Posts Tagged ‘Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

08
Mar
12

Compare & Contrast: Fake Stores and Artists of Varying Fame

Mom and Pop Art6

“Dad, chew with your mouth closed.  You’re losing your mystique.” – Lisa Simpson
“Lisa, all great artists love free food.  Check out Jasper Johns.” – Homer Simpson
“You squeal on me, I’ll kill you.” – Jasper Johns

Zombie Simpsons’ remarkable inability to parody things beyond changing around a few letters has been brought up around here before.  Ditto their lame celebrity guest policy of having people voice themselves in what usually amount to barely concealed brag statements about how awesome they are in real life.  With “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart”, Zombie Simpsons managed to pull both of those tired old rabbits out of their threadbare bag of tricks.

“Swapper Jack’s”, the latest in the long line of renamed brands that Zombie Simpsons mistook for satire, is so unbelievably lazy that I feel like a bit of a rube for even giving it this much consideration.  I’ll give them credit for some decent sign gags on the outside of the store, though.  “Grass-Fed Lettuce” is kinda funny, as is the idea of meat so pampered that’s its sung to sleep.  But those are generalities, there’s nothing about them that’s inherently linked to Trader Joe’s/Swapper Jack’s.  There are, after all, a lot of stores that cater to foodies with disposable income.

Foodie Signs

Not bad, Zombie Simpsons.  Too bad you had to go inside the store.

Once they walk through the doors though, any attempt at broad satire is instantly dropped in favor of bland, semi-complimentary one liners for this particular store.  Like “Cinnabun” a couple of months ago, “Swapper Jack’s” isn’t so much a parody as it is an advertisement.  Little tweaks to the decor and having jelly that even Lisa hasn’t heard of are the kind of half-clever, self-congratulatory ideas you’d normally expect to find in a company newsletter.

Contrast that gentle fluffing with the unlimited contempt poured into the Monstromart in “Homer and Apu”.  The establishing shot lets us know that this place, partly Costco, partly Wal-Mart, partly the rest of those giant warehouse stores, is not going to come out of this well.

Homer and Apu7

It looks like the headquarters of some Eastern European secret police agency.

The entire time Marge and Apu are at the store, hilarious and terrible things are happening.  The place only sells nutmeg in sizes that would last for years, and their mania for bulk allows Barney to accidentally trigger a cranberry juice tidal wave by asking a giant syrup container where the lampshades are.  Then there’s the wonderfully disingenuous (and successful) declaration of corporate love via loudspeaker, the kind of cheap, commercial chicanery The Simpsons lived to mock.  Nothing about the place, from the “1000 Items or Less” express aisle to the parade of “pathetic, single men”, would ever make you want to shop there or any place like it.  Monstromart wasn’t born out of a love of big box stores the way “Swapper Jack’s” was born out of someone wandering into their favorite Trader Joe’s and taking notes.  Monstromart is mean.

But their love of Trader Joe’s wasn’t the only thing Zombie Simpsons wanted to promote this week, there was also Shepard Fairey and his lesser known comrades in paint.  The real tipoff that this is more about “these guys seem cool, let’s put them on TV” than it is “hey, let’s make fun of street art” is the fact that there are four of them, and three of them don’t do anything but be themselves.  Kenny Scharf, Robbie Conal, and Ron English are all artists of at least some renown, but none of them are famous the same way Shepard Fairey is famous.  (To take the simplest measure of modern influence, Fairey’s Wikipedia page is more than three times bigger than all of theirs combined.)  To have them do nothing but recite their names and mumble a few lines about street art is a complete waste.  Consider:

Milhouse: Who are you guys?
Kenny Scharf: Kenny Scharf, Robbie Conal.
Shepard Fairey: I’m Shepard Fairey.

That’s followed shortly by this:

Shepard Fairey: We’re not bullies.  We’re artists, and so are you.  Urban vandalism is now the hottest art form there is.

When you have your most famous guest star say who he is, what he does, and why its popular, something has gone terribly wrong.  It’s not funny, or even trying to be funny.  Instead, it’s like what you’d hear at a museum if you spend the ten bucks to rent the headphones.

Attendance

When I call your name, you say ‘present’ or ‘here’.  No, say ‘present’.

That’s weak sauce by any measure, but especially when you compare it to Jasper Johns appearance in “Mom and Pop Art”.  Johns isn’t a household name either (I’d never heard of him before I saw that episode), but he is a serious professional artist whose work has sold for millions of dollars.  Which is why having him pilfer light bulbs and generally act like a jerk is so great.  He was pushing seventy when that episode was written, but it has him scrambling up ladders and stealing motorboats.  In just a few moments of screen time, it’s patently clear – even to people who don’t know who he is – that while he’s voicing himself, he isn’t playing himself.

The Jasper Johns in “Mom and Pop Art” is no more representative of the real guy than the Hugh Hefner who has a bunny staffed research facility or the Mickey Rooney who flies in by helicopter to play child roles.  Those guys were voicing themselves, but they weren’t just being themselves.  If they were, there’d be no point.  The Simpsons understood that, Zombie Simpsons doesn’t.  It thinks the guest stars are the point.

That’s why they drag in four different street artists despite having barely enough lines for one of them.  For Zombie Simpsons, the cachet of having the guys on is more important than giving them something funny to say or do.  It’s the same thinking that leads them to make thinly veiled advertisements for Trader Joe’s and Cinnabon and then pat themselves on the back for being clever.  The Simpsons didn’t bring on Jasper Johns as a way of saying, “This guy’s awesome”, they brought him on to make fun of art and pretend to be a kleptomaniac dickcheese.  And they certainly didn’t create Monstromart to gently tweak the foibles of understaffed stores that make shopping a baffling ordeal.

Zombie Simpsons shops at trendy stores and hangs out with cool people.  The Simpsons laughs at things like that.

06
Mar
12

Crazy Noises: Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

Bart the Lover9

“Can you believe it?  Pretty soon I’ll be able to quit my job and live off the boy.” – Homer Simpson
“What?  Name me one person who’s gotten rich by doing yo-yo tricks.” – Marge Simpson
“Donald Trump?  No.  Arnold Palmer?  No.  Bill Cosby!  No.” – Homer’s Brain
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “terminology”). 

Zombie Simpsons’ ongoing “instant professional” problem was brought up in comments yesterday, and it goes almost without saying that I agree.  The show seems incapable of making fun of anything without having one of the Simpson clan become instantly good and insanely popular at it.  Whether we’re talking about them faking a children’s book, Marge becoming a food blogger, Bart and Martin designing a robot toy, or Lisa’s social website, the people in Springfield frequently become widely recognized world class professionals at just about anything.

If they were doing this every once and a while it wouldn’t be nearly as annoying.  But this happens in almost every episode.  All of the above examples are just from this season, and I didn’t even mention the time Homer turned into a prototypical “accounts man” or when he become a nationally syndicated talk show host overnight.  I understand why they take this particular shortcut so often; it makes it really easy to insert a few mildly snide jokes about whatever profession a particular Simpson has taken up this week.  But we’re long past the point of diminishing returns on these, and Bart’s street art from “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart” is unlikely to be the last one we see.

When Bart goes on his graffiti tear, he doesn’t just pick up a few spray cans like we’ve seen him do before.  Instead, he becomes an accomplished and very skilled artist in just a few seconds of screen time.  From there he plasters the entire city with so many pictures of Homer that the sheer scale of what he’s done is so over the top that it detracts from the story and the humor.  If he’d tagged a couple of buildings with his Homer “Dope” visage, he might have pissed off a few people and you’d have something at least mildly interesting to go on.  Instead, Zombie Simpsons starts piling one flight of fancy on top of another.  Not only is Bart super good at this overnight, not only does he coat the city in these things despite being a ten-year-old, but he also runs into some famous street artists and promptly holds a giant gallery show that brings in millions of dollars.  This is less satire or parody than it is wish fulfillment. 

Mad Jon: Well, perhaps we should start.

My DVR missed the beginning of the opening, but was the couch gag a copy of the opening to Game of Thrones?

Dave: Yeah, the intro was a Game of Thrones knockoff.

Charlie Sweatpants: Someone posted a quote from A.V. Club in comments that ripped it pretty good.

Mad Jon: I basically saw the pan up to the couch.

Charlie Sweatpants: Here it is:

  “The Game Of Thrones couch gag is indicative of some of the laziness of the latter-day Simpsons humor. It’s not satire, but an homage, as if to answer the unasked question: What would the Game Of Thrones opening sequence look like if it had The Simpsons cast in it? Now we know.”

  I don’t have anything to add to that.

Mad Jon: That pretty well covers it.

Dave: Nope. That’s as definitive as it gets.

Charlie Sweatpants: It clocked it at about a minute, which seemed to be the going rate for set pieces this week.

Mad Jon: 21 minutes more to kill.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was the goofy opening with Homer and Lisa, the fight with Apu, the chef lady’s rambling voicemail message. And that was all before the first commercial break.

Mad Jon: Starting with a birthday bit, complete with repetitive screaming.

  The 30+ second cocktail sword fight was especially awful.

Dave: I was convinced they were going to spend the whole episode at Trader Joe’s.

Mad Jon: That may have been better.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nah, they dropped that storyline like a bad habit.

Dave: I mean Swapper Jack’s. Whatever.

Is that satire?

Charlie Sweatpants: No. No it is not.

Mad Jon: There isn’t a proper definition for what the Simpson writers call satire or parody.

  Cause what they think those things are, isn’t what they’re doing.

But I don’t know enough English terminology to back that up properly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Neither do I. But the Monstromart, that was parody.

Mad Jon: Fair enough,

Charlie Sweatpants: Ditto the time they had the Euro-trash on to be fake art people.

Mad Jon: That guy was a photo copy. But without the, what am I looking for…. Soul, heart, meaning, something like that.

Dave: Let’s call it soul.

Mad Jon: I was actually a little impressed when the Euro Trash guy came on.

I really think that was a passing thought. "We’ve done this guy with a different voice and from a different country… Oh well."

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of "Oh well" moments in this one.

Homer repeating the word "one" over and over, the whole rabbit cage thing, Moe showing up at Trader Joe’s with a shotgun for no reason. Take your pick.

Mad Jon: The only thing that brought a smile to my face out of those examples was the cage thing. Only because the cage-fat-push-in thing actually ‘forwarded’ the ‘plot’ later on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Feh.

Mad Jon: It was an ironic chuckle. A drunken ironic chuckle at that.

The thing that actually made me think in this episode was the scene where Homer was driving and vocalized that he was driving to work. How many people who like the zombie episodes actually know he at least used to wok at SNPP?

Charlie Sweatpants: What makes you think he was driving to the power plant? For all you know, he could’ve been headed to the badlands or any one of a dozen other places.

Mad Jon: Exactly my point.

  I don’t know that. I only know he used to drive to the power plant in the morning.

I can’t even tell you the last time he punched the power plant’s clock.

Charlie Sweatpants: Been awhile. The more bizarre one was when he was walking the dog, the rabbit, and had Bart with him.

It didn’t make sense for a single one of them, people or animals, to be there. And that was before Milhouse showed up out of the blue to let Homer know he was in all the pictures. And that was before Homer cracked open a beer he apparently happened to be carrying.

Mad Jon: Which also immediately intoxicated him if I remember correctly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yup. I don’t think there was a single scene in this entire episode that made sense if you paid attention to it for more than about eleven seconds.

  The entire ending was like that. First it was a big gala show, then it was a bust, then it was a big gala show again.

Dave: So, crap bookended by nonsense.

Charlie Sweatpants: Basically, yeah.

Mad Jon: Yeah, the intended gravity of the ending was again too confusing to have any real weight.

Charlie Sweatpants: The other problem is that there were two endings. Smushed into the whole "catching Bart" thing was Homer getting his feelings hurt for about a scene and a half before he was fine again.

Mad Jon: That includes the scene where Bart used his graffiti to make everything better and tie those two things together.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was three consecutive scenes: Homer gets upset, Homer strangles Bart, Bart makes it up to Homer. I’ve seen fortune cookies with better pacing.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

  Also, was I supposed to know who the non-‘OBEY’ artists were? Are they real street artists or something?

Charlie Sweatpants: I would assume they are. I liked "Exit Through the Gift Shop", but that movie came out like two years ago.

And I haven’t exactly kept up with the Street Art world since then.

More to the point, who cares? They were hardly on screen, and none of them had any lines that weren’t self serving, disposable, or both.

Mad Jon: This was another case where the guest stars actually detracted from the episode.

  I am sure this goes a way back, but to me the tipping point came when Seth Rogan got to do his episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not even sure I remember which one that was.

Mad Jon: Since then, I can’t think of a non-unproductive guest star.

  And it has to be HARD to bring down a zombiesode.

Having famous names on for the sake of it runs way back into The Simpsons, but it wasn’t a regular thing. Think of the Hullabalooza episode. Even though Sonic Youth has the acting talent of a stuffed monkey, they didn’t take away from the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think back to "Mom and Pop Art", and they had a couple of actual artists on. But Jasper Johns wasn’t doing anything productive, he was just stealing shit and being a jerk. Here, the artists were basically being themselves. They add nothing, to the story or to any possible satire.

Mad Jon: Good call. In addition to being un-funny or anything else, these guys where part of the worthless ending.

These kind of guest stars make me miss Michael Jackson for more than his music.

Charlie Sweatpants: The ending was an extension of that scene in the alley. It didn’t follow from what else we’d seen, none of the characters there were behaving even remotely like themselves, and the guest stars were just sort of hanging out.

Mad Jon: And profiting from Homer’s former, or maybe not former, boss.

Charlie Sweatpants: That could’ve been funny. Instead it was one long exercise in explaining a very obvious joke.

Anything else here? This one sort of skipped around from one "huh?" type scene to another. Making marginally stale cultural references here and there was its idea of humor.

Mad Jon: It was a roller coaster of emotions, for sure.

No, I got nothing else productive. Again, take a few plot points, find some English dialog to tie it together, no matter how many times you have to have two characters repeat the same words in weird voices, throw in someone (or some people) of marginal fame who haven’t been on, sell 4 acts of ads, and cash the check.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nice work if you can get it.

Mad Jon: I imagine it is.

05
Mar
12

Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart, Or Just Stay Out of It Entirely

Chalkboard - Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

“Bart was feeling mighty blue.” – Homer Simpson
It’s a shame what school can do.” – Marge Simpson
“For no reason, here’s Apu.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Let me start by saying something nice.  It was cool of them to use that one-man rendition of the theme over the end credits.  It blew up on-line a few months ago and everybody loved it, and it’s heartening to see someone get recognition for a genuinely creative endeavor like that. 

Unfortunately, the end credits were about the only part of the episode where there was any spirit of craftsmanship or care.  Everything leading up to them (including the Game of Thrones intro which went on way too long) was a shoddy conglomeration of half considered ideas, time killing filler, and at least three different plot threads, not one of which managed to resolve itself or make any sense.  Bart as a street artist?  That’s not a terrible concept, but in the hands of Zombie Simpsons it turns into a gala opening that was apparently a police sting, except for the three million dollars in sales and post arrest autograph session.  Homer and Apu fighting with tiny plastic cocktail swords?  Another not-terrible idea.  Any time those things are around it’s virtually impossible not to want to do that, but that doesn’t mean we want to see it played out seriously for a full minute.  It gets boring faster than that even when you’re the person doing it. 

Speaking of Apu, he was apparently in this episode, though to what purpose other than yelling incoherently remains unclear.  In an episode about the Kwik-E-Mart closing, in which “Kwik-E-Mark” is in the title, there literally wasn’t a single scene set inside the store.  Apu only had three scenes, the opening sword fight, a failed robbery, and then the redemption where he and Manjula repeated the word “monkey” at one another.  (As is typical for Zombie Simpsons, Jan Hooks didn’t get to do the voice of Manjula.)  I think that was supposed to be the B-plot, but the B-plot might also have been Homer’s suddenly hurt feelings and then the immediate redemption of said hurt feelings.  Neither was on-screen long enough to make a compelling case, though Dan Castellaneta’s lungs did get a workout, as Jerkass Homer spent a great deal of screen time yelling and screaming.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are wretched.  Last night’s empty spray can of an episode was dejectedly shaken by a mere 5.17 million viewers.  That’s good for seventh on the all time least watched list, and drags Season 23 further into uncharted depths in terms of average viewers.  Excluding the post-NFL playoff episode, Zombie Simpsons hasn’t even come close to breaking six million viewers since December. 

04
Mar
12

Sunday Preview: Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

zombieexit

Image bloodied by Dave, as always.

Zombie Simpsons goes back to the well of self voiced celebrities this evening:

In order to get back at his dad, Bart goes undercover as a graffiti street artist and plasters Homer’s unflattering image all over Springfield. But one night, Bart and Milhouse get caught in the act by established street artists Shepard Fairey, Ron English, Kenny Scharf and Robbie Conal (guest voicing as themselves), and to Bart’s surprise, they invite him to exhibit his satirical artwork in his very own gallery show. Meanwhile, a hip, new health food superstore opens in Springfield that threatens to put Apu and the Kwik-E-Mart out of business.

Well, that certainly sounds belatedly topical and generally sloppy.  I’m going to go huff some paint fumes before it comes on.




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