Every week, the Criticwire Survey asks film and TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday morning. (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?” can be found at the end of this post.) Send suggestions for future questions to sam at indiewire dot com.
Q: What’s your go-to quote from The Simpsons — not your favorite necessarily, but the one you’re most likely to use on a daily basis?
David Ehrlich, Film.com
I often like to begin conversations with strangers by saying: “Hello. I’m Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is true. And by true, I mean false. It’s all lies. But they’re entertaining lies. And in the end, isn’t that the real truth? The answer is: No.”
But that’s not important right now. My real answer is Hans Moleman: “I was saying Boo-urns.” I’m trying to think of a situation in which this immortal utterance wouldn’t come in handy, and yeah, there isn’t one.The Simpsons/Critic crossover episode “A Star is Burns” is arguably the best moment of either brilliant show, and I could have submitted almost every line of dialogue from it for this week’s survey. But despite the alarming regularity with which I say “Listen, Spielbergo, Schindler and I are like peas in a pod!” or “I made a movie!? No wonder I’m the cover of Entertainment Weekly!”, a good old “Boo-urns” is definitely the most practical bit. I mean, who ever thought a whale would be so heavy?
Matt Zoller Seitz, RogerEbert.com, Vulture
The Simpsons quote I laugh about more than any other is probably when Homer and Marge are about to buy two tickets to “The Stockholm Affair,” and when Marge says the paper described it as “a taut political thriller,” Homer moans, “Uhhhhh! Political?!?” The one I quote the most is from “Kamp Krusty,” when the kids rush out of school and Principal Skinner says, “”Wait a minute! You didn’t learn how World War II ended!” Pause. “We won!” Kids: “Yayyyy!”
Scott Weinberg, Twitch, FEARnet
“Marge, it takes two to lie: one to lie and one to listen.” — Homer
Calum Marsh, Film.com, Village Voice
One of the best things about having fellow film critic Adam Nayman as a friend is the knowledge that, no matter how obscure I go, no Simpsons reference I can think up will go unnoticed or unappreciated. Simpsons enthusiasts know that speaking in references can sometimes feel like a private language — one that’s deeply, almost perversely rewarding. Recently, on my way to meet with Adam for dinner, I fired off what I thought would be taken as an ordinary text: “I’m on my way!” But he knew exactly what I was thinking: “Pick up Bart”.
In “Homer the Great,” the head of the Simpson clan finds himself
embraced by a different family: the Stonecutters, an ancient and
mysterious order not unlike the Freemasons except
probably more likely to order ribs. Anointed as their chosen one by
virtue of a previously undiscovered birthmark, Homer is cloaked in
glory, but Lisa — the show’s resident killjoy and, along with her
similarly skeptical mother, its most constant voice of reason
— decides to caution her father about flying too close to the sun. The
following exchange is not only my favourite exchange in the history of
the Simpsons, but also the one I invoke at least once a week when
somebody — a friend, a colleague, or someone I know only by reputation
— betrays a sense of vaingloriousness about their accomplishments.What I love about this particular Simpsons moment is the precise pitch
of the vocal performances by Dan Castanetta and Yeardley Smith; the
declamatory flatness of their respective deliveries is not only severe
enough to suit Lisa’s Shakespearean allusion, but also wouldn’t be out
of place on the ancient Greek stage.
Certainly, the theme being addressed here — hubris –is as old as
drama itself, and if Homer’s refusal to acknowledge the fact that pride
comes before a fall serves as a neat encapsulation of his character on
the whole, I daresay it also gets at something pretty universal. Funnily
my runner-up also name-checks the month between February and April: who
among us has never stepped out into driving rain, bitter cold or soggy
snow and muttered, somewhere under our frosted breath: “lousy Smarch
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap, What the Flick?!
So many leap to mind, from “I’m wasted my life” (which was the name given to a Comic-Con panel about Simpsons collectibles) to “I welcome our new insect overlords” to “Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos” to “I like my beer cold, my TV loud and my homosexuals flaming.” But when it comes right down to it, it’s Nelson Muntz’s simple, perfect, two-note “HA ha” that I go to in my moments of schadenfreude. And I have LOTS of those.
James Poniewozik, Time
Swear to God, not two minutes before I got this email, I was searching YouTube for a clip of Homer Simpson smacking the television during A Prairie Home Companion: “Stupid TV! Be more funny!” (Related: YouTube, you are doing too poor a job of providing me with illustrative Simpsons clips. And/or: Fox legal department, you are doing too good a job of preventing YouTube from doing so.)
But good lord, what Simpsons quotes do I NOT use in daily life? I now have two sons, aged 9 and 12, and our communication is therefore approximately 20% Simpsons quotes in itself. But for starters (I have not checked these quotes against the original episodes for accuracy):
“Barney’s movie had heart, but Football in the Groin had a football in the groin.” [General statement of aesthetic principles]
“To alcohol! The cause of — and solution to — all of life’s problems!” [Illustration of paradox, or all-purpose toast]
“I for one welcome our new insect overlords!” [Ironic statement of opportunistic disloyalty, or sly way of likening someone to an insect]
“Look! It’s an inanimate carbon rod!” [Life is unfair]
“Rest assured, I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world” [Because any hack can quote, “Worst. Episode. Ever.”]
Luke Y. Thompson, Topless Robot
Considering that you’re asking critics, I think it’s inevitable that the answer will be “Worst. Episode. Ever.” or some derivation. Actually, considering I run a nerd blog, pretty much everything Comic Book Guy says is go-to for me.
Robert Greene, Sight & Sound, Hammer to Nail
As I’ve matured into a bald father, I find my inner Homer has gotten harder to hide. I am often confused, which brings out “Bees are on the what now?” I often know that things will go horribly awry, for which I use the very self-aware “Nothing could possiblie go wrong.” But sometimes I find myself in the role of inspirational leader, which gives me a chance to dust off “Up and at them!” Bottom line is that I am so smrt.
Ryan McNeil, The Matinee
Easy one: “I am so smart; S-M-R-T.”Usually I just quote the letters and it’s understood.The great thing about the line is that it can be both self-deprecating (after a moment of sublime idiocy), or used to voice exasperation:”Did I really just hear you explain that for the third time this week?” “S-M-R-T…”
Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly
It’s a staggeringly unfair task you’ve set to a generation that can barely remember a time before The Simpsons existed. I’ve spent 25 years telling butlers to stop butling themselves, dismissing ideas as a bunch of rich creamery butter and telling stories that don’t go anywhere with an onion tied to my belt. The very nature of the show as institution makes this a fool’s errand; it has produced so many brilliant bon mots that there’s no need to have a single go-to quote. So I’m going to cheat and leave it to others to champion the absurd notion that any one Simpsons gem can distill its magnificence, while I’ll just be over here enjoying some so-called “iced cream.” Mmmm, fattening.
Matt Prigge, Metro
I’m of the age where The Simpsons have utterly ruined my life. Without even thinking about it, I tend to respond to each and every real-life situation with a corresponding Simpsons reference. Not a few hours go by without me flashing to Comic Store Guy’s “Ohhhh, I’ve wasted my life.” Things I don’t like are met with a withering “Boo-urns.” I often, like Homer, think that “democracy doesn’t work.” (Of course, this only occurs in reference to trivial things, like when a movie I like bombs miserably.) Probably the one I use the most — again, totally unconsciously — is Homer’s “yoink,” said when he’s faux-slyly grabbing things, like donuts or a Venus de Milo gummy that’s gotten stuck to the babysitter’s posterior. I once (and this is true) was at the office of whatever paper I was working at then, saw a copy of some academic-ish book on The Simpsons and, as I leaned forward to grab it, actually let out a “yoink,” without actually trying to make a reference. It was just second-nature. Goddamn this show.
Sean Hutchinson, CriterionCast, Latino Review
This is quite possibly the single most difficult Criticwire Survey ever. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t pull out a “Pray for Mojo,” a “You bent my Wookiee,” or a “Boo-urns.” Also as a writer who slips up every once in awhile the old “Me fail English? That’s un-possible” is pretty on-point. But if I had to choose I guess my go-to Simpsons quote comes from my favorite — and the absolute best — character on the Simpsons, Milhouse Van Houten. When you’re having one of those days where nothing seems to go wrong and the universe is on your side, “Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse” makes it all the more better.
Alissa Wilkinson, Christianity Today
In my spare time I’m an English professor, and ever since the first day of that job, I’ve pulled out Ralph Wiggum’s immortal lines at every opportunity: “Me fail English? That’s unpossible!” It’s useful when you’re trying to cover over some stupid mistake you made in a public way (say, a failure to observe the rules of subject-verb agreement on an assignment you’ve just handed out to the class). It’s also useful to replay on a loop in your head as you silently rail against students who might argue with their grades, but not for good reasons. But you can also strip off the “me fail English” bit for the all-purpose “that’s unpossible!” Its handiness as a phrase knows few bounds. Thanks, Ralph.
Matt Singer, The Dissolve
The quote I say more in day-to-day life than any other is “The PTA has disbanded!” This is sort of a strange choice because I have no children, and have never participated in a Parent-Teacher Association in any context whatsoever. But that line has, for me, become the perfect shorthand for misplaced, excessive outrage. Reading the Interwebs all day for my job I see a lot of flagrantly silly overreactions to stuff, so I think of that random dude jumping out the window at the first sign of PTA trouble all the time.
Christopher Campbell, Nonfics, Movies.com
I don’t say it out loud and I don’t know that it’s strictly a quote, but anytime I see a fight break out among us critics on Twitter or if there’s some major split on the reviews of a certain movie I hear and picture the bit from “The PTA Disbands” episode where a guy yells “The PTA has disbanded!” then screams and jumps out the window.
“Who shot who in the what now?” Comes in handy whenever I’m confused by anything, which is increasingly often.
Peter Howell, The Toronto Star:
This could win a prize for most obscure catch phrase from The Simpsons. For some reason, my kids and I love the line where Apu explains to Homer why the big-box store threatening his Kwik-E-Mart won’t succeed: “Unbeatable selection at rock-bottom prices. But where is the love, I ask you?”
Mark Young, Sound on Sight, The New York Movie Klub
I’m always looking for reasons to inform someone that Dis. Ain’t. Ovah:
And since nothing is ever over, that happens a lot.
Joanna Langfield, The Movie Minute
Yeah, it’s really “D’oh”, but my heart belongs to “If Jesus had a gun, he’d be alive today”, Homer Simpson.
Jason Gorber, TwitchFilm
From decades of quotable lines, I’ll pick one that cuts the deepest: “Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors” remains a personal fav, especially given how it so deliciously takes the piss out of what I spent almost a decade studying in post-secondary educational institutions. If I’m allowed another from the inimitable Kent Brockman, the line “I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, democracy simply doesn’t work” has come to mind over the last few weeks in this so called “Ford Nation” of Toronto.
William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
There is no Simpsons quote wielded more often by yours truly than “This is the life we chose,” spoken by a recently wedgied Database in episode 13.20 “Little Girl in the Big Ten.” In context, it’s just a thing a nerd says after reaping the negative repercussions of his lifestyle. In real life, it’s just a thing a nerd says whenever he reaps the negative repercussions of his lifestyle. Comic-Con scheduling getting you down? “This is the life we chose!” Missing a friend’s birthday party because you have to see a new Adam Sandler movie? “This is the life we chose!” Indeed, Database, it really is.
Peter Labuza, The Cinephiliacs, To Be (Cont’d)
Some sort of variation on the Cayman Island Man: “Oh, crap. I shouldn’t have said he was a customer… Oh, crap. I shouldn’t have said it was a secret… Oh, crap! I *certainly* shouldn’t have said it was illegal!…Ah, it’s too hot in here.”
Pat Padua, DCist, Spectrum Culture
“Sleep! That’s where I’m a Viking!” I’ve never used it in context, but if I ever get invited to a Bela Tarr-athon, I’ll be ready.
Glenn Kenny, Some Came Running, Cinephiled
Isn’t it always “Alcohol: The cause of and the solution to all life’s problems?”
Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit, First Showing
I could literally give you a top 100 list of Simpsons quotes that I come back to time and again, but I’ll limit it to “Everything’s coming up Milhouse,” “I was saying Boo-urns” and of course “Hi everybody!” I use them more than I probably should, but I couldn’t care less.
Josh Spiegel, Mousterpiece Cinema
Like everyone else here, I had too many great Simpsons quotes to pick from. But then, I realized that my pick was an obvious one: “No, no, dig UP, stupid!” That’s from Chief Wiggum, speaking the last line in the season 5 episode “Homer the Vigilante.” The final minutes are a parody of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (as that was one of my favorite comedies to watch growing up, the homage delighted me to no end), culminating with a number of Springfieldians digging a deep hole in search of a treasure that will never materialize. Cue Chief Wiggum’s line. Nowadays, whenever I see or hear about a public figure getting in trouble, typically just by saying something idiotic, “Dig UP, stupid!” is my first reaction. Honorable mention has to go to “I, for one, welcome our new ant overlords,” because…come on.
Andreas Stoehr, Pussy Goes Grrr
It’s basically impossible to pin down one answer for this, since The Simpsons is like a millennial Poor Richard’s Almanack. But I do often find myself using the line that follows Homer’s botched attempt to define “muppet” in “A Fish Called Selma”: “So to answer your question, I don’t know.” And two lines from “A Star Is Burns” are especially handy within film criticism: “Barney’s movie had heart, but Football in the Groin had a football in the groin” as well as the very pithy “Boo-urns!” At only two syllables, the latter works well as a half-facetious response to virtually any negative situation.
Adam Batty, Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second, Periodical
“The ironing is delicious” is my most often used Simpsons quote. The best bit is when unassuming non-Simpsons fans call you out on your mistake.
Edwin Arnaudin, Ashvegas
The Simpsons quote I most frequently use is “D’oh!” but it’s become such a reflex over the years that it doesn’t really count. My mainstays then go to any from the Ralph Wiggum Greatest Hits montage, which tend to snowball once one is mentioned.
Things usually get rolling when someone says “next,” “necks,” or “chicken,” prompting “Chicken necks?” which quickly leads to “Me fail English? That’s unpossible,” “I bent my Wookie,” “What’s a diorama?” “Hi, Super Nintendo Chalmers” and culminates in “I heard your dad went into a restaurant and ate everything in the restaurant and they had to close the restaurant.” Similar to the inability to eat just one Lay’s potato chip, it’s also difficult to stop at merely one Ralph Wiggum quote.
Gary Kramer, Gay City News, Philadelphia Gay News,
Ever since I saw “Radio Bart” back in 1992, I’ve been a fan of The Simpsons. While I laugh hysterically at the series, and think the “Cape Feare” episode featuring Sideshow Bob is arguably the greatest half hour in the show’s history. (“Bart, ya wanna see my new chainsaw and hockey mask!?!”), my go-to Simpson’s quote is actually not one of the show’s many inspired comic punchlines. It’s from the episode, “Lisa’s Substitute.” When Mr. Bergstrom (voiced by Dustin Hoffman, using the pseudonym Sam Etic in the credits) has to say goodbye to Lisa, a student he inspired, he hands her a note, that reads, “You Are Lisa Simpson.” I was sucker punched. I even found myself crying at this scene seeing it again. I love this moment not just because it validates the self-worth of my favorite Simpson character, but it is a mantra that I can use (replacing my own name of course) whenever I need a boost of confidence. I well up just thinking about it.
Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat, Film Racket
As the parent of a five-year-old who’s learning to do a lot of things independently, I often find myself channeling Monty Burns to laud his efforts with a hearty “Excellent work, Smithers!” Of course, being five, he usually gives me a look that says, “Why the hell are you calling me ‘Smithers’? That’s not my name.”
Kristy Puchko, Cinema Blend, Spinoff Online
“We didn’t all go to Gudger College.” It’s from my favorite episode “A Milhouse Divided,” where the Van Houtens split up. How I manage to force it into conversations is typically when I’m losing an argument with my husband. Quoting that moment with a smile is a lot easier than just saying, “Fine. I was wrong.”
Jordan Hoffman, Film.com, New York Daily News
“I wish I were Sipowicz.”
John Keefer, 51 Deep
There is a masochism inherent in the search for a Simpsons quote which could be labeled “go-to” as this would require a breakdown of all human activity to determine which activity is most engaged in and then pulling from all applicable quotes over a two-decades long source material while at the same time applying a value determination. I give up before even beginning and will instead quote my favorite Simpsons exchange:
This is not a quote, it’s true, but this 23 second scene effectively surmises what I love about this show. And no, I haven’t watched the last 11 years of it, only the first 12. I apologize.
Danny Bowes, RogerEbert.com, Tor.com
I’m quite fond, after extremely minor victories (not getting my electricity turned off, getting freelance checks for the exact amount brunch will cost, etc.), of deploying “Everything’s comin’ up Milhouse!” I would go so far as to say that there is no better way to celebrate such an event.
Richard Brody, the New Yorker
“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” It’s memorable but not funny at all, and God spare us from another situation in which it would come in handy.
Ali Arikan, RogerEbert.com
Oh, man. There is a whole bunch that I use everyday. I can’t really single any of them out. Here’s a sample:“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have stopped for that haircut.”“You friends can call you HoJu.” (These two are from ‘Marge vs The Monorail’)“A fat, sarcastic, Star Trek fan? You must be a devil with the ladies.”“It’s funny cos it’s true.”“The year is 1965. And you and I are undercover detectives on the
hot rod circuit. Now let’s burn rubber baby!” (I drive my girlfriend to
work everyday, and I say this to her every morning. It never gets old.
NEVER!)“I am the lizard queen!”“Buenos noches, mein Führer!”“Bring back our kids, you Cyprus-splitting jerks.”“Barney’s movie had heart, but ‘Football in the Groin’ had a football in the groin.”“Hey! Surly only looks out for one guy…Surly!”“Hot stuff! Coming through!”“Bake him away, toys!”“He prefers the company of men!” “Who doesn’t?”
Finally, two paraphrases that I think are better than the original lines:1. “My son comes back from a fancy East Coast college, and I’m horrified to discover he’s a nerd.”2. Sometimes I think you don’t even want to work.”“Shut up! Shut up!”
Alan Zilberman, Tiny Mix Tapes and The Atlantic
Worst. Criticwire Survey Question. Ever.
No, but seriously, I’m a big fan of The Simpsons. I’m a part of a Simpsons fan club called The Stonecutters; we meet semi-regularly and watch our favorite episodes so we can quote them in a safe space. Even though most obscure Simpsons quotes have no place in adult conversation, there are few that leak into my everyday life. Note: these quotes were whittled down from a list of about thirty-five.
1) Apu: The Nye Mets are my favorite squadron.
This quote is from “Much Apu About Nothing,” where Apu “acts American” in order to stay in the United States. He doesn’t know enough to say “New York Mets” or even “team.” I use this quote often since I’m not really into baseball, and one of my best friends is a huge Mets fan. Whenever he brings up how the team is doing, I bust this one out.
2) Barney: It begins!
This quote is from “Deep Space Homer,” where Barney and Homer train to become astronauts. After swearing off alcohol and becoming a model cadet, Barney says this line after tasting non-alcoholic cider which nonetheless sends him into a drunken rage. I use this it whenever I’m at the bar and either a) I have my first drink or b) I start to feel a buzz. This line is so innocuous that non-fans never seem to mind.
3) Rainier Wolfcastle: My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
This quote is from “Radioactive Man,” where Milhouse acts as Fallout Boy in a big-screen adaptation of the popular comic book. The line is spoken by Rainier Wolfcastle, the actor who plays Radioactive Man, as a vat of a nuclear waste sends him careening through the reactor. This is probably the most popular quote I use since it’s become a ubiquitous reaction for whenever someone sees something disturbing.
4) Homer: The ball… his groin… it works on so many levels!
This quote is from “A Star Is Burns,” where Homer serves as jury member for a film festival. Homer’s favorite film is “Man Getting Hit by Football,” a film so infantile and stupid he unintentionally embarrasses the other jurors. This quote is especially useful as a film critic. I may have highalutin tastes some of the time, but I’m not above a dumb physical gag. I become a little bit like Homer whenever I revisit the Jackass films. Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve worked the phrase “it works on so many levels” into at least one review I’ve written.
Marc V. Ciafardini, GoSeeTalk
Oh, man, go-to Simpsons quotes! Where do I start? Well here’s my one-two punch of tickle-some taglines that I use on an almost weekly basis:
“If I don’t see it, it’s not illegal.”
Piers Marchant, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Pop Matters
Oh, man, this could take a while. Simpsons quotes, as with the finest literature in the world’s canon, can be used in almost any situation, often with tremendous satisfaction. I guess if I absolutely had to choose, the quotes that tend to come up the most often would be one of the following:
“You’d better run, Egg!” (Especially useful with our cat.)
“I call the big one ‘Bitey,'” which I believe I read somewhere is one of Matt Groening’s all-time faves.
“They taste like burning.” (The quintessential Ralph quote amongst a plethora of options.)BONUS:
“Pray for Mojo.”
Having to choose from this batch would be almost impossible so I’m going to cheat and keep all of them and hope no one notices.
Jason Shawhan, The Nashville Scene, Interface 2037
I couldn’t get it down to just one. But at least I decided to present the results in Casey Kasem ascending-style, just for maximum drama… The final two are interchangeable building blocks of my discourse, which could be catastrophically sad- I haven’t decided yet.
03. “I’m cold and there are wolves after me.”
02. “This is gonna get worse before it gets better.”
01. “’tis, replied Aunt Helga…”
01. “Oh God no.”
Q: What is the best movie in theaters?
A: 12 Years a Slave
Other mvoies receiving multiple votes: Gravity, Nebraska, All Is Lost, The Counselor.