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How About a Lil Poison?

How About a Lil Poison? (photo)

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The first thing I need to know is, what do you call your film’s subject? Poison, Lil Poison? Little Vic?

I call him Little Victor. We used to call him Baby Victor, but now he’s 12 and it seems more appropriate to say Little Victor.

Okay, burning question answered. So, what gave you the idea of the film?

Close to four years ago, I first read about Victor in Wired magazine. I saw the picture of him and it jumped out more than the text. It was sort of a dark bedroom, and with some SpongeBob stuff, and Victor sitting there with his headset. This little kid that plays… I wondered where he goes for all those hours every day.

Judging by the trailer, below, it seems like you’ve got two things going on: There’s a glimpse into world of competitive gaming, but also the story of one kid’s family life. What was the first thing you wanted to learn about Poison’s world?

The first thing I wanted to learn was about gaming, and getting insight into that world. I didn’t realize it existed. And I guess just from the photo and the article I though wow, there’s a young generation of gamers out there and this is the first generation you can look at that’s been playing this long.

When I met him and started to hear more stories through him and his dad, and other kids, it became much more of a world. And I realized there are MLG tournaments with thousands of players-a lot of them are teenage boys- who compete all across the country.

It makes sense that most are boys…

Although girls are the fastest growing demographic of gamers. That’s interesting, too.

How did you approach the project conceptually?

I thought it would be more a “Spellbound”-type film, where we’d sort of follow him to the top. Then as I started filming, probably four or five months into it, his parents got divorced and a lot of family drama evolved. So, throughout everything, there was a kind of back and forth. Is this a gaming story? Is this a family story? In the end, we realized the family story really trumped the gaming.

You’ve obviously spent a lot of time with Little Vic and his family. Do you have any idea where his aptitude for gaming might have come from?

I think it’s from his dad, but I think he must’ve been born with some super hand-eye coordination as well. Apparently, Andre Agassi’s dad dangled a tennis ball above his crib. So you have to think that maybe part of it is nature, part of it is nuture. His father definitely played video games before he was born. And I think saw the talent at a young age and maybe he could capture that.

At the beginning of the film, we have footage from Little Victor’s birth. Five hours after his son’s come into the world, his father turns to the camera and says, “I can’t wait until he’s old enough to play Nintendo.”

It’s funny because we don’t think of skills like those being passed on. You can look at, I don’t know, Patrick Ewing’s son and say yeah, he’s tall because his dad was seven feet tall. What Little Victor does is a new sort of competiton that’s not even a generation old, so it’s probably harder to think about the sort of processing and awareness necessary to play games at a pro level as being a genetic skill.

So what kind of preconceptions did you have about video games and people who play them before you started filming? And how did they change over the course of filming?

I thought a lot of them would be sort of stereotypically nerdy gamers. And it turns out there’s a lot of difference subcultures. There’s definitely a range. The kids that play Xbox at the MLG tournaments, I would liken them more to like the skater culture than I would, say, the computer gaming culture. They have girlfriends who get dressed up in outfits and would sit in their laps for five hours while they game, and kind of had loads of gold chains and bracelets. It was you know, a very different look than I was expecting.

Right, not necessarily the kid in their mom’s basement and…

It’s not the type of kids you would expect to be video gaming all day on the inside.

It’s not like they don’t think they’re not cool anymore.

No, I mean it’s like it’s their main after-school activity. So

Were you able to appreciate video games differently after working on the film?

I don’t really like video games. I don’t mind them. I just I don’t play them. My attraction was more this little kid, and this generation. But it was very funny. In college I had a boyfriend that gamed all the time and I always wanted him to stop gaming and playing “FIFA” and “GTA.” And now, during this film, I would call them up and say, have you guys played the beta version of “Halo 3″? And they would say you are so much cooler than you were in college. So yeah, I don’t think my perspective has changed on them other than the fact of how omnipresent they are in the world now, so.

There’s been some conversation about Victor’s age and being a professional gamer with regard to content. He competes on some M-rated games. Do you feel like that affected him in any way? I’m not invoking the whole game violence argument, but do you think he was able to kind of…

I don’t think video games breed violence. People said when films came out that they bred violence. It’s just the next step in evolution of what kids are into. I don’t think it has changed that much. They may look realistic, but look at movies; they hit a lot closer to home, as does the news.

I think that they are making kids more socially withdrawn, especially if they’re playing for five hours a day. I don’t think that has to do with the type of games, whether they’re rated Mature. But you’re not having interaction with people. I think they same thing could be said about Second Life and those type of virtual worlds, too.

You know, because some would argue that it’s a different kind of socialization, but I guess what you’re saying is that the in-person element is missing…

Well, I think if the whole world operated like a video game or like “Second Life,” maybe you would be extremely social. But when you then are faced with going into a crowd without a headset on to shake somebody’s hand, or talk to them, it’s a whole different skill set in a way.

Little Victor is a kid who was able to turn his passions into something that became profitable for his family. Do you think that he was more or less able to cope than an average kid whose parents are going through a divorce? Did you see a personality change as his parents were breaking up?

Yes. I think he withdrew a lot more during that time and has now kind of come back and is more himself. It’s important for any kid going through that to have an outlet but for him, because it was video games, he became more socially withdrawn, I think. But you wonder if he had people to talk to? On the surface, it took his mind off of things but perhaps there would’ve been other ways.

And there’s still pressure and obligations associated with games…

There’s one scene in the film you’ll see, but there’s a moment after a fight where he’s in the basement alone playing the Wii. When you see him playing games that he doesn’t compete in, that’s a world that’s all his own. And so when he plays the Wii, or if he’s playing…he had like a virtual pet for a year and I think all he did was press space bar and he would do it for like an hour. It reminded you he was a kid.

If you’re in the New York City area, you can still catch “Lil Poison” today at 6pm, when it screens as part of the New York International Latino Film Festival.

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

invitation

Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

pointplace

In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Talking with Tommy Tallarico, Part 3

Talking with Tommy Tallarico, Part 3 (photo)

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In the final part of my talk with game composer Tommy Tallarico, we chat about the Japanese and U.S. game music markets, and the beginnings of the Video Games Live tour. (See parts one and two.)

In Japan, there’s a long tradition of soundtrack albums for video games that seem to sell well. Why do you think that hasn’t happened here?

I would love nothing more than to say that, “Oh yeah, it’s such a big business over there.” But the reality is that it’s actually somewhat of a myth. You can find soundtracks for every single anime that’s probably ever come out, right? I mean, there’s thousands of them over there. Here in America, there is about 70 to 100 video game soundtrack albums released every year, and some of them are selling in the hundreds of thousands of units. Some of them — most of them — the average video game soundtrack does better, sells better than the average film score in America.

We average about 10,000-15,000 in sales, and film scores are in about 5,000-6,000 range. Now, the difference of course being that a big AAA film, like our Titanics or the Avatars or the Spidermans or whatever, their soundtracks will sell in the hundreds of millions. Titanic sold 17 million albums. So we haven’t had our “Titanic” yet but, overall, it’s just as relevant over here. I will give you an example, our album, our first albums that we released, “Video Games Live, Volume 1″, we debut at number 10 on the Billboard Charts. And hoping to take that number 1 spot with our — at least in the classical category, when our second one comes out in a couple of weeks.

So, in terms of the set list and the way it’s evolved, how do you choose new music to put into the concert? Do you make it fit into a larger flow you have in mind for the show?

I don’t care if the game’s come out yet or if it hasn’t sold any units. It has to be great music. When I create a set list for the show, I need it to be dynamic. I don’t want it to just be all of the same style of music. All giant thematic music for two hours gets old really quick. I wanted some interactive fun segments in there. It might be bringing somebody up on stage and having them be the controller of a spaceship from “Space Invaders” and having them run back and forth, and the ship follows him wherever he goes, while the orchestra is playing the music and counting down the level.

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Talking with Tommy Tallarico, Part 2

Talking with Tommy Tallarico, Part 2 (photo)

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The chat with the maestro of Video Games Live includes comparison between the games and films differ in their treatment of music. Tommy Tallarico also offers up thoughts on why video game music is specially situated to make lasting impression on players. (See part one.)

Have there been times when you’ve been playing a game and it has been like, “Okay, this music works. I want it?”

One of the segments we just added in is a game that no one really ever bought. It’s a recent game that wasn’t really popular. “Afrika,” I don’t if you played that one.

I didn’t play it.

Some people didn’t like it — it’s a photojournalist kind of thing, but I loved the game. And the music is just incredible; that’s in our show now. In fact, in San Diego, we did the world premiere of “End of Nations,” which is this big military RTS game, that had a big splash, won a lot of Editors’ Choice awards at E3 a few weeks ago. That one is not coming out till the end of the year but has some great music by the composer who did all the “Command & Conquer” music, Frank Klepacki.

C&C is another one of those franchises with a rabid fan base, so they’ll be stoked. And getting kind of, I guess, at the core dynamic that drives the show, do you feel like there is a special relationship between music and gameplay?

Oh, absolutely! In fact, more so than film and television. The music for film and television — it’s called background music or incidental music. And the reason is that you need to relate those films and television stories through dialog. So, there’s a lot of talking in films and television. So the music is always secondary, unless you get the big title theme or the big chase scene or whatever, then the music is out front.

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