Posted by Adam Wills
WARNING – what follows is a walkthrough of the March 28 “Simpsons” episode “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” – i.e., the Simpsons visit Israel. Numerous spoilers ahead. You have been warned!
When Homer interrupts Ned Flanders’ Bible study group with his naked Slosh ’n’ Splash shenanigans, the Simpsons’ pious neighbor vows to redeem Homer by inviting the family along on a church trip to Israel (Homer: “Take my family to a war zone on a bus filled with religious lame-os in a country with no pork in a desert with no casinos? Oooh, where do I sign up?”).
The family flies Israeli Air to Ben-Gurion Airport (a sign reads: Welcome to Israel: Your American Tax Dollars at Work), where Homer is hog-tied by Israeli security for claiming that potato pancakes (lakes) aren’t as good as American pancakes.
On the way to the hotel—The Wailing Waldorf—we see a shot of Bagel Boy, a Chasidic spin on Springfield’s donut store statue Lard Lad. It’s at the hotel we meet Israeli tour guide Jacob (voice by Sacha Baron Cohen) and his elementary-school-aged niece, Dorit (voiced by “New Soul” singer Yael Naim).
When Marge asks Jacob for any safety tips while visiting Israel, he says: “What are you talking about? Israel is the safest country in the world. The only danger here is dehydration. Drink water. Don’t die. It looks bad on me. Go on. Shut your face. Let’s go.” (Jacob yells out “yallah,” Arabic for “hurry up,” throughout the episode.)
Before they can leave, Homer (who dresses in a red-white-and-blue outfit featuring “U.S.A.” on his hat and shirt) discovers the hotel’s breakfast buffet and talks the group into visiting the stations of the omelet bar instead of the Stations of the Cross.
On Mount Zion at King David’s Tomb, a Russian immigrant walks by the group and listens in. Jacob tears into “Mr. Listen for Free,” yelling (in Hebrew): “What the hell? Don’t tell me what to do! I’m going to slap you! And then I’m going to slap you again! Go to hell! You took this from the kibbutz, Kibbutz Dan! My mother, don’t tell me that!”
At the Western Wall, Jacob explains about the pieces of paper in the cracks, saying that it’s believed the Lord will grant those people’s prayers. Bart pulls out notes and reads them: “Sad. Sad. Never gonna happen. Sad. Maybe if you were Brad Pitt.”
“Hey boy, we’re supposed to be acting religiousy,” Homer says. “What are you up to?”
Bart responds: “Reading prayers and ignoring them, just like God.”
While getting strangled by Homer after reading his prayer, Bart writes one of his own (“Give my dad another heart attack”). Bart escapes via skateboarding along the top of the Western Wall, and Dorit, who provides security for the tour, chases him through chicken-filled streets. The pursuit ends in a krav maga-karate showdown. At the end of the fight, Dorit whips out her smartphone and shows Bart his mug shot, which includes his aliases: Sart Bimpson, Sergeant Spitwad, Mucous Membrane, Mommy’s Special Little Guy.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jacob explains that they’re about to enter “the tomb of your lord, or as he’s know here: the man in the underpants. Beautiful tachtonim [underwear]. Oh, and what abs. He was a real good looking one. Nice hair. Conditioner? I think so.”
Inside the church, Homer falls asleep on Jesus’ tomb.
“Homer, this is the most sacred spot in Christendom,” Flanders says, “not your backyard hammock.”
Homer: “I’m sorry. It’s just that these tours are so exhausting. You’re jet-lagged, you’re walking around all day, it’s so hard to sleep knowing Marge and the kids are all stuck in one small room. It’s so nice and cool in the Tomb of the Unknown Savior.”
Flanders: “Unknown?! This is the tomb of the most famous man who ever lived.”
Homer: “Porky Pig?”
Frustrated by Homer, Flanders loses his temper and gets himself banned for life from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He declares Homer is not worth savings and walks off. Thinking Flanders has wandered into the desert (in Jerusalem?!), Homer grabs a camel and heads east. Instead, Flanders is still in the Old City and catches a film: “The Reformers,” a Jewish spoof on “Transformers.”
In the Negev, Homer abandons his camel during a sandstorm to the strains of the “Lawrence of Arabia” theme. He makes his way to the Dead Sea, where he drinks from its salty waters. In a vision, a pickle, tomato and carrot—a la “VeggieTales”—visit Homer, naming him the messiah.
Once rescued, Homer—decked out in a toga on his hotel room bed—is declared to be suffering from Jerusalem syndrome, according to Dr. Hibbert.
“Ah yes, Jerusalem syndrome. The name given to religious delusions or psychoses that occur when people visit Jerusalem,” Lisa says.
Bart responds, “Have you ever notice that Dad always gets the disease they write about in the in-flight magazine?”
Homer escapes from the room and dives from a ledge—“Messiah, away!”—into a truck loaded with certified, pre-owned yarmulkes, before making his way to the Dome of the Rock.
Jacob escorts the Simpsons to the Dome of the Rock, where he says, “OK, this shrine contains the rock on which Abraham was going to sacrifice his son. And Muslims believe something, too. To find out, hire a Muslim tour guide—that’s a barrel of laughs.”
Before Marge enters the Dome of the Rock, Jacob asks her to fill out a comment card and reminds her to fill out the back. “You people are so pushy,” she says.
“What, Israeli people are pushy?” Jacob yells back. “How about you experience a couple of genocides and see how laid back you are? We were purged from Spain—thrown out of there. They allow everybody in Spain. But for us Jews: no flamenco, get out. I’m pushy? Please. You, stay there, surrounded by your great enemy, Canada. Try Syria for two months, then we see who’s pushy.”
Standing on the Rock of Abraham and Isaac, Homer declares the interfaith crowd surrounding him to be ChrisMuJews and he tries to unite everyone through a message of “peace and chicken,” since all three Abrahamic faiths eat chicken.
Stealing Homer’s thunder, Agnes Skinner and Dr. Hibbert declare themselves the messiah. On the flight home, the entire church tour – save the other Simpsons and Flanders—has succumbed to Jerusalem syndrome.
During the credits, we hear a longer tirade from Jacob about Spain: “Why don’t you try having your people thrown out of Spain. Spain! No tapas. I love eating tapas. I love the tiny portions. You don’t get too full, but you have a whole variety of flavors. Not for me. Every day hummus and pita. Occassionally once a week a little bit of falafel.”
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March 24, 2010 | 2:02 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced its slate for the 2010 Prometheus Awards, which includes four Jews—three from Southern California (Dani and Eytan Kollin, Harry Turtledove) and one from Canada (Cory Doctorow , who has ties with USC)—and an outspoken Mormon (Orson Scott Card):
Hidden Empire by Orson Scott Card (TOR Books)
The sequel to Card’s “Empire” (also a Prometheus finalist) covers the emergence of an imperial president and the role of voluntary action in saving human lives. Card has had three previous novels nominated for the Prometheus.
Makers by Cory Doctorow (TOR Books)
An inspiring story of entrepreneurial competition in the near future. The story makes Schumpeter’s creative destruction visible, and shows how even the poorest can be helped by competition and invention. Doctorow’s “Little Brother” (TOR Books) won last year’s Prometheus award.
The Unincorporated Man by Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books)
This novel explores the idea that education and personal development could be funded by allowing investors to take a share of one’s future income. The story takes a strong position that liberty is important and worth fighting for, and the characters spend their time pushing for different conceptions of what freedom is. This is the first nomination for the Kollin brothers.
Liberating Atlantis by Harry Turtledove (ROC/Penguin Books)
The third book in Turtledove’s Atlantis trilogy illustrates why people of all colors should be treated equally, and shows slaves in an alternate history demonstrating their humanity by fighting for their rights. Turtledove’s “The Gladiator” was a Prometheus co-winner in 2008. The first book in the trilogy was a finalist in 2009, and he had one other novel nominated for the award in 1999.
The United States of Atlantis by Harry Turtledove (ROC/Penguin Books)
The second book in Turtledove’s Atlantis trilogy covers his alternate colonies’ revolution to free themselves from the British crown. This is the first time an author has had two books as Prometheus finalists in a single year.
The Best Novel finalist (along with the Prometheus Hall of Fame winner—Harlan Ellison is in the running) will be announced in September at the World Science Fiction Convention, which will be held in Melbourne, Australia, Sept. 2-6.
March 24, 2010 | 10:48 am
Posted by Adam Wills
“Star Trek” is often cited as inspiration for NASA folk, so it’s not surprising to find the agency borrowing a little from the 2009 J.J. Abrams “Trek” film for the poster promoting STS-134, the final shuttle mission for Space Shuttle Endeavour and the penultimate mission for the space shuttle program.
The mission will mark the third ride for Jewish astronaut Greg Chamitoff, a Cal Tech alumnus who did two missions on the International Space Station. The crew includes commander Mark Kelly, pilot Gregory H. Johnson, mission specialists Michael Fincke, Chamitoff and Andrew Feustel, plus Roberto Vittori, astronaut from the European Space Agency.
For a larger version of the poster, as well as a look at “Reservoir Dogs”-style poster for Expedition 23, click here.
March 22, 2010 | 4:14 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Looks like Hollywood has no fear dybbuk tales after “The Unborn” ($16m budget, $76m worldwide b.o.). Lionsgate has purchased the rights to the “Dibbuk Box,” the tale of a Holocaust survivor’s ghostly wine cabinet. Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert of Ghost House Pictures will produce, according to Heeb.
The film centers around the titular box, which houses a granite slab, a dried rosebud, a goblet, two wheat pennies, a candlestick, two locks of hair, and according to the previous owners, one badass Jewish spirit that has led to all sorts of creepy paranormal stunts. Alleged to be based on a “true story,” the dibbuk box was purchased by an antique buyer in 2001 and subsequently sold on Ebay twice since 2003.
The original dibbuk box has been blamed for a slew of rotten stuff, including destroyed workspaces, strokes, the smell of cat piss, loss of hair, haunting nightmares, sudden electronic troubles, and big black vertical blurs loping down household hallways. You can wet your appetite for the movie and read the full history of the box right here.
The film will use the 2004 Los Angeles Times story by Leslie Gornstein as a source. The plot revolves around a family struggling to rid themselves of the box’s curse. You can just hear the pitch: “It’s A Serious Man meets Ghostbusters!”
March 19, 2010 | 4:35 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
For once, Jews, Christians and Muslims will be united –- in anger at Homer Simpson, who believes he’s the messiah in an upcoming episode of “The Simpsons.”
Set to air nationally on March 28, the Sunday before Passover begins, which is also Palm Sunday, “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” finds the Simpson family visiting Jerusalem with a surly Israeli tour guide voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen.
Executive producer Al Jean, who has been with “The Simpsons” since its launch in 1989, says the episode focuses exclusively on the family’s experiences in Jerusalem and doesn’t venture into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“It’s a 20-minute show, so there’s a limited scope,” he said.
Instead, Jean says the writers drew on their own Israel experiences to create a Jerusalem that’s fanciful but relatable to real life in the Holy Land.
Kevin Curran wrote the script, along with Mike Reiss and Joel Cohen.
In addition to his role in the episode, Baron Cohen, who lived for a year in Israel with the Habonim Dror Shnat, joined the writers for an hour to pitch jokes for the show.
“He would ad lib just amazingly,” Jean said of the “Borat” actor. “As funny an actor as I’ve ever worked with. He’s just brilliant.”
In one scene, tour guide Jacob (Baron Cohen), presses the Simpsons for positive marks on a comment card. When Marge accuses him of being “pushy,” he snaps back, “Try living next to Syria for two months and see how laid back you are.”
Ned Flanders, the Simpson’s neighbor who has taken it upon himself to redeem Homer, is the one who invited the Simpsons on a Christian tour of the Holy Land.
“[Flanders] feels that when Homer sees the sacred sites that he’ll become a good person,” Jean said in a phone interview.
When the family visits the Western Wall, Bart reads some of the notes and responds: “Nope, not gonna happen.” At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Homer’s behavior gets Flanders banned for life.
But it is the Israeli hotel’s opulent breakfast buffet that appeals most to Homer.
In the end, Jean said, “Homer tries to unite the faiths through a message of peace and chicken, because everybody eats chicken, no matter what religion they’re in.”
“The Simpsons” have delved into Jewish subject matter in the past, including an adult bar mitzvah for Krusty the Clown (né Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski) and a 2006 “Treehouse of Horrors” segment titled “You Gotta Know When to Golem.”
Throughout its 21 seasons, “The Simpsons” have taken several trips abroad, including to Australia, Japan, France and the United Kingdom. But a 2002 visit to Brazil drew controversy.
In Brazil, Riotur, Rio de Janeiro’s tourist board, claimed the episode “Blame It on Lisa” depicted the city as infested with rats and monkeys and rife with crime.
“What really hurt was the idea of the monkeys, the image that Rio de Janeiro was a jungle. It’s a completely unreal image of the city,” a Riotur spokesman said at the time.
Riotur threatened to sue the producers.
“Every other place has had a good sense of humor. Brazil caught us by surprise,” Jean said, adding that Riotur was even aggravated by the image of people going from place to place in a conga line.
“Obviously we don’t want to be too tame, but I also don’t want to make anyone feel we’re trying to belittle them,” Jean said.
The writers haven’t run jokes by clergy from any of the Abrahamic faiths, but Jean says he’s not worried about the reaction of viewers in Israel, who will see the episode at a later date: “I believe there are more problems in the area than our little cartoon.”
March 10, 2010 | 3:08 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Corey Haim, best known for his part in “The Lost Boys,” died early Wednesday morning after collapsing at his mother’s home in North Hollywood. He was 38.
Haim, a comic fanboy early in life, shared that trait with his “Lost Boys” character Sam Emerson. The role also paired him for the first time with Corey Feldman, who played Edgar Frog, a teen who worked with his brother Alan in their parents’ comic book shop. “Lost Boys” marked the beginning of a lifelong collaboration between Haim and Feldman that stretched from teen-oriented ’80s comedies like “License to Drive” and “Dream a Little Dream” to the recent reality TV series “The Two Coreys.”
Fans will likely recall that Haim’s character was given a stack of vampire-themed comics (including some issues of Marvel’s “Tomb of Dracula” series) to learn the ins and outs of their California town’s bloodsucker dilemma. But that wasn’t the only crossover for Haim with the comics world.
In 2008, Haim’s “Lost Boys” character made his comics debut in “The Lost Boys: Reign of Frogs,” a four-issue comic book series published by Wildstorm. The miniseries served as a bridge between the original 1987 film and its sequel, 2008’s “Lost Boys: The Tribe.”
However, other than retaining the name, Haim’s character in the comic bore little resemblance to the real-life actor, as the publisher reportedly had issues securing the likeness rights for Haim to use in the series.
From the two Coreys’ first on-screen meeting in “The Lost Boys”...
To the hidden ending of “Lost Boys: The Tribe”
March 9, 2010 | 6:26 pm
Posted by Adam Wills
Columbia is in talks with Sacha Baron Cohen for the third Men in Black film, according to industry rumor picked up by horror blog Bloody Disgusting:
Columbia Pictures is officially having conversations regarding their third entry in the Men in Black franchise as we’re being told by industry insiders that in addition to Jonah Hex cowboy Josh Brolin likely (still unconfirmed) to star, they’ve shown strong interest in both Sacha Baron Cohen (Sweeney Todd, Bruno) and Jemaine Clement (“The Flight of the Conchords”) for a character named “Yaz” (a new agent?). Neither are locked, this should be taken strictly as rumor for now. Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder, Igor, Idiocracy) wrote the screenplay. Shooting was originally rumored to begin this spring. The 1997 Men in Black grossed nearly $600m worldwide, while its 2002 sequel took in $440m. Why so long for another sequel? Who knows!