Sunday, 25 July 2010

ANY GIVEN SUNDANCE


SEASON 19 EPISODE 18 (EPISODE 418)

THIS IS IT:
This is the episode where Lisa makes her documentary “Capturing The Simpsons” which gets accepted into the Sundance Film Festival.  It begins with the family travelling to Springfield Stadium for “The Big Game” of American football which is Springfield U v Springfield A&M.  They are heading to the ground early, hours before the game begins, because as Homer says, “we’re not here for the game, the game is nothing, the game is crap, the game makes me sick.”  It turns out the real reason Americans put up with (attend) sport is for the tailgate party (“the pinnacle of human achievement”).  With this Homer and Bart proceed to take advantage of other people’s hospitality and stock up on barbecue.  A disagreement breaks out between Sideshow Mel (Springfield U) and Karl (Springfield A&M) while Marge takes on a traditional female role (“joining in the fun”) of washing soiled foam fingers much to the chagrin of Lisa.  At this point Lisa decides to cut loose and decides to do some homework on her video project using her “My Little Sony”.  She announces her assignment is “to film the beauty of the everyday.”  There is drama and inspiration everywhere she looks.  Back at school she shows her footage to her art teacher Mr Kincaid to gives her just 3 stars out of 5.  Off the back of such a poor grade Lisa complains to Principal Skinner declaring “the man (Kincaid) is an idiot” to which Skinner agrees stating “the film has everything: emotion, conflict, Milhouse.”  Skinner tells Lisa that she is a gift filmmaker (“its as if Ingmar Bergman and Penny Marshall had a baby”).  It turns out that cinema is Skinner’s secret passion and he has written “a screenplay or two” but unfortunately the studios have made it clear that they’re not interested in his work.  With this Skinner tells Lisa is she wants to make a documentary about her family he can help her – he gives her the key to the A.V. Cage.  She responds “this is so generous, how can I ever repay you?” to which Skinner states “if you ever win an Oscar, give it to me.”  With this Lisa begins filming her family although Homer initially displays disappointed at not being able to wear a wig in order to get the Shia LaBeouf look.  At this point Superintendent Chalmers discovers that Skinner is encouraging Lisa in her movie and after expressing disappointment at being left out expresses a desire to help out in order to show up the Springfield Creative Arts Academy.  Chalmers suggests they pool school resources (adding music and sound effects) and submit the movie to Sundance.  Then it what appears to be a year of slim pickings, Lisa’s entry is accepted.  From here they drive to Park City, Utah in a manner that reminds of The Shining.  Upon arrival Homer bumps into Jim Jarmusch as Lisa issues the family with film passes.  This creates a fish out of water situation for Marge who cannot find a movie she is not horrified by.  At the premiere of “Capturing The Simpsons” it transpires that Skinner and Chalmers have followed the Simpsons up to Sundance although they cannot get into the movie despite pleading with Bart to tell security who they are.  This is somewhat unfair as they have their name on the credits of the movie as Chalmskinn Productions.  The film is described as a “wonderful film about horrible people” as the Simpsons are describes as “like the family from Hell on acid that’s on steroids.”  The film is a success although the audience dislikes the family as Lisa comments in defence “a lot of things got changed in the editing room” just as her credit as editor appears onscreen.  After airing their concerns Lisa assures the family that nobody out of the festival will care about the movie at which point she spots Comic Store Guy posting a review on his “Ain’t I Fat News” website despite Homer’s best efforts to catch the wi-fi beams to prevent it uploading.  Feeling despondent Skinner and Chalmers briefly consider visiting the Slamdance Festival before studio types track them down with view to buying “Capturing The Simpsons”.  Skinner makes a terrible hash of negotiating but he doesn’t really notice, doesn’t really care as they gain access to the most VIP tent at Sundance (which is “Scary Hobo’s Chili Chunks”). By now the buzz of the documentary is all over the festival and when the family walks the streets onlookers point and comment that they are creepy.  As the family return to their condo hurt and rejected Lisa feels dismayed questioning whether she subconsciously wanted the documentary to hurt her family, if deep down she is the real monster.  At this point Jim Jarmusch sees Lisa and tells her how much his movies have in common with hers featuring “social misfits experiencing the dark side of the American dream”, in fact he’s doing it again in his next film: Cheaper By The Dozen 3.  As Lisa wonders if her family will ever forgive her for making them a laughing stock Jarmusch says to look for the answer in a movie.  With this they find themselves watching “Life Blows Chunks” by Nelson Muntz, which is also a product of Chalmskinn Productions (“Seymour Skinner never puts all his eggs in one basket, that’s why the call me two basket Skinner”).  It is another heart wrenching portrayal of family life in Springfield as Nelson struggles to cope with his alcoholic mother.  With this Nelson becomes the buzz and toast of the festival leaving the Simpsons to return to anonymity.  At this point Marge comments “thank god they’re not jeering at us anymore” prompting Homer to remark, “I know, I kind of miss it.”  With this Bart perks up “I know, we’ll be in another movie” causing Marge to respond “no more Simpsons movies, one was plenty” in a knowing nod.  From here Lisa asks if all is forgiven and Marge assures her “we know you love us even if sometimes you show it in a quirky way”.  The episode closes cutting the John C. Reilly pleading with Chalmers and Skinner to be in the Chalmskinn business as Skinner enquires whether he read his “Ghost Willie” script.  Reilly responds, “read it, I lived it.  I am Ghost Willie, check this out” at which point Chalmers expresses his concerns about Reilly being “needy” at which point in private Skinner says “pass” but to Reilly says “we’ll see you on the set.”  It’s a harsh lesson to us all.

IS IT ANY GOOD:
Yes!

WHAT IT TAUGHT ME:
The machinations of the Sundance Film Festival.

EXTERNAL REFERENCES:
Any Given Sundance is a clear reference to Any Given Sunday and Capturing The Simpsons is their equivalent of Capturing The Friedmans.  A Woody Allen is seen attempting to apologise with Soon-Yi after she overhears that he is considering adopting Scarlett Johansson.

BEST LINES:
“When you know the people you’re begging from, it’s called mooching.”  “Maybe I can finally meet Jim Jarmusch and ask him who he is”.  “Call me old fashioned but I don’t usually like movies that humiliate my family in front of the world.”  “Quirky is a grandma that gives people the finger.”  “I never wanted to be famous for being mean, I wanted to be famous for catching Santa Claus.”  “I like to cry at the ocean because only there do my tears seem small.”  “I like this movie way more than the one by that little girl because I saw this one today.”  “Hey Nelson, say something poor.”

BEST JOKES:
Bart and Lisa arguing over which word of “everything” and “anything” is stronger.  What Homer imagines a film festival to be like complete with marauding DVDs on motorcycles.

PERIPHERAL MOMENT:
Rainer Wolfcastle is a Springfield U fan.  Hans Moleman wears a barbecue apron with the title “Serial Griller.”  Seymour has written the following scripts: “When Edna Met Seymour”, “Ghost Willie”, “Killing Seymour’s Mother” and “The Principal Who Sold A Screenplay”.  Homer is regarded as “a local character of note” as displayed by a newspaper headline: “Aquarium To Stop Serving Beer” featuring a picture of him arguing with an octopus/squid.  Marge loves documentaries, especially the one that came with her Toro lawnmower (although the movie is more of a user manual to be honest).  The Springfield Creative Arts Academy is made of modelling clay (which they remodel every afternoon).  Springfield Elementary is the school with the highest hamster mortality rate.  The Sundance Film Festival: Where Parker Posey Meets Parka-ed Posers.  The movies showing at Sundance include “Regularsville”, “Candyland” and “Chernobyl Graveyard”.  Lisa makes the cover of Variety with the headline “Sundance Loves Little Backstabber”.  Nelson appears in a school play called “Kids Are People Too” playing a grownup that doesn’t think kids are people are too.  “Capturing The Simpsons” is set to be screened on select flights by Alaska Airlines and its regional partners (ok, only its regional partners).

REALITY CROSSOVER:
The angst and backlash that Lisa experiences for portraying and representing the world around her in art strongly resonates with me.  This is very much something I have encountered in writing

MVP:
Marge actually sparkles as person without any concept of understanding alternative/indie culture (“I get it every title means the opposite of what it means.”)

GUEST APPEARANCES:
Jim Jarmusch and John C. Reilly

SONGS:
“I Turn My Camera On” by Spoon.

EPISODE LINKS:
Late on Marge makes reference to “one Simpsons movie was more than enough.”

PERCULARITIES:
Whatever happened to Chalmskinn Productions after these two successes?

BART ON THE BLACKBOARD:
There is no blackboard.

OTHER:
Ralph pops up early on showing his dad how he was invented the “Ralphwich” which is basically his hand in a burger bun (“it taste hurty”).

FINAL WORDS:
Another affirmation of indie culture from The Simpsons.  Always a pleasure, never a chore.

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