DID YOU READ

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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.