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Clip Analysis: “BioShock” and “BioShock Infinite”

Clip Analysis: “BioShock” and “BioShock Infinite” (photo)

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Video game teasers tend to stick to a certain formula: dazzle the viewer with awesome graphics, show off some of the games’ abilities and maybe dribble a little story out to tantalize would-be players. But every so often, one piece of video-centric marketing will float above the rest or sink to join the sludge.

In Clip Analysis, I’ll be looking at trailers, teasers and just about any game-related video in an effort to call out what works and what doesn’t in terms of communicating a particular game’s coolness.

This time, I’ll be taking a look at the “Bringing It Home” trailer for the first “BioShock” game and the announcement teaser for its spiritual successor “BioShock Infinite.”

Three years is close to an eternity in video game chronology. Even if a game’s lucky enough to be successful, the awareness of all the marketing, giveaways and commercials tends to fall away and only the memories of the play experience remain, left to shine the brightest. That arc still holds true for a game as beloved as “BioShock.”

“BioShock” became an exemplar of that class of games known as the thinking man’s shooter, a category fleshed out by other classic games like “Half-Life 2” and “Portal,” among others. Part of what earned “BioShock” the thinking man’s designation was its willingness to go back in time and to weave philosophical underpinnings into a twisty, well-built narrative.

So, when the “BioShock Infinite” teaser rolled for the first time last Wednesday, there were clearly bits of it designed to tantalize players with bits of familiarity.

• The first few seconds of the “BioShock Infinite” clip go out of their way to seem like Rapture, the failed undersea utopia “BioShock” was set in. The air bubbles and wet camera lens, panning along the ocean floor. The submerged skyline, backlit and ominous. The lone fish, naively swimming along. And, of course, the statuette of a Big Daddy-the unforgettable guardians of Rapture’s Little Sisters-crushed under the boot of a new, possibly more dangerous enemy.

• In both clips, the first-person assault doesn’t just serve as visceral signifier of the game’s point-of-view; it also provides a pain-filled tour of the game’s environment. The “BioShock” clip at least allows you the illusion of power, first by showing you stalking a Little Sister and then by showing the abilities you’ll use in combat. But the character’s switch from predator to prey is quick, as he falls to another Big Daddy.

• Though you may not know his name, you immediately get the sense of the hero character in “Infinite,” too. This guy isn’t the armed-to-the-teeth soldier of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” or the “Halo” games . Whatever abilities or weapons that we may learn about later, the protagonist is outmatched and out of his depth (pun intended) and will likely be for most of the game.

• Columbia only finally comes into view as the man who’s presumably lead character Booker DeWitt gets vigorously defenestrated. The glass window stands in for the expectations viewers probably had, and both get beautifully shattered. And, right after seeing the steampunk cyborg’s heart, you get thrown into the heart of the floating city. Where the original “BioShock” clip slides along slowly to let the mystery of Rapture seep in, the “Infinite” teaser barrels through Columbia, slowing down only twice.

• The propaganda poster reveals just what kind of place Columbia is: unkind to strangers (even if they’re babies) and obsessed with purity and exceptionalism. The fact that you see this placard as you’re plummeting earthward just further drives the point home: you don’t belong here. Signage gets used for foreshadowing in the “BioShock” trailer, too, in the form of the neon ‘Drugs’ and ‘KNO Radio’ advertisements. They foretell how you’ll be injecting yourself with plasmids (which show up at 2:00) to get new powers and how much of the story gets narrated through audio recordings that you find during the game. The voice narrating the trailer’s first minute is that of Rapture’s founder Andrew Ryan, who’s extremely important to the player’s character.

• Elizabeth-the woman Booker’s been sent to retrieve-is the one who telekinetically stops his fall. She looks pretty similar to Walt Disney’s vision of Snow White. Now, I have personal suspicions about “BioShock Infinite” that this design stirs up. I think that Elizabeth may not be as snowy as her design may suggest. But that’s just my own rampant speculation.

• Hands reaching out appear in both trailers. In “BioShock,” it’s Big Daddy and Little Sister and, in “Infinite,” it’s Booker and Elizabeth. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the characters in both games, but in “Infinite” that symbiosis will come out in the actual gameplay.

Of course, the benefit of hindsight informs how the “BioShock” trailer looks now. But, the “Infinite” clip teases possible continuity connections to back to the Irrational Games studio’s classic first-person effort. We’ll certainly get more clues as the march towards the expected 2012 release of “Bioshock Infinite” continues.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

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

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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