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“Lil Poison”: To the Victor Go the Spoils

“Lil Poison”: To the Victor Go the Spoils (photo)

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12 year old Victor DeLeon III goes by an alias that strikes fear into the hearts of gamers everywhere. In the professional competitive gaming circuit, he goes by the name Lil Poison, and he’s been the youngest pro gamer in the world for the last half-decade. The peculiarity of a tweenager pwning players twice and thrice his age got the attention of the New York Times, ABC News and other major media outlets.

It’s also spawned a new documentary called, fittingly, “Lil Poison,” which just premiered at the New York International Latino Film Festival. Over the last three-and-a-half years, filmmaker Beth Earl followed Lil Poison and his father Victor DeLeon, Jr. — aka Papa Poison — to the Major League Gaming promotion’s tournaments, chronicling the pre-teen’s career. What emerged isn’t just a portrait of a kid’s improbable victories, though. The doc comes upon the DeLeons as the parents’ marriage crumbles and focuses on a tween who’s trying to fulfill his father’s vicarious dreams of fame and success.

That father, Victor DeLeon, Jr., works as a night manager when the film opens and his relationship with his son’s talent forms the crux of the movie’s arc. As he gleefully shuttles Lil Poison from competition to competition, he says, “Tournaments are where I feel respected.” But, of course, viewers will ruefully note that he’s not the one doing the winning. Papa Poison proves to be the worst kind of manager/coach, too, by using threats and guilt to attempt to motivate his son into exhausting practice sessions.

The child’s mother pipes in every so often to voice her displeasure at her son being treated like a cash cow, but the film places her on its fringes. You get to shuddering when she’s on screen because the pattern quickly emerges that what she’s saying won’t be heeded or that an ugly argument with her ex-husband is about to start. More warm scenes of her with Little Victor would’ve gone a long way to girding the film’s emotional structure.

Some of the device Earl uses are way too twee, as well. The grade-school notebook scribbles and earnest voiceover by Little Victor force the issue a bit too much. We know he’s a kid who just wants a normal life; it’s there in just about every scene he’s in. Another of the films flaw.s comes from its overlong gameplay sequences. It’s always been tough to convey the drama and tension of playing a video game on film and, despite some clever graphical tricks on Earl’s part, it remains quite boring to watch gamers chase each other around a Halo multiplayer map.

Even if “Lil Poison” lands on predictable territory sometimes, the raw material still tugs at your heart. The heartache of a boy whose sense of self-worth is tied up in making Dad feel good, the elder Victor’s deep insecurities and the wince-inducing confrontations between Mom and Dad will make you squirm.

Tears well up in both Poisons’ eyes as Little Victor loses a key match in an important tourney, and it’s almost too much to bear when Dad shoots Little Victor in a real-life birthday paintball match, sending him down to the ground writhing in pain. The pain from the somewhat accidental shooting passes quickly but the entire audience will be guaranteed to be thinking, “Haven’t you already done enough?!”

It’s almost enough to make you forget the talent driving all of this. It seems at times that Little Victor’s skills runs at odds to his personality. Here’s a kid who could live every grade-schooler’s dream and play violent video games that he’s not supposed to all the time. But he doesn’t want to. His hamster, Wii Sports sessions and classical music mean more to him.

That paradox puts the lie to the hysteria of video game addiction. Early on in the film, the camera holds tight on the super-intense look of laserlike concentration on Lil Poison’s face. Where the film winds up is in a place that lets you believe Victor DeLeon III’s singular talents may be being nurtured in a baggage-free environment.

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

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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

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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.

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.

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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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