Saturday, March 19, 2016

The many movie references of 'The Simpsons,' cheek by jowl with their inspirations

I'm always up for scenes of Mr. Burns doing sick stuff.

Note: This was an article of mine that was recently cut from The A.V. Club. It turns out, they'd already covered this topic. Whoops. Anyway, I thought I'd get some mileage out of it by posting it here. Enjoy or don't. Your call.
Very early in the run of The Simpsons, as revealed through DVD commentary tracks, the writers and animators on the show discovered that the relatively recent advent of VCRs made it possible for them to reference motion pictures in an extremely accurate and detailed way. A 1990 episode called “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge,” for instance, includes a parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho that borrows shots and angles directly from the original movie. Over the decades, The Simpsons referenced countless motion pictures with a similar or even greater level of fidelity. The writers sometimes joke that Citizen Kane and The Godfather have been spoofed so often on the Fox animated series that those movies could be reconstructed entirely out of Simpsons clips. That may or may not be true, but “ginger communicologist” Celia Gómez of Madrid, Spain has uploaded to Vimeo a highly compelling supercut called The Simpsons’ Movie References” that helpfully juxtaposes scenes from the show with the classic movie moments that inspired them.

Citizen Kane and The Godfather both show up here, as expected, but so do Pulp Fiction, Dr. Strangelove, Basic Instinct, Risky Business, Taxi Driver, The Shining, and more. It may often seem that the show prefers to spoof movies that are already decades old and well familiar to most viewers, but that’s not always the case. When trying to convey the artificially enhanced nirvana that Homer experiences while eating a Ribwich from Krusty Burger in “I’m Spelling As Fast As I Can,” the animators chose to quote Darren Aronofsky’s drug-fueled nightmare Requiem For A Dream, then only three years old and not quite a mainstream, across-the-board hit. Considering that it takes about a year to complete an episode of The Simpsons, that makes this scene almost avant garde.