moment happened in "Bart's Friend Falls in Love," not "The Crepes of Wrath."
(2) If you want to follow the progress of THE SIMPSONS book Du and I are writing, you can find us at Simpsonology on Twitter.
(3) Spinal Tap is going back on tour—unplugged and unwigged.
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