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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.


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…