On Cinema Is Funny Because It’s About Everything But Cinema

When I was first introduced to On Cinema At The Cinema, a bizarre comedic movie review show starring Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington, I didn’t quite realise how cultish the fanbase for it was. Now that they’ve released a feature film, Mister America, all I want is to tell people why they should watch this completely bonkers show.

In On Cinema At The Cinema, Tim Heidecker plays Tim Heidecker, a vain, selfish, and violent man who has absolutely no interest in movies and yet hosts a show where watching them is the point. Gregg Turkington, who also does stand-up under the name Neil Hamburger, plays Gregg Turkington, a man who loves literally every movie to the point that he has collected hundreds of VHS tapes and calls it a “film archive.”

What begins as a more straightforward satire of shallow movie criticism becomes a show where Tim Heidecker becomes addicted to a bootleg vape system that he later sells to people at a makeshift music festival, with disastrous results.

The core of On Cinema’s comedy is that Gregg and Tim clearly hate each other. Each time Tim interrupts the movie reviews to introduce increasingly bizarre business ventures—natural medicine, the aforementioned vapes, his band Dekkar—Gregg seethes under his hat, angrily eating popcorn. Frequently, Tim can’t pronounce the titles of the movies or the actors in them. Often, Tim clearly hasn’t even seen the movie, which only infuriates Gregg more.

In a recent episode, Tim claimed that De Niro played the clown prince of crime in Joker rather than Jaoquin Phoenix, which he pronounced “Jack-o-ween.” If you’re looking for anything resembling an actual opinion about a movie, you’re out of luck. They give every movie five bags of popcorn, the highest rating on their scale.

The kind of storytelling that occurs in On Cinema between the movie reviews is incredible. Each season follows Tim’s attempts to use the show to get rich and famous, wildly overestimating the appeal and importance of his internet movie review show in the process. As hateable as Tim is in this show, there’s something hypnotising about his lack of self awareness.

His character is the embodiment of a mediocre white guy that’s been given millions of chances just because of his relative privilege. That Tim has said that people shouldn’t be allowed to vote until they watch Dinesh D’Souza’s Hilary’s America should not come as a surprise.

There’s also something weirdly comforting in watching two people who don’t know anything about movies talk about movies. While Gregg is the show’s nominal film expert, he doesn’t have a sense of taste. He just likes every movie. When he’s given a chance to talk about a VHS from his archive, a lot of the time he’ll just say how long the movie is rather than give any details about its filmmaking or plot. In a recent interview with The Film Stage, Turkington described the show as “contemptful” towards modern cinema.

“It feels to me like this whole industry is geared towards these big babies, you know? Kind of like, if you’re ever in an airport at 6 in the morning and you see all these guys—successful, older executives; business travellers—and what do they have for breakfast? A giant chocolate-chip cookie with M&M’s in it,” Turkington said.

“It just really kind of stinks. You should have options for children and for people looking for escapism, but so much of this stuff, it really feels like it’s geared towards literal big babies.”

It’s comforting to know that other people out there see that much of modern cinema has become banal and that certain types of people can get away with literal murder if they yell loud enough. The Tim and Gregg of On Cinema are buffoons, and in context of a ramshackle movie review show, I get to laugh at them rather than lament their ever-encroaching power over my life as a consumer and movie lover.


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