Opinion Piece - Can I Offer You On Cinema in This Trying Time?



We've all still got lots of free time on our hands and so you, like me, are probably looking for your next great thing to binge. I hear DEVS and Normal People are both great, I'm planning on checking them out soon, but I thought I'd give you all a much more obscure recommendation. It won't be to everyone's taste but for those who dig it, I think you're truly going to dig it. It's On Cinema, at The Cinema.


It's these two personalities rubbing up against each other, bringing the very worst out of each other and the very best of cringe comedy to the world of film criticism.
What is On Cinema, is probably your first question. Well, Brianna Ziggler recently wrote a really good article about the show which can fill you in on much more detail, but in a nutshell, it's kind of a parody of movie review shows by clueless dudes. Our main host is Tim Heidecker, playing an exaggerated version of himself. You might recognise him from a small role in Us last year or you maybe know him from the batshit absurd Tim and Eric: Awesome Show, Great Job, but even if you don't recognise him, his character will feel familiar. This is a Hollywood B-lister, constantly drunk off his own arrogance and right wing rage, whose abundance of money has corroded his morality. Joining him is his guest/co-host, Greg Turkington, again playing a version of himself as the self proclaimed "world's biggest film buff" (a questionable accolade). In his staunch defence of The Hobbit trilogy, a host of forgotten nineties comedies or the medium of VHS, he is a perfect parody of all the worst aspects of every film obsessive, down to his stubbornness that often equals that of Tim. As the show begins, it's these two personalities rubbing up against each other, bringing the very worst out of each other and the very best of cringe comedy to the world of film criticism. One warning though, it's fair to say you're not going to come here for in depth and reliable criticism, as almost every film they cover seems to get the coveted "five bags of popcorn" rating, from Nine Lives to I, Frankenstein. Fortunately, you'll forget about that soon enough.

Personally though, the joy of On Cinema is in the way it has... My gut tells me to use the word evolve here, but mutated feels like the appropriate phrase to use. First, the show was just Tim and Greg in their chairs, talking movies. Then, to accompany the regular ten minute web shows, they started doing Oscar specials, live with the actual ceremony. These will go on as long as the Oscars themselves, so often two or three hours, but they started to represent a desire to push the envelope. This desire feeds into the show more and more as, despite Greg's best efforts to keep the show just about the movies, Tim will bring in aspects of his personal life. Perhaps he's decided to get a motorbike and move to a rural American town? Maybe he's started dating a Japanese exchange student who is living with him? Is he perhaps talking about his rock band Dekkar? All these things come up often, building to unbelievable and often impressively dark climaxes, climaxes I want to be vague about because it is worth experiencing it yourself. What I will say though is that in 2017, Tim Heidecker suddenly finds himself involved in a murder trial, a trial that truly has to be seen to be believed. It seemed like the darkest, most absurd point the show would go to but with this years Oscar Special, I would argue that On Cinema shows no signs of letting up on unbelievable plot lines, at least not any time soon. That's the great thing about insane shows; even when it feels like you've pushed it as far as you can, there may yet be another deeper barrel, probably in another dimension, to scrape the bottom of.
Delayed gratification doesn't even come close to describing the show sometimes, but man, that reward is worth it like you wouldn't believe.
The reason I think On Cinema is so brilliant (aside from the brilliant comedy) is that I truly think (and I apologise because this will make me sound incredibly pretentious) that it is pushing the very limits of what video and media can do in the 21st century. Partly, this is through the long game nature of the show. As Always Sunny has also helped prove, there is something genuinely incredible about having a story and characters you can play with over a period of years, letting them show their darkness very gradually. On Cinema started in 2012 and that means we've had eight years of Tim having health problems, choosing the wrong solutions and berating Greg for trying to put another Popcorn Classic into the show. The show has also experimented in the ways that it has manifested. Let me try and explain this in a simpler way. You have On Cinema, the web series. You have the yearly Oscar special. Then you have Tim's spin-off spy show Decker, his bands Dekkar, DKR and Dekk4r, as well as the Twitter interactions between Tim and Greg. This all looks like very small time stuff when you get to the trial, which is a five hour murder trial, in what looks like a real courthouse, played 100% straight by all the cast. It is a feat in storytelling and something to behold. Tim doesn't say anything for most of the first day. Suddenly, he and his lawyer have a disagreement and coming back on day 2 of the trial (forty minutes in), he's become his own defence lawyer. Delayed gratification doesn't even come close to describing the show sometimes, but man, that reward is worth it like you wouldn't believe. Last year, there was even a feature length film, Mister America, based on some of Tim's exploits, showing that On Cinema has even more media barriers to break. What's next, the On Cinema app? Wait, they already did that.

Like I said at the outset, this show is outlandishly niche. It has never had a large audience, it probably never will, but that intimate scale allows for the crew to dare themselves with the storytelling, trying things that no large scale network show would ever be allowed to do. Now is also the perfect time to get into the show because there's so much of it. There are 11 seasons of the core show, all with ten episodes of roughly ten minutes, but there's also seven of the two hour plus Oscar specials, a spin-off show, a five hour trial (all of which are on YouTube) and a feature film to watch. You can work your way through it all at whatever pace, dipping in and out of these antics at your own speed. It is not just the show for our trying times, but perhaps the show for all time? Whatever it is, it's certainly an instant five bagger for me, and I'll throw in two cups of soda too.


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