Why Movie Buffs Need To Be Watching Adult Swim’s ‘On Cinema’

The latest season of Adult Swim's On Cinema has begun, albeit with some small changes afoot.

It’s hard to believe that Adult Swim’s irreverent movie review program, On Cinema at the Cinema, is now in its ninth season. It started as a humble podcast by comedian Tim Heidecker and evolved into not only a unique take on movie reviews, but also sparked a fervent, passionate online community. They’ve done live Oscar specials the past few years which are a perfect way to combine the series’ raw passion for cinema with its unpredictable, personal aesthetic. While On Cinema has grown and changed, so too have its hosts, Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington.

Lately episodes trend to center around Tim’s personal life and his many demons. While Tim might use the program as a soap box or means to increase his public image, Gregg is purely interested in spreading his joy of cinema and keeping things focused on the art of the silver screen. Due to Tim being preoccupied over the issue of his decaying flesh, it seemed like an appropriate time to get some one-on-one time with Gregg Turkington where he’s allowed to dish untethered on film without anyone stealing focus. 

DEN OF GEEK: I have to say that as a film critic and fellow lover of film, it’s been painful to watch this show center around things like Tim’s problems, vaping, illegitimate children, or taste testings. So I thought you might like the opportunity to just get to talk cinema without any of those interruptions, ya know?

GREGG TURKINGTON: Jeez, that’s kind of what I’ve been hoping to have for many years now. I think the show started out with good intentions, but what was supposed to be a small part of the show has ended up being a big part of the show. I couldn’t tell you how many cards and letters I get from people saying, “We want more movies!” and how they don’t care about Tim’s melodrama. 

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Gosh, we’ve even had to trim the episodes down a bit because his personal problems take up so much time. Of course, when it comes to the edits though, the cuts come from the movie-related stuff or the outside segments. Meanwhile, it’s really clear that you could cut five minutes from Tim talking about his skin graft and there’d be plenty of time for movies. It’s very, very frustrating.

Well on that note, this season of On Cinema has introduced the 6 Bag Cinemas—

Gregg groans.

In fact, the season is shooting out of there. Obviously this is leading to a lot of obstacles, but for the uninitiated, what would you say are the three worst things about 6 Bag Cinemas?

Well the seats are very uncomfortable and very noisy. When you’re watching a movie, the last thing you want is for people to be on their cell phones or having loud conversations. Unfortunately, sitting in those seats is just as loud as both of those things. Another thing is having the waiter come in during a movie is something that clearly nobody wants. It’s as bad as watching a movie at home with commercials, having someone interrupt you like that. Having somebody ask you about the macaroni cheese dish during some climactic moment where you’re finding out who the insider is—who’s actually spying against James Bond—I mean, you’ll lose track of the plot.

And then, the screen at this place—I don’t want to say that it’s the size of a postage stamp, but it’s definitely small. There are people whose TVs at their homes are bigger than these screens. So then, with those three things combined, I’d honestly just rather watch a movie at home where I can control it myself. And I love watching movies at home, but I like to the go to the movies, too. When they become the same thing, then you’ve got a problem. 

You mentioned the food at 6 Bag Cinemas, recently Tim kicked John Lenard out of the kitchen with him taking over the head chef responsibilities. Pardon my cantor, but Tim doesn’t have a lick of a clue on how to run a kitchen. 

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Well neither did Lenard.

Well put! Do you think the whole thing is going to fizzle out? What would you like to see happen?

Well I mean, this theater is just a prototype for what I guess Tim is hoping will be a large international chain. I don’t know if the other ones will have better kitchens or not. The kitchen though—and you can’t see it on the screen—but it’s not much more than the kitchen you’d find in an RV. I don’t want to say too much or Tim will get mad at me, but a lot of the things that Lenard was cooking, he’s just pressing a button. Let me just leave it at that. Some of the bigger restaurants and places that I like, whether it’s Olive Garden of Caruther’s—they use microwaves too for some of their dishes, but when you’re charging the sort of prices that Tim is and how he’s talking this stuff up, I just don’t know.

Recently there have been a lot of movie actors that have been transitioning over to television, and it sort of feels like the power of the silver screen is not what it once was. Does cinema need good actors to stand by its side?

Yes, yes, and yes. Yeah, you see people that were big marquee names like Michael J. Fox from Back to the Future and Doc Hollywood, movies like this. Then you turn on the TV one day and there he is, not on the silver screen. It’s definitely a disturbing trend. There are new actors that can sometimes come in to replace them and fill the void, but some of these actors are literally irreplaceable. We’re talking about Henry Fonda, people like that. Catherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, they can never be replaced. So I think it’s a mistake to let these people slip away before they miss their chance to fulfill their destiny and make all the movies that they have in them. 

On On Cinema you’re the one with all the informative segments about Hollywood, like “On Cinema On Location.” This season you’ve mentioned some new segments “Gone But Not Forgotten” and “Road to Hollywood” but they’ve kind of been steamrolled in favor of some non-cinema related material. Anyways, I thought if you’d like to talk about these new segments without interruption, you’re welcome to give them their due here!

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Well with “Gone But Not Forgotten” the idea is that you’re taking actors, actresses, directors, even composers and producers a chance to shine from beyond the grave. These are people who died recently. I’m sure you’ve watched the Academy Awards and they always have a small In Memoriam segment, but a lot of people watching it are saying, “Why can’t this be a longer segment? We’re not getting enough of this!” Because for every big actor like a Gene Wilder that dies who gets the coverage, there are also smaller actors like Alan Young who wasn’t mentioned. And that’s not right. So we thought we’d expand it into what I originally saw as a five to seven minute segment. Tim insisted on cutting it down so that it was a one minute segment and at this point none of them have aired. Zero segments. 

I think you look at the Academy Awards which are the premiere movie show and you try and do better than them. I’ve been trying to say for a while now that the Academy Awards should be twice a year because people love the show so much and there are enough movies to justify it. I think that would open a lot of things up. Also, they release these movies that they want to win Oscars all at the same time of the year, but if you did it twice a year you’d be releasing great movies all year long, which would be great for moviegoers and cinema in general.

It’s a good point, you know we have a Winter and Summer Olympics and what are the Academy Awards if not the Olympics of Filmmaking? So yeah, why not do it twice a year?

Thank you. I couldn’t agree with you more. In mean time though, for people that care about movies and need guidance and expertise, there’s really no other place to go then On Cinema. So it’s really tough for those people when the show gets derailed and taken in other directions. There are plenty of soap operas on TV. If you want to watch soap operas or reality TV shows about drug addicts and criminals, or just bad people—quack doctors. I was turning the channels the other day and I came across a doctor that will help people lose weight when they’re over 600 pounds. That’s the kind of show that I think Tim needs, and he should leave the movies to our movie experts like myself and some of the guests that I would have on.

You mentioned your Popcorn Classics and I was very excited when I heard that your film collection has experienced a great boon recently. You just pulled off the Louisiana Purchase of VHS sales by getting 1000 titles for 100 dollars. You still lost a lot of gems in that fire though. Are there any movies that you’re still missing and eager to recover that maybe we can organize something where people mail you these tapes?

One movie that I don’t have that I liked to get my hands on is Two Can Play That Game with Vivica Fox. 2001. I know that’s sort of on the “Get List” that we keep. Another is Sweet Home Alabama. I don’t know if you’ve seen that…

Come on, Reese Witherspoon classic. 

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Let’s not forget Patrick Dempsey, too. I’d love to get that one if anyone has it. There’s a movie called Return to Me with David Duchovny and Minnie Driver. I think it’s from 1999 and just haven’t been able to track it down yet. A lot of these do come in, or some of them we actually have two copies, like 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane. So I’ve got an extra, but I don’t mind because who knows if a tape will get a glitch in it. We also want to get screening rooms going at the archives so people can come in and pay a small fee—maybe 25 cents or 50 cents, this is not a for-profit venture—then go into a private screening room. At that point one of our volunteers would put the tape in and you could sit there and watch it. 

But you need to have two movies because somebody might come in and want to watch Kate & Leopold. Well twenty minutes later somebody else comes in. “I want to watch Kate & Leopold.” Okay, so what do you do? Do you stop the tape and make the first guy rewind so they can watch it together? Well that’s not really fair. So it’d be nice if we had a second copy and these people could just go straight in without waiting. Even having three copies would be great. 

Comic book movies are very popular right now. You and Tim have reviewed a bunch of them on the show. Is there a certain comic book that you’d like to see come to life on the silver screen?

Well I mean it happened with Ant-Man. And I happened to star in it. So more Ant-Man movies, please. And fewer Fantastic Four movies because I think that one really didn’t work. I don’t really think the policy of buying your way into movies like Tim did with that one is really the way to make a good film. I’d like to see another Richie Rich film, too. I thought that had great franchise potential.

With all of the connected universes that are going on right now, maybe do Richie Rich, Casper, then have them meet up.

That would be ideal. Sometimes those sorts of movies really work out well. If you’ve seen Abbott & Costello Meet the Mummy, you wouldn’t think those things would work, but it’s actually one of the best mummy movies of all time. Look, if people can get more movies made, that’s always a good thing. What’s a problem is when people try and terminate franchises. Police Academy hasn’t had a movie in years. Then there’s other things like Kramer Vs. Kramer. Nobody died in that! As far as I’m concerned, let’s do another Kramer movie. It doesn’t have to be Vs. Kramer again because he’s already divorced, but maybe he marries again and he divorces his new wife. There’s five movies there. Five different women that he divorces each time and has kids with them. That would be fantastic. 

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I wouldn’t say it would be a fun thing because it’s divorce, but some of them might be. Maybe in Kramer Vs. Kramer 4 he re-marries the woman he was with in Kramer Vs. Kramer 2 and there’s some humor in that. But you have a movie like that that made millions and millions of dollars and got some many Academy Awards, plus that cast of Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman. Justin Henry who played the little kid, too. I’d like to see more of him. Maybe eventually he gets into a situation in Kramer Vs. Kramer 6 where the kid is now an adult and he’s getting divorced. You look at Rocky V, Rocky Balboa, and in some of those later Rocky movies, he’s not always fighting, but also giving out advice to the next generation. You could do that in a later Kramer Vs. Kramer movie where Dustin Hoffman recommends to Justin Henry a good divorce lawyer and just sharing with him life advice in that touchy area. 

Lastly Gregg, are there any parting words you want to leave people with? Whether it’s what you’re most excited about on this season of On Cinema, or just any special screenings at the Victorville Film Archives that people should check out? Or ways they can help out over there?

I’m in the process of completely separating the Film Archives from Tim Heidecker so it’s something that I can maintain without his involvement. As you know, his involvement seems to be mainly dropping matches onto oily rags near my priceless collection. So I think in the future we will open up in a new, bigger building. It won’t be a movie theater because honestly that was very hard to run, but it will be a sufficient screening room. I would love to find maybe an abandoned office building. If you had a hundred small offices to show films, a reception, a basement to store the films, and then an elevator to take you to each of the screening rooms. You’d just need to black out the windows and you’d be ready. So that’s something, if there are any investors out there or a family that owns an office building that’s not being used, we should definitely be talking. That’s what I would say there.

In terms of movies, I think you can never go wrong with Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, anything in that series. Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan is another movie that is just fantastic that I think people need to see and I would recommend. Another one that’s really good—I don’t know if you’ve seen this one—but Days of Thunder, which is Tom Cruise. It’s kind of a cult film, but it’s one of his earlier pictures. It’s also got Robert Duvall…

Nicole Kidman, too!

It’s something that if you haven’t seen it, I’d say you should definitely make the time to do so. Really anything with Robert Duvall is always going to come through for you.

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New episodes from the latest season of On Cinema at the Cinema are available on Adult Swim’s website every Monday.