Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington, hosts of Adult Swim’s On Cinema at the Cinema, are not great film critics. In fact, they’re probably some of the worst film critics on Earth. Like rabid sports fans, the L.A.-based duo roots for the home team, stamping their ultimate seal of approval – “five bags of popcorn” - on any Hollywood movie with a pulse, while dismissing anything that even slightly whiffs of the art house.
Each episode of On Cinema – usually about 10 minutes long – typically begins as a halfhearted attempt at being a review show, and then quickly deteriorates into a bitter dispute between Heidecker and Turkington, who openly question each other’s right to be sitting in the critic’s chair. Simply put, Heidecker and Turkington – the former an aspiring filmmaker, the latter a self-proclaimed “film expert” – lack the wherewithal, soundness of mind and journalistic integrity to offer movie fans anything close to reliable criticism.
And that’s precisely what makes On Cinema pure alt-comedy gold. With the Academy Awards just a few days away, MAXIM spoke with the duo about what Oscar has in store for us this year, and how the Academy can ultimately change for the better.
The Oscars are often criticized for various reasons. Do you guys think the system works as it currently stands?
GT: Well I think that there should be more nominees: there should be thirty best picture nominations and thirty best actor nominations. Everybody would be happier that way. Right now, I think it’s too exclusive.
TH: I don’t think we need thirty. We’d be there all night going through the clips. That’s a little extreme. My issue with the Oscars is that they don’t really acknowledge the more conservative family-friendly films that come out. Just to give a case and point: a movie I saw a couple weeks ago called Escape Plan with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger together escaping from a prison - this movie I think it’s my favorite movie of the year, and it’s not acknowledged, it’s not nominated, but yet it was a very popular movie with your average Joes, your sort of run-of-the-mill types. So it is a very elitist award show, and I think it has become much more elitist in years past and it’s not a great reflection of the real red, white and blue America.
Should we get rid of the Oscars all together?
GT: No I think they should have them twice a year, or even monthly, because this is the golden age of cinema. You’ve got more great movies, more instant classics, coming out every year than ever before. I think if you turned it into a monthly show then you’d still have a lot of competition for the best picture award, but I think then you’d get twelve best pictures over the course of a year and that would satisfy the public and also make the filmmakers feel better about what they are doing, because it’s hard making movies and you do need that sort of acclaim.
Neil Patrick Harris is set to host the Oscars this year. How do you guys feel about that?
GT: I still miss Billy Crystal, I got to say. Or Whoopi Goldberg. Those are some of the legends, and I don’t like when they turn it over to these new un-casted people who really don’t have much of a track record in movies. I think the show should be hosted by movie stars not by wisecracks.
TH: The kid has never hosted anything that I’m aware of. I think he’s more known as a sitcom actor. You know, I smell a rat. I’ll put it to you that way. I’m predicting there’s going to be a lot of flubs, a lot of mistakes, because with sitcoms, you have that opportunity to do multiple takes, try things over and over again, and the added benefit of the cam backtrack - these are all things that have sort of lifted Neil Patrick Harris up, that’s created this false illusion that he has talent, that he’ll be successful. But the Oscars doesn’t provide any of that, so we will see, without the backtrack, without the ability to say “can we do another one of those?” it’s a high-wire act for anybody and that’s why you have Billy Crystal doing it several years in a row and the late Robin Williams was successful at doing it, too. Somebody like the original host, Johnny Carson - he was great.
GT: You know who I think would be great? Steven Spielberg, because he knows movies; he’s a nice looking guy; he’s somebody people will tune in to see and he’s got the right background.
TH: I don’t love that idea. I think he’s more of a behind-the-lens type, and more of like a puppet master running the show. I see him producing - maybe directing - the show, but hosting it would be a big mistake.
GT: What about Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton as co-hosts? Maybe they could do a Bond tribute as well during the show.
You guys are hosting your very own 3rd Annual Oscar Special this year. Will there be extensive red carpet coverage?
GT: We cover movies, not fashion. The Oscars should focus on the movies. You could take a look at somebody’s gown, or you could see another 30 seconds of movies like Annie and The Hobbit 3 and things like that. I think that’s what Oscars need to get back into doing.
TH: This is the third year in a row that we’ve applied for press credentials, so we could actually be on the red carpet. I have a slightly different opinion on this from Gregg. I think it would be awesome to have an On Cinema presence down there on the red carpet, or at least on the press line, and it’s obviously a very competitive place for journalism to be. It’s tough to get on that list. I think by next year we’ll be on the list. Who knows? Maybe we’ll be the hosts of the Oscars or at least hosting the pre-show that ABC provides.
As far as the best movie nominations go, any films you guys wish had made the cut?
GT: There are two movies that I think belong on the list, but they actually will end up on the list because, as you noticed, they only nominated eight best pictures this year. The rules are - and the rules have been this since day one - that you can nominate up to ten pictures and that’s usually what happens. The reason they left those two spots empty was a gimmick to try and boost the television ratings, so they’re going to wait until the Friday before the Oscars air to announce the final two nominations for best picture. Coincidentally, the two movies that deserve it the most, the two movies that are going to be neck and neck battling it out for the votes of the academy, are, of course, Annie and The Hobbit 3.
And who do you suppose will win?
GT: The Hobbit 3 will remain the victor because it has the support of somewhere between 53% and 60 % of the Academy voters, while Annie has about 12%. Birdman is about 3% and I have folks in the Academy that are giving me this information and it’s pretty well set in stone that that is how it’s going to go, so you got an exclusive here today.
TH: Gregg and I often disagree, but I happen to agree with him on this one. I think it’s going to be a coronation for Jackson and The Hobbit franchise, because the Oscars have – listen, you have to look at history, you have to be a student of history to understand how this really works, because, for example, The Lord of the Rings series, you had one and two coming up empty, and then three, Return of the King, comes and takes home the prize. So that’s Oscars way of saying hold tight, we acknowledge that these are the best movies, let us do what we do best and they do what they do best, which is saying, “I’m giving you the award for The Hobbit 3, but between me and you this is an acknowledgement of the whole series.”
GT: And it builds up suspense, too. People are worried. What if they don’t give The Hobbit the award? Are there going to be riots? You had the Rodney King riots, and that kind of thing, so people are on the edge of their seats hoping that Oscar doesn’t screw it up and create unrest. And, of course, they’re not going to do that. The Hobbit was the most successful critical and commercial movie of last year and it is sort of the E.T. or The Wizard of Oz for our generation.
Any movies that don’t belong on that list?
GT: All of the movies belong on the list. I just wish there were more movies on it. I think it’s a disgrace.
TH: Let me quickly run through my one or two word thoughts on those movies for you. American Sniper deserves best picture because it is one of the best movies I have ever seen and Clint Eastwood deserves every award there is and it’s a great American film. If you don’t believe in the message of that movie, you should go down to the DMV and surrender your passport and turn yourself in and we can talk about how quickly we can get you to Guantanamo Bay, cause we don’t want those type of people around. Birdman: I couldn’t get through it. I bailed out on that in the first five minutes. Boyhood: couldn’t get through that. I didn’t see The Grand Budapest Hotel, whatever that movie is. Imitation Game: I didn’t get a chance to see. Selma I didn’t catch. There was a wonderful movie about Stephen Hawking, who was a scientist, a retarded scientist. He suffered from mental retardation. He had a brilliant way of looking at the universe, which I thought was a very sad movie.
GT: What are your thoughts on Annie and the Hobbit 3, Tim? Because they’re also nominated this year…
TH: I liked Annie a lot. I thought it was fun and funny, but I slightly disagree with you. I don’t think it was the move to go black with those characters because Annie is a white redhead.
GT: Well, Cameron Diaz is white.
TH: I know. I have no issue with that, but Daddy Warbucks is a white bald man from the cartoon, if you look at that. It would almost be like taking the Three Stooges and casting Chinese actors. It doesn’t make sense. It’s a bad move, and this is not a racist position by the way. Facts are facts. Annie was white; she’s a real historical figure that lived. It’s like having a movie about Franklin Delano Roosevelt and having Danny Glover play him. It doesn’t make sense. It was a poor choice, and it was disrespectful to my race. But I did enjoy the movie. The songs were cute. And, of course, I agree that The Hobbit will win. And I think American Sniper was the best movies of the year. It’s tough for me: I love American Sniper; I love Escape Plan; and I love The Hobbit 3. Oh, and St. Vincent was also very good.
GT: Yeah, I think Bill Murray will win for best actor in St. Vincent.
So you think they’ll slip him in last minute?
GT: The nominations are all suggestions. There’s always been a write-in. I think – uh, what’s his name - Justin Henry, the kid from Kramer vs. Kramer, won in 1980 as a write-in vote, and it’s happened many other times. So all ballots are suggestions here in America. Tim can tell you this: he knows the Constitution forward and backward. You can vote for whoever you want; you can’t be restrained from voting for who you think did the best job, and so this is why the nominations are strictly optional, strictly suggestions.
Of the actors nominated this year - Steve Carrel, Michael Keaton, Bradly Cooper, Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch – who doesn’t belong on that list?
TH: Oh, right away: Steve Carrel is a TV actor. Michael Keaton is a TV actor.
GT: Emmys. They deserve Emmys, but Emmys don’t matter.
TH: I think Bradley deserves to win but I’d rather see Morgan Freeman from The Hobbit, and Sly or Arnold from their work in Escape Plan.
GT: And, you know, Jamie Foxx for Annie, too. He should definitely be on the list and he may win an award at our own little ceremony that we’re doing on On Cinema because there’s a lot of respect and admiration for Jamie Foxx in Annie.
What about the nominated actresses?
TH: I think all actresses are wonderful and are talented. I wish them all the best, but there’s nobody that really sticks out as one better than the other. When I look at movies, they all tend to be playing the same kind of part - you know, if I’m looking at the best actresses, whether it’s Marion Cotillard or Felicity Jones, you could almost swap them around and they could all play different parts in those different movies. Reese Witherspoon: she would have been fine in Gone Girl, and vice versa for Rosamund Pike - she would have been fine in Wild. You mix and match. And I imagine that how the casting process works in Hollywood, where you have a list of movies coming and a list of actresses available and they mix and match. So it’s sort of a phony category for me.
GT: It is phony, and it hasn’t historically awarded the people who deserved the award. Marilyn Monroe has no Oscars and that doesn’t make sense. Humphrey Bogart has no Oscars. I think it should be more about the best picture and less about the actors and actresses.
Should we do away with the categories altogether?
GT: I think it’s something to consider if you’re going to keep getting them wrong. Ian McKellen has come up empty in the past couple of years when clearly just judging from the number of people walking around with t-shirts with his face from The Hobbit on them, that’s what the people want. How many reviews have you read of these hobbit movies that start off in the first paragraph saying, “Ian McKellen deserves an Oscar for this”? And yet, year after year, nothing happens. It’s very, very frustrating.
What about the other categories we have not talked about? Like, best cinematography, best sound, best lighting, etc.
GT: Sound is very important to a movie, and I love to just go to silent movies as much as anybody, but I’d much prefer sound. I mean, if you made a movie like Dr. No, The Man with the Golden Gun, Goldfinger, any of those things, only as a silent picture you’re only getting half the experience because the dialogue that James Bond says in these movies sparkles, it jumps right off the screen. I think it would have been a mistake to be a silent picture.
TH: Well, I think that back in those days it was appropriate to have those awards but now, in the age of computers and digital technology, there’s really no more craft left in those departments. Cinematography and sound design and even editing - so much of that is just button pushers and the digital technology. If anyone deserves an award it’s the computer engineers: Bill Gates and people like this who provide the software and the processing power for something like cinematography to even exist at the moment. So, hats off and salutations, and the Oscars refuse to acknowledge the computer engineers and the programmers.
GT: Kodak never got an Oscar, and yet most of the films for the last many, many years – until they went digital – were mostly shot in Kodak film, which had a lot to do with their success.
Looking beyond the Oscars, what do you guys hope to see from Hollywood this year?
GT: I’d like to see twice as many movies as they did last year. What Tim is talking about is true: with all this automation it should be easier to produce movies quicker; it should take no more than a couple of weeks to do any movie. You get the actors in line, and then you put it into the computer, and put in a few commands and you’ve got a new movie. There are so many times when I want to go to the movies and I’ll get the paper and look at the listings and I’ve seen everything already. I’ll go watch a movie twice or I’ll watch something out of my home library and it’s very frustrating when it’s a Saturday night and there’s nothing to go see because Hollywood has not risen to the occasion and made enough movies.
TH: Honestly, I hope that one of the big studios steps up and says, “Mr. Heidecker we’ve been watching your web-series "Decker," and I think this has the potential to be a film franchise that will go for many years. Let’s bring in some top A talent to sort of pad out the supporting cast and let’s make this one of those franchises that we can make five or six films from.” Then it becomes one of those wonderful parts of cinema history that gets eventually acknowledged at the Academy Awards, probably like a James Bond.